In this era of flashy skinny-jean music, someone like Silver Spring’s Zo! could get lost in the shuffle: His brand of glossy soul music is more suited for aging two-steppers than bright-eyed adolescents. There are no explicit sexual references. No one’s smoking weed, popping bottles, or getting killed.
The Detroit native is the opposite, opting for light percussion and rolling keys in lieu of booming bass lines and push-button production. What’s left are greasy rhythms for grown folks, over which Foreign Exchange vocalist Phonte, and D.C. natives Sy Smith and Yahzarah sing about love and spiritual freedom.
Out today, Zo!’s …just visiting three dusts off and modernizes obscure and familiar R&B and pop songs. And unlike its predecessor—-…just visiting too—-the selections aren’t quite conventional, forgoing the likes of Minnie Riperton and The Isley Brothers for Steely Dan and George Michael. The results are still soothing; it’s not as accessible as …just visiting too, but easy enough for those used to Zo!’s sleek sound.
For the most part, Zo!’s remixes sound better than the songs they cover. “Let It Go,” a remake of Pages‘ 1978 song, is captivating, thanks to a quicker pace and vocalist Nicholas Ryan Gant‘s shimmering falsetto. The same goes for “Marzipan,” a low-key track recorded by Eric Tagg in 1982. Zo!’s version has harder drums and a fluid duet between Phonte and Eric Roberson.
It’s tough to find cover tunes that meet or surpass the originals, even if the artist is as multifaceted as Zo! Last summer, his bright SunStorm album solidified his stature as one of the region’s best producers. But while …just visiting three isn’t a knockout, it’s at least a solid addition to Zo!’s discography.
…just visiting three is available for free.