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By Mark Anthony Neal | @NewBlackMan | with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

 

Friday, November 14, 2014.

 


“Jesus picked up the pieces | of my broken heart | He made me a new vessel | he revived my soul again” -- “The Broken Vessel” | “The Potter

 

For Dave Hollister, the devil at the crossroads was neither myth nor function; the demons were real when Hollister, the former lead singer of Blackstreet and one-time heir to the Chi-Town Soul Throne stepped away from the music that made him a star. He found the Lord; a well worn story for those who dared sing at the altars of flesh and ego with voices ordained by Gods we still don’t really know.  

 

And like Rev. Green and Rev. Simon (who was “Drowning in a Sea of Love”) before him, the rhythms and melodies stayed the same – Warren “Baby Dubb” Campbell provided Hollister with a few them on his Gospel debut The Book of David, Vol. 1: The Transition (2006).  Healed—spiritually and physically—Hollister returns to the world with Chicago Winds...The Saga Continues, his first secular recording in a decade.

 

Chicago Winds… feels like a true reboot—not only moving past Hollister’s two Gospel recordings (and a stint in the Fred Hammond led super group United Tenors)  but also Things in the Game Done Changed (2002) and Real Talk (2003).  If Hollister’s Chicago ‘85: The Movie found him at his artistic peak—he  intended the album to be part of a trilogy—Chicago Winds… is a worthy sequel, perhaps reminding folk that Hollister might just be the most talented Soul Man vocalist to emerge from The Chi in the last generation.  

 

For those who can remember the sinister groove that opens Hollister’s “Baby Mama Drama,” the singer was perfectly suited for boom-bap audiences who liked their R&B singers on the thuggish-side. Like Hollister himself asserted: “back on Blackstreet shit was sweet, so now I’m so-lo(w).” Where Robert Sylvester’s musical persona was more brown sugar than brown liquor and Raheem DeVaughn and Jaheim a little too pretty to be taken seriously as corner boys--and them Hailey boys off-pitch and out-of-control--Hollister gave the clearest indication of how  Donny Hathaway or any of the Soul Man titans might have flowed had they competed sonically with the boom-bap.

 

And it was not simply about Hollister’s sartorial choices (check the cover his solo debut Ghetto Hymns); few of Hollister’s peers have been as attuned to the nuances of string and background vocal arrangements, save Robert Sylvester, Eric Benet and Ms. Ndgeocello. It is attention to those details that mark Chicago Winds... as a classic Dave Hollister recording, starting with the opening track “Spend the Night” which harkens to Hollister’s lead on Blackstreet’s “Before I Let You Go.” (and to bring it full circle, Chicago Winds… features a remix of “Spend the Night” from Teddy Riley)

 

If there is a theme throughout Chicago Winds…, implicit in Hollister’s return, is that these are the musings of a grown man seeking redemption and perhaps forgiveness.  To be sure, whatever Hollister’s sins, they were overshadowed by that other well-known Chicago Soul son, yet Hollister’s music gets at the sacrifices and missed opportunities that only a lived adulthood can measure. Listening to the title track “Chicago Winds,” where Hollister owns his absenteeism  as a father—and perhaps as an artist—one finds a man both at peace with his mistakes and confronting the limits of who he is, even with the second sight of age and maturity.

Chicago Winds…
might be safe—in the way that the programmers for Tom Joyner and D.L. Hughley might find safe (and in contrast to compelling crossroads narratives from August Alsina)—but it is also honest—both to Hollister’s art and the traditions that have produced him.  

 

Chicago Winds…: The Return of Dave Hollister

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