Upon hearing Cee-Lo for the first time, I stood there, scratched my chest through my dirty old beater and thought to myself ‘is this guy for real?’
A few years later, I still find his voice exotic, like nothing I’ve heard before. It’s as if he popped too many Short Circuit™ candies as a child and is paying for it now with his raspy, helium-induced vocals. Whatever the genesis of his voice, on Soul Machine he is in a constant state of metamorphosis – from spoken word artist to fierce battle MC to soulful crooner. While attempting such a diverse album might be the downfall of a lesser artist, Cee-Lo pulls it off. There are a few duds that had me reaching for the skip button (the up-tempo disco/spoken word yawn ‘I Am Selling Soul’ comes off as forced and contrived) but the rest of the album makes such songs easily forgettable.
Some of the production is handled by Cee-Lo himself, while elsewhere the talents of Timbaland, the ubiquitous Neptunes and Premier are enlisted. The Neptunes provide the highlight with ‘The Art of Noise’ while Premier turns in an uncharacteristically mellow beat with ‘Evening News’. As is the case with many rap albums these days, there are guest vocalists, the best of whom is Ludacris, who keeps up with Cee-Lo on some machine gun style rapping over a playful beat that I swear was taken from J-Zone’s vaults.
‘Soul Machine’ is a Salada™ cracker with all the best and freshest toppings, an extremely versatile and sumptuous offering that will satisfy even the pickiest of music fans. A definite progression from his debut, this is a near perfect reintroduction to Cee-Lo Green – Soul Machine.