Reviewed by Matthew Cordle
Christon has the most soulful new voice I've heard in a long time, and it's not just that he's singing soul music, he oozes soulfulness out of every pore as he caresses each note. Immediately reminiscent of the likes of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, there's an emotive, smooth sweetness in both his main and falsetto registers, equal power in both giving him a massive vocal range. But that's only half the story; this man can rap as well as he can sing, making for a real treat for fans of the neo-soul styles of the likes of Loose Ends or Lauryn Hill. Asked in an interview where his talents came from, Christon responded, "All I had was my pad, the writing came from my dad, the voice came from my mother, and the music came from jazz.. "School Of Roses" is focused on relationships and deals with subjects many would steer around; pride, lust, divorce, desertion by a parent and backsliding making for an intense set of songs, hence the image of roses with their mixture of beauty and pain. The gospel-style acapella "The Last Time" kicks off the CD, asking "When's the last time you said 'I'm sorry'/When's the last time you said 'I love you'," the vocoder harmonies pre-empting some of the retro sounds to come. The massively catchy "Wanna" picks up the story with a challenge regarding lust for money or other women, with lyrical lines such as "a song of a siren caught my iris" demonstrating the lyrical creativity. Other highlights are the retro sounds of "Nostalgious", "Sin Nature Made Me A Windchaser" and the three mainly piano and vocal "Roses" interludes. Well performed, well recorded, well mixed and with some outstanding vocals, every track grooves and the pervasive jazz influences give an overall chilled factor. Christon has deliberately attempted to make the songs accessible to a wider audience by singing about the issues mentioned above rather than theology, although it is there for those with ears to hear. However, the final track, "Arena (The Final Hour)" is a beautiful song of worship; "The stone they all rejected did the unexpected. . ./No-one else can save us 'cause you are God alone. . ./I still don't see the worth that you see in me, but you would trade the world just to be with me/Now my hands are waiting just to touch your face as the distance between us disappears." A massive step forward from Christon's previous album. Brilliant!
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