Al Chauncy - Late For Church

Late For Church * Al Chauncy * R&B * May 27, 2014

You have likely heard the words and rhythms of Al Chauncy before without knowing his name.  He has written songs for the likes of Ice-T when he was 11-years-old and Teddy Riley since he was discovered by Chris “Traxx” Rogers in 2009.  The son of pianist Gerald “Jerry” Chauncy, Sr., his love of music seems to have been in his genes.  Now has come with his own album and seeks to enchant the listening public with his talents.

1.  Opening Statement – This is a spoken-word intro that explains the concept of the album.  Chauncy tells he listener that the term “late for church” means that he and the world aren’t perfect because both the street and the church are crooked as hell.  He does provide some background adlib vocals in a falsetto that is strong and relevant to the feeling of “taking you to church”.  The production is strong here, too; using real instrumentation for a feeling of hominess that can sometimes be lacking in R&B music.  It is a great way to start off; you feel invited by the singer to listen more.

2.  Faithful Man – One of the tracks we reviewed as a standalone, you can hear the church influence in the production with the organ and the blues-like feeling.  Chauncy’s vocals are reminiscent of the old-school blues singers who were expert at relaying the anguish that they are trying to convey and that feeling is absolutely appropriate for this song.  About a man in a relationship who is lamenting to a seductress that she is making it hard for him to stay faithful, you can hear in his tone how his desire for this new woman and the desire to keep his relationship are tearing at him.  Lyrically the song does not break any new ground, but that does not change how effective it is.  It is because this is something that everyone has gone through at one time or another that makes this a strong, relatable track.

3.  Stick Em Up – The production for this track has a 60’s bluesy/church feel, but is much more mid-tempo and will make you rock your shoulders before the intro finishes.  Chauncy is feeling himself as he sings about being out in the club, performing, enjoying life and being completely in his element.  The lyrics of this song are great; you know exactly how Chauncy is feeling because he sets the scene like an expect.  The wordplay with the phrase “stick em up” is expert, as most people will go into this song thinking of a robbery.  What he is robbing the listener (and the people in club) of is their inhibitions and troubles as he takes control of everything.  When he commands Put your hands up high/All the way in the sky/Like your hands on fire, it is indeed a lyrical stick em up.  A standout track.

4.  Ready – This track really calls attention to Chauncy’s smoky tones with its modernized 70’s waka-cha-waka styled production.  About him telling a woman that is essentially paying him dust to give him a chance because he is different than the other men out there, there is a chivalrous tone to this that you don’t often come across in most radio-friendly music.  Yes, he talks about his money, but far more of the song is him telling her that he wants to be a gentleman to her and treat her right because he sees her worth.  He even explicitly tells her he’s not after he for the sex.  The message teamed with the fun production and sensual vocal performance will make this strong track one that listeners will keep coming back to.

5.  Get U Hot – Chauncy shows some vocal diversity here with his layered harmonies on a song that features a uncredited female singer.  Their tones work well together, conveying a sense of two people in syncopated, sexual rhythm with one another.  The production seems reminiscent of a Prince track from the 80’s and continuing the feeling of travelling through a musical time machine (in a good way).  Again, this song doesn’t cover any new lyrical ground, but there is a familiarity to the way that everything works together that overcomes the potential been there, done that attitude that could come from this.  A good track overall, but not a standout.

6.  Spend Some Time – The bluesy guitar is what will catch your initial attention on a track that’s about Chauncy’s overall love affair with music and how he doesn’t get too much time with that wonderful lady.  It is a wonderful personification track that anyone could relate to something that they love that they don’t get to devote themselves to as much as they would like.  The production is upbeat but has just that hint of remorse that you have to stay away to fulfill those other obligations that just keep popping up out of nowhere.  Chauncy’s vocal performance is great, he lightens his normal rough tones for a smoother delivery that integrates his strong falsetto to flush out the harmonies.  A standout track.

7.  Late For Church – The title track of the album features some Isley-esque vocals and production as he talks about being one of those people that does all their dirt on a Saturday before walking up in the church on Sunday.  Chauncy paints an incredible picture of a man who just can’t get his act together in time for praising the Lord.  It is so straightforward and so relatable that you will either hear him describing you or someone you know in the lyrics.  A standout track and one of  the strongest on the album.

8.  Pray 4 Me – This is really more of an interlude that continues the subject matter from the last song.  The production mixes that HBCU band feeling with church harmonies in a way that makes you wonder why more people haven’t done it in the past.  Chauncy is asking the congregation to pray for him because of all the dirt that he’s done.  Interlaced the deacon (Chauncy) making announcement that may indicate that everyone else in church in in the same boat, the lyrics will have you laughing to yourself.  A strong track that we wish was a little longer.

9.  Wait A Minute – This is a track that more people need to have a listen to.  This one is about Chauncy telling the woman that he’s with that wanting to settle down forever after knowing each other less than a year might be a little shortsighted.  The production is mid-tempo and features some playful horns and church organ that take this track to another level.  There is a playfulness in his vocal performance and lyrics that doesn’t make this track come off as mean-spirited; instead you come away with the feeling of someone who takes those “I do’s” seriously and doesn’t just want to get married because…whatever.  Chauncy’s vocals are good here; there is no doubt that he has the emotionality to make the best out of this track as most singers would have come across as douchey.  A standout track.

10.  Horny – There is no doubt what this song is about; Chauncy is looking for some sexual healing.  His rough vocals are a perfect fit for this track; there is a seductive quality to his tone that, if you heard it over the phone, would have you looking for your keys.  This also features the best production on the album; intermittent saxophone riffs teamed with minor piano chords and an energetic drumbeat keep the listener’s interest the whole way through and seem to dance with the vocal performance.  A strong track and our pick for the next single.

11.  Brighter Day – Chauncy and Ray Rush share a song of hope in these troubled times.  With production by Chris Traxx and Teddy Riley, we hear a 70’s-esque track that dreads the turmoil that exist today that says that we may all need to call on a higher power for some guidance.  Giving a little Curtis Mayfield tease, he and Ray Rush give strong, somber performances at add weight to their subject matter.

12.  Benediction – An outro that lets the listener know that that the arch of the album, going from the church to the streets and back, is a reflection of his and a lot of other lives out there.  By the time that you reach this track, you will feel like you have taken a journey with Chauncy and that you know him and yourself a lot better.

13.  I Deserve Better – This bonus track features producer Chris Traxx and he and Chauncy sing about feeling unappreciated in their chosen crafts.  This is a track that many up-and-coming artists can relate to.  Producers and labels wanting them to fit a mold that has been used a million times before instead of allowing the artists to be themselves, come what may.  The low-key production here has the feeling of a lament but there is a hint of triumph in there because you realize these men know who they are and are secure in their craft.  And while, Chris Traxx doesn’t have the best singing voice, his earnestness has an appeal that is hard to deny.

This is album that is for people who have a more mature musical ear.  A lot of the production has a throwback focus that might turn off those who are looking for something that they can turn up to at a party and can sometimes feel a little generic the more it goes on.  At the same time, the lyrical content is so relatable that the album achieves what many albums of the modern era don’t; you can actually listen to it and get something out of it.  While it is not perfect, this is a strong foundation to build a discography on in the future and will leave listeners eager to hear how Chauncy develops thought his career.

Rating:  4.0