Cleveland P. Jones – Let’s Make Love

Cleveland P. Jones is the kind of soul singer that the public says it wants. He throws his entire being into a song, and that confers honesty and passion into the lyrics. Many of his tunes blur the lines between the sacred and the romantic to the point that a cut  such as “Trust Song,” from his latest project, Let’s Make Love, can work as either a gospel song encouraging those wavering in faith to draw nigh to God, or a cut where he lets his woman know that he is a safe harbor for her trust.

“Lonely Heart” is the best example of how Jones repurposes the vocal and instrumental arrangements typically associated with the church tradition to express a theme that is non-sectarian and most likely non-religious. “Lonely Heart” features backing vocalists singing highly coordinated harmonies that are clearly influenced by the choral traditions of the church with a sparse, piano arrangement providing the foundation. Jones’ vocal moves alternates between a sweet tenor and a gospel growl. In either case, Jones caresses the lyrics in a song that becomes an encouragement to the broken hearted. “Lonely Heart” is the most distinctive and, in my opinion, the best song on Let’s Make Love.

Jones uses his backing vocalists in a way that gives his songs a classic soul and perhaps even a gospel feel. There is a great deal of call and response on tracks such as “Count on You.” That is one of several ‘protest’ or socially aware tracks on Let’s Make Love, and with those backing vocalist adding depth and the horn section doing the same things, this energetic number is a step above the meandering “Listen Here!”

Jones is at his best on the album’s slow jams, such as the rock/country infused “Hold On 2 Me.” The track opens with a rock styled distorted guitar and a country infused twangy one introducing Jones’ achingly sweet tenor assuring his lady that he’s there for the good and bad. Jones gives a stand-out vocal performance on the regret filled “Mistakes.” He uses his voice to transmit self-awareness and his fear of losing his good thing. Meanwhile, the title track, “Let’s Make Love,” is a song that finds Jones expanding the concept of making love to mean getting naked emotionally and spiritually as well as physically.

Jones recalls growing up in a house where music was always playing, and he was singing either at home or in the church. He said that his mother would play gospel music while cleaning up and then switch to soul music if the mood suited her. The same kind of fluidity can be heard throughout Let’s Make Love, and it is what makes the album – and Cleveland P. Jones – special. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes