Music » Livewire

Brian McKnight

With New Edition. Sunday, June 19, at the Tower City Amphitheater.

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One of the smoothest of the smooth soul singers, Brian McKnight is easy to imagine inhabiting a different era; he has almost as much in common with Nat King Cole as with his Motown forebear Marvin Gaye, and he has struggled to reconcile his polish and studio craft with the grit and grime of today's urban music. But the L.A. crooner's current effort, Gemini, is perhaps his most successful attempt at balancing ambition with carnal abandon. Behind the guest MCs lurk some of McKnight's most sophisticated compositions, which repay his debts to gospel, jazz, and Prince.

Things have been anything but smooth, however, for the reunited New Edition -- still without Bobby Brown, unfortunately -- who made one lackluster album for P. Diddy's Bad Boy imprint last year, then split with the usual hard feelings. (The first clue the album wasn't going to work was its opening, with the group waiting for P. Diddy to come to the phone.) Downgraded to an opening act, the former teen idols and new-jack swing stars have at least had enough ups and downs to qualify for a biopic reportedly in production. Too bad the burning question is: Who gets to play Bobby and Whitney?

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