Elliott Yamin Label: Hickory
Elliott Yamin is mostly remembered for his top three finish on Season Five of “American Idol” among a class of talented finalists that have gone on to nice solo careers. Taylor Hicks and Katherine McPhee have had, to date, marginal CD releases, while Chris Daughtry sold millions of albums out of the gate. All of them are really good singers, and it was clearly Yamin’s vocal ability that lifted him to finish as high as he did in the competition.
Now, Elliott Yamin is out to show the world that his vocal ability can put him alongside pretty much anyone in his genre. Yamin’s appearance is deceiving. Looking at this dude, you think to yourself, “Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens.” But listening to him, you think “Donnie Hathaway.” And Yamin made it clear on “Idol” that Hathaway is one of his heroes, so an album of soulful R&B/pop with a healthy dose of vocal acrobatics is what everyone would expect of him. Yes, Yamin can sing, but more surprising is the fact that the songs on his debut are really good, and that he co-wrote most of them.
The album opens with “Movin’ On,” a breezy track in which Yamin shows off his inner funk as well as his enormous vocal range. The piano ballad “Wait for You” might remind you of Brian McKnight. Well, maybe a whiter Brian McKnight (you might recall “Idol” judge Paula Abdul calling Yamin “one funky white boy.”). “Find a Way” is a solid, upbeat track, as is the slickly produced “Alright.” And Yamin shines equally on the slower stuff, like “I’m the Man,” which is one of the album’s best tracks. Finally, he brings it on home with a cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” which was also recorded over three decades ago by Hathaway.
Elliott Yamin is another product of the highest-rated show on television, but his hard work and yearning for a music career put him on the show. Then America found a talent they likely wouldn’t have otherwise. To some, “American Idol” has become annoyingly popular, but say what you will about the show’s cheese factor and Ryan Seacrest; quite honestly, there is no way record executives would have taken a chance on Yamin before the show. So props to him for making his own career, but bigger props for a fine debut album.