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KEM - Kemistry
Produced by KEM

One of the best gifts of 2003 was the emergence of KEM, a self-taught musician who hails from Detroit.  Kemistry was originally released independently in 2002 and mostly through word of mouth, the beautiful ballad Love Calls became a highly requested radio hit in the Chicago area.  Motown wisely signed KEM and re-released Kemistry which afforded KEM a national audience.  Surprisingly, I find many R&B music fans have not heard of KEM.  He is old school personified with an amazing voice that sounds like a youthful Al Jarreau.  The album has fairly sparse arrangements by today's standards which is probably due to a limited recording budget.  I love it because it really let's his talent come through front-and-center.  Love Calls is for sure the best song on the album, but the rest of the album (all songs penned by KEM) is a pleasure including the upbeat wonderful Brotha Man.  If you haven't yet discovered KEM, do yourself an favor and treat yourself to some Kemistry.

More 2003 Albums:

Musiq - Soulstar
Various Producers
Musiq's has managed to do the improbable: Follow up last year's wonderful Juslissen with an even better album.  Every song here is a winner including my favorites Forthenight and Whereareyougoing.  For a special treat, listen to the uplifting Momentinlife featuring Kindred the Family Soul.
Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys
Produced by Alicia Keys & Various Producers
Before the release of her sophomore effort, Alicia Keys boldly proclaimed that this album is "the bomb".  How can someone so young have so much confidence and the talent to back it up?  This album is indeed the bomb and there's no telling where this amazing talent will go.  I'm particularly fond of Diary and Nobody Not Really.
Sting - Sacred Love
Produced by Kipper & Sting
Sting consistently produces high quality albums and this one is no exception.  Always willing to explore music genres, this time Sting experiments with Techno.  Stand out tracks include Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing) and Whenever I Say Your Name (featuring Mary J. Blige).
Luther Vandross - Dance With My Father
Produced by Luther Vandross & Various Producers
Sadly, Luther's wonderful voice may be forever silenced by a stroke he suffered in 2003.  On the positive side, he has given us another great album to remember his great talent.  I particularly love his remake of Lovely Day (Part 2 is the good version, I think they made a error when sequencing the tracks).  I also like his duet with Beyonce Knowles on The Closer I Get To You.
Earth, Wind & Fire - The Promise
Produced by Maurice White
My favorite group EWF are getting a little long in the tooth and it shows.  However, they still can put together the occasional gem like the wonderful Betcha, featuring Philip Bailey's awesome falsetto which is still going strong and the Grammy-nominated Hold Me.
JOE - And Then...
Various Producers
Every JOE album is a combination of sensual, heartfelt, beautiful soul and embarrassingly explicit lyrics.  The fact that R. Kelly contributes a couple of songs to this album might give you an indication of how things balance out this time out.  I do like Ride With U (featuring 50 Cent and G-Unit).
Brian McKnight - U Turn
Produced by Brian McKnight
Even though I'm a big McKnight fan, I'm beginning to concede that he may be running out of ideas although he got a lot of inspiration on this album from his divorce.  Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda is cool albeit unexceptional.  So Sorry on the other hand is even too corny for me (I laugh at the lyrics "..to count your tears would be like standing in the rain").