When I first listened to Ne-Yo’s “Libra Scale” album and wrote my review (Read the Libra Scale review here) I almost immediately started coming across all these tracks from Ne-Yo that weren’t on the album. It was baffling to me. I couldn’t figure out what they were planning to do with all these other tracks floating around, but now I know. Ne-Yo had released a whole other album titled The Apprenticeship Of Mr. Smith The Birth Of Ne-Yo which of course included the tracks I had found along with a few more; a total of eleven tracks that are not found on the highly publicized and heavily promoted “Libra Scales” album. After doing some digging I found out that this has been out for almost an entire year and is a collection of music Ne-Yo recorded prior to being signed. Talk about needing a late pass. I had no idea. So I drop the needle once again on another Ne-Yo album.
“Amazing You” starts it off with a throwback drum kit and drum pattern laced up with a Rhodes organ and a tight bassline. The track is nice, but not memorable. I finally skip to the next track “Magic” which is one of those I had found a few days back. I didn’t like it then and I still don’t like it. I really despise the simple 4x4 beat pattern made popular by disco and house music…just lazy and boring. So I skip again to the next track “Angel-Stranger”. I hated the first 59 seconds but was vibing with the Prince flavored sound when it finally kicked in. When I first heard “The End” I just assumed it was a reference track that was scrapped, but again I was wrong. I still think it sounds crude with not only the engineering, but his vocals are off pitch in spots all over the song. So now I’m thinking “Damn, whatever A&R discovered Ne-Yo really had great foresight because none of this impressive…until the needle slides to the next song “So Wrong”. I liked this when I first stumbled across it and still do. “So Wrong” at this point is easily the best song of the album. Until “Just My Problem” comes on next. This song is nice from top to bottom. Production has that live band flavor, his vocals are full of emotion, and the background vocals are a perfect compliment…this song easily explains how an A&R could hear it and immediately say “let’s sign the kid”. “Memories” is up next and is again a nice track. I think this is the first on this album that has that Michael Jackson sound that was so prevalent on “Libra Scales”. The song “Jealous” has a real throwback sound but it’s a nice record. Ne-Yo carries this song more than the others which were powered by production that had hit potential. The production on “Jealous” lays back and lets Ne-Yo stand out and he nailed it. “Zodiac” is up next and is another winner. I think Ne-Yo’s vocals are most powerful with this one so, again, props to the A&R that heard it first and made the move to sign him to a major. Hearing Ne-Yo belt out this song had to make that an easy call. “Your Place or Mine” sounds like it would be hit at live performances, but for an album I didn’t really like it…until he hit the bridge at the 2:14 mark. Then this song gets funky as hell and Ne-Yo amps it up with his vocals big time. The final song is “Cocoa Butter” and I still say the same thing – this should be left off the album.
There are some hot songs on this album but overall its hit and miss. Now that I know the story behind this album though; I look at it through a whole different light. This is like playing the role of an A&R looking to discover the next big talent to sign. Whoever that A&R was, he should be getting paid BIGTIME and should be commended for hearing the potential of the Ne-Yo that we now know and love.