Introducing J' ai Michel
By John Book
The Run-Off Groove
While she calls her album Introducing J'ai Michel, this is actually Sweet Baby J'ai's third album [on SMG Records]. She has taken her time with each one, releasing them five years apart from each other, but I hope this re-introduction will quicken the time between recordings.
The album begins on a jazzy/poppy touch but with "Think You Know Everything" she branches out into a bit of funk rock. While I would have preferred a grittier sound to it, she paces herself without worry. "Sweet Corrinne" has her singing over a Carlos Santana-type vibe that is sure to catch a few ears and get her a bit of radio airplay. Throughout the album she dips and dives into soul, jazz, ballads, and light rock and it's obvious she is skilled in each category. Her rock-oriented material sounds reserved at times, as if she's hesitant to bust out in a Dawn Anderson/Nikka Costa-type manner, and I can only imagine what she would sound like if she let herself go. There's a lot here where she doesn't hold back, and it is in these songs that she takes the crown each and every time, such as the soothing soulful jazz of "You Were Great Last Night" or the passion of "Summertime". Need to turn up the heat and get funky, you can do so with "Exactly Like You (Perpetrating)".
I'd probably fit Sweet Baby J'ai somewhere between Chante Moore, Oleta Adams, and Anita Baker. If you find their voices to be appealing, you'll definitely find a way to bring J'ai Michel's music into your home.