Carl Thomas really is one of Chi-town’s finest. Even in the shadow of the king of R&B R. Kelly, fellow Chicago native Thomas has proved to be one of grown-up soul’s leading men. Back in the day of Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy records, Carl was more than just a chorus man for guys like Biggie or Black Rob. Following his smash, break-up single I Wish, Carl got real Emotional, with a classic debut that sampled Sting and helped Mario Winan’s budding career. Carl’s sophomore success, Let’s Talk About It, introduced a happier side of the singer, and it was truly a heart-warming, feel-good, follow-up. After, Bad Boy Carl became So Much Better with his third album that mixed and blended together the elements of the first two albums perfectly. Now the stirring soul singer finally returns with Conquer, his fourth album – a formidable piece that proves he’s still up-top of the grown R&B game that he helped pioneer to the mainstream.
The Night Is Yours begins this perfect piece that sounds tailor made for the after hours. Then on Long Distance Love Affair, Thomas gets even more personal as the lights get low. The album lead track really stands out, while Round 2 proves this man can go on and on. More songwriting skills are honed on the emotional It’s Not The Same. Then on Don’t Kiss Me (which has a nice remix to end the album), Carl opens this love letter with a lament Marvin would be proud of singing; “Why it take so long/Can’t wait to have you, dear/Cause your love is so strong/I need you with me here”. He’s barely begged this bad ever, and he sounds all the better for it.
It Is What It Is is soul in all its greatness, while It Ain’t Fair is a fitting love and war story. Carl sings “I can’t believe that I’m so anxious/Infatuated so far gone/I couldn’t take my eyes of that girl/…she looks like love”, as he goes through the motions and emotions of falling in love. Then on Sweet Love Thomas gives us a tremendous track that could find itself between classic tracks like Cold, Cold, World and Come To Me off his iconic Emotional. Thomas hits the ground Running to end this LP and what we are left with in the wake of his trail is another strong, solid, stellar set that will keep playing as long as this great soul man’s career keeps running … which with timeless music like this, should be decades to come. TIM DAVID HARVEY.