If Eric Benet’s career can be defined by anything, it’s the purity of emotion. He’s consistently made music that speaks to love and speaks from the soul and on Lost In Time he does it once again. Featuring duets with Faith Evans, Chrisette Michele, Ledisi and the O’Jays Eddie Levert, Lost In Time is at once a sumptuous homage to and an expansion of the sweet soul of the 1970’s.
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Produced, arranged, and composed by Eric Serra, the soundtrack to director Luc Besson's smash movie La Femme Nikita was the third collaboration between the pair, following Subway and The Big Blue. Many of the soundtrack's nearly two dozen cuts are brief (less than a minute and a half) and, therefore, offer little outside of the context of the film (although the simple, piano-based "The Last Time I Kiss You" is an exception). Like the film, the music from it is highly stylized, but it lacks the film's heart and is, instead, a mostly cold, bloodless collection of synthesizer noodlings and generic guitar riffs (with the odd saxophone). Some of the better moments include the introductory "Rico's Gang Suicide," the hypnotic swagger of "NPOKMOP," the metallic surf guitar of "Let's Welcome Victor," and the genuinely moving "We Will Miss You".
Eric Marienthal has always had limitless potential. Primarily known as an altoist but also an excellent player on tenor and soprano, Marienthal came to fame with Chick Corea's Elektric Band and tends to sound at his best when teamed with players of that caliber. Many of his own projects suffer from overproduction, a lack of spontaneity and commercial material, but that is not true of Crossroads. In groups ranging from quartets to sextets, Marienthal is challenged by the material (all group originals), matching wits with the likes of keyboardist Russell Ferrante (from the Yellowjackets), bassist John Patitucci and, on three selections, Chick Corea. Crossroads contains some of Eric Marienthal's finest playing outside of the context of the Elektric Band.
Anyone who remembers Eric Marienthal's work with Chick Corea's Elektric Band in the late '80s and early '90s knows how exciting an improviser he can be. This disc has its moments. Botti has an enjoyable spot on Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar," and "Love Don't Live Here" (one of the few tracks that isn't an instrumental) is a pleasant, if unremarkable, urban/adult contemporary item that features singer Deniece Williams. Also noteworthy is Lorber's funky "Hangin' on the Sidewalk," which finds Ford taking a gritty guitar solo.
Eric Benét is a contemporary R&B singer with mild hip-hop and strong adult contemporary influences. As a teenager, he performed in a family vocal group (appropriately named Benét) with his sister and cousin. The group signed with EMI and released an eponymous album in 1992 that largely went unnoticed. Eric blazed his own trail as a solo artist shortly afterward, signing to Warner Bros. and releasing his debut album, True to Myself, in the fall of 1996. A Day in the Life followed in 1999. Its first single, a cover of Toto's "Georgy Porgy," was a moderate radio hit, but it was the album's second single, "Spend My Life with You" (featuring Tamia), that helped put him on the map.
As he was developing his formidable career in the early era of smooth jazz, the saxman proved an invaluable sideman of Chick Corea's Elektric Band, David Benoit's touring ensemble and a studio player for projects by such artists as Keiko Matsui and Mike Garson. Yet as a solo artist, he spent his first three albums searching for an identity that ranged from pop (Round Trip) to electronic mainstream jazz (Crossroads). With Oasis, his search came to a diverse, exciting, and highly enjoyable end. Marienthal applies his stellar blowing techniquest to styles ranging from folk to gospel, but the overall attitude he conveys is sweet and soulful R&B, as in the hoppin' grooves of the funky opening tracks "Hustlin'" and "Seafood to Go."