As the more common names in music battle it out for the title of King of R&B, royal offshoots like Eric Benet, who never compromises their clear timber for the sake of the vocoder, provide the needed consistency for the jaded. No longer crest fallen from his divorce from actress Halle Berry, Benet takes a more light hearted approach, re-teaming with collaborators George Nash and Demonte Posey for his fourth solo CD, Love & Life.

Rather than lament a love lost as on 2005’s Hurricane, Benet’s focus on Love & Life is… bliss. From the joys of drowning in sexual attraction on “The Hunger” to relishing in the comforts of a new love on the slow and steady “Chocolate Legs,” Benet assures that this time he feels as good as he sounds. With such a noticeable return to form on Love & Life, one can’t help but take note of all the classic elements that landed him in heavy rotation to begin with.

Reviving 70’s soul with “You’re The Only One” (see below) and striking up the band on “Still I Believe”, Love & Life offers a nice balance of grooves from slow and mellow to funkdafied — all of which sound truly authentic.

A set so comprehensive wouldn’t be complete without the socially conscious, crossover, VH1-ready ditty. “Sing To Me” fills that slot perfectly lifting and inspiring and ultimately standing as a testament of Benet’s state of mind.

Overall, Love & Life proves that life has ushered Eric Benet out of troubled waters and onto solid ground. And after one listen, I was glad to hear it.

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