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"Pictures": Tony Rich Project
by Michael Heyliger
Tony Rich is one of those artists that you think
might be forgotten, but is still hanging in there
long after his initial success has faded-the
mark of a true artist & musician. You might
remember Tony making a stir around 1996
with his album "Words", a work that lumped
him in with D'Angelo and Maxwell at the outset
of the neo-soul era. Boosted by the Babyface-
soundalike single "Nobody Knows", "Words" earned Tony a Platinum
album and a Grammy award. However, his masterful follow-up set,
"Birdseye", was an instant flop, and just as quickly as he became
successful, he fell off the face of the Earth. Or did he?

"Pictures" is Tony Rich's fourth album and his second released
independently. Not much has changed stylistically since Tony's debut
a decade ago-and this is a good thing. He draws from influences
including Babyface and Prince to create a smooth-flowing, easygoing
set for those who want to just kick back and listen to well-crafted
R&B music with tinges of pop and rock.

Rich is one of the few remaining of a dying breed-practically a
self-contained unit. He writes most of his own music, and plays a
variety of instruments. This instantly draws comparisons to
Prince-and on songs like the mysterious "R U Breathin'" and the
playful, rock-etched "Would U Lie", it's easy to spot the influence of
the Purple One-in music as well as in creative spelling! "That One
(That Girl)" has a light stepper's groove that should find a place on
adult-oriented R&B radio (urban radio actually never took a shine to
Rich-now would be a good time to start). My personal highlight is the
melancholy "Movin' On", one of several songs that has a spiritual
bent to it.

As the major record labels become increasingly reluctant to take
chances on artists who don't conform to a specific formula, it's nice to
see that there are still folks around like Tony Rich. He's a quality
songwriter and singer who tries to stretch the boundaries of the
typical R&B singer/songwriter, to great results. If you've been
wondering where this talented cat has been for the past few years,
pick up a copy of "Pictures" and get lost in the satisfyingly mellow
grooves within.