January 17, 2005
When I was in college, I used to love these two recordings by a University of Pennsylvania a cappella group — one was a cover of “Baby” by Nil Lara, the other a cover of Stevie Wonder’s version of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.” The singer, John R. Stephens, had this throaty, incredible tenor and a break in his vocal range so gorgeous it sounded almost as though it had been painted into the digital recording after the fact. You can hear a hint of the break by listening to the clip of “Baby” here. Stephens was also a marvelous arranger.
Anyway, a few days ago, I purchased an album on iTunes by a singer named John Legend. I had loved one of its songs from the radio, and after listening to the clips, it appeared the whole thing was excellent. I couldn’t get over the thought that I’d heard that voice before, so I Googled my hunch that Mr. Legend was a renamed John R. Stephens, and I was, of course, correct.
This is just a roundabout way of recommending the album, while I’m in the business of making music recommendations. The man is incredible, even if I don’t much care for his stage name.