Personnel: John Legend (vocals, piano, organ, keyboards, background vocals); Tom Craskey (vocals, guitar, piano); Raphael Saadiq (guitar, bass guitar); Chris Bruce, David Torn , Doyle Bramhall, Evan Conquest, Rob "Fonksta" Bacon, Sharief Hobley (guitar); Dave Tozer (acoustic guitar, piano, drum programming); Sandra Parl, Krystof Kuznik, Sarah O'Boyle, Kurn Lu, Jung Sun Yoo, Wen Qian, Soohyun Kwon, Caterina Szepes, Sandra Park, Lisa Kim, Sharon Yamada, Katherine Fong (violin); Karen Dreyfus, Nick Cords (viola); Elizabeth Dyson (cello); Helen Campo, Diva Goodfriend-Koven (alto flute); Steve Williamson (clarinet); Shelley Woodworth (oboe); Steve Tirpak (trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone); Julie Landsman (French horn); Art Baron (trombone); Jerry Freeman, Jason Freeman , Corey Hogan, Richard L. Owens , Kebbi Williams (horns); Eric Hudson (piano, bass guitar); Ron Fair (piano); Chris Rob (organ); Didi Gutman, Jamie Muhoberac, Keith Harris , Patrick Warren (keyboards); David Piltch (bass guitar); will.i.am (drums, drum programming); Larry Eagle, Bobby Ozuna, Mark Biobdi, Earl Harvin, Harvey Mason, Sr. , Robert Ozuna (drums); Jack Splash (drum programming); Ken Lewis (sampler); Lenesha Randolph, Vaughn Anthony, Sasha Allen, Tara Michel (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Tony Maserati .
Recording information: Blakeslee Recording Company, North Hollwood, CA; Cosmic Dust Recorders, Los Angeles, CA; Integrated Studios, New York, NY; Right Track, New York, NY; Sear Sound, New York, NY; Sony Music Studios, New York, NY; Spiral Recording, Los Angeles, CA; Studio Crash, Philadelphia, PA; Sunset Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA; The Cutting Room, New York, NY; The Looking Glass, New York, NY; The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA; The Studio, Philadelphia, PA.
Photographer: Danny Clinch.
Arranger: Daniele Luppi.
If John Legend hadn't made his name working with Kanye West, producing Jay-Z, and playing on Lauryn Hill's classic THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL, his 2004 studio debut GET LIFTED would have still established him as a true frontrunner in the world of R&B. His studio follow-up, 2006's ONCE AGAIN, is better than its predecessor; the music is still steeped in vintage 1960s- and '70s-flavored R&B, but Legend's songcraft, productions, and nuanced singing are even more appealing.
Most impressively (especially for someone who swapped his birth name for "Legend"), the music is remarkably understated, subtle, and textured. The cool-toned groove of the album's lead-off single, "Save Room," is a case in point, as is the beautiful, mid-tempo "Show Me," which floats on intricate electric guitar patterns and swelling strings. The vibe is deep on ONCE AGAIN, and beautifully restrained; the productions are contemporary and tinged with hip-hop aesthetic, yet they're never overbearing. Horns, piano, tasteful strings, and a pulsing rhythm section provide a sweet canvas for Legend's seductive croon and falsetto swoops. ONCE AGAIN is a true soul record, and Legend is rapidly gaining on his competitors as the king of the neo-soul mountain.
Rolling Stone (p.70) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[A] bigger, better follow-up, which blends lush, elegant band arrangements with stylish synth parts and cool samples."
Rolling Stone (p.107) - Ranked #35 in Rolling Stone's "The Top 50 Albums Of 2006" -- "Legend goes from Nat 'King' Cole to Jeff Buckley on a dime."
Spin (p.96) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Like LIFTED, ONCE AGAIN offers a mesmerizing blend of canny sample science and Stevie Wonder live-band R&B."
Entertainment Weekly (p.71) - "[Legend] conducts a songcraft master class....Musically, the CD is satisfying enough to ensure further Grammy acclaim." -- Grade: B
Q (p.134) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "It's soulful..and brims with spiritual joy. It's luxurious."
Q (p.120) - Ranked #49 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006" -- "[A]n ideally poised crossover album."
Vibe (p.166) - "Legend ups the ante musically....He's beginning to loosen up his vocals...honing his signature vibrato."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.104) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "His most impressive skill is echoing the laid-back charm of Bill Withers and the melodic instincts of Stevie Wonder..."