On his second solo release, Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine (Arista), the former Goodie Mob star again proves he’s an original in a world of pretenders. While countless hip-hop tracks have harnessed the audience-pleasing power of the soul vocal hook, Cee-Lo is that rare performer who can both rap and sing with such facility and inventiveness that differentiating between the two approaches becomes pointless. (The rainbow-swirled records he made with Goodie Mob in the 90s anticipated much of the eclectic wildness that’s made superstars of his Atlanta homies OutKast.) Considering the breadth of his talent it’s a shame he hasn’t yet found a way to parlay it into a consistently great album, but the high points are way up there: Cee-Lo takes it to the biters on the stuttering “I’ll Be Around” (produced by Timbaland), boasting “You see, I do what they won’t do and can’t do / But gonna wish they did when I’m done.” And on “I Am Selling Soul,” he tinkers with house beats and meditates on the symbiosis of art and commerce: “It’s critical how convincing I can be with a camera pointed at me / But really sometimes rapping feels like tapping to make a cracker happy / But when the DAT plays and the beat gets to bumping like adolescent acne / It’s kinda sad / It’s showtime! / My sentiments exactly.” There are low points too–incense-cured musings over soggy flute loops, a flaccid swipe of “Pass the Dutchie”–but missteps and all, Cee-Lo’s charisma and smarts keep him way ahead of the pack. Tweet, Teedra Moses, and Dante Carte open. a 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $30.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dean Karr.