I don't write often about the grading scale I use, but I feel like I should elaborate a bit to set up this review. In my 1-10 scale, between each number, there is no greater quality jump than from a seven to an eight. A Nicsperiment seven is a pretty decent album, but an eight is a very good one. I might throw on a seven once every few years, but I am going to listen to an eight on a regular basis. John Reuben makes that big of a jump between Hindsight and Professional Rapper, his respective second and third albums. EDITOR'S NOTE:You know what, though, screw this. In the retrospection of a decade, and after multiple listens the last few days, this album is not just very good--it's almost perfect. This isn't just an eight. It's a nine. I love all but one song, and the eleven others have very few weak spots. Nine. Anyway...
What's the leap? Is substantialness a word? Substantialism? Hindsight is loaded with jokey, lighter tracks. Professional Rapper only features five tracks I would reference as "lighter," but none of them (save perhaps "Treats," which is actually pretty self-mocking) feel unsubstantial. Every song on this album needs to exist, and they are recorded as such. The arrangements are interesting (the beat on "Move" and the breezy horns on "Life Is Short" are worth the sticker price), and Reuben's lyrics take a huge step forward. The more introspective lines that cropped up around Hindsight's edges dominate this time around. This is the difficult (though still fun) John Reuben we would get for the rest of his career. By difficult, I mean that from here on out, Reuben is brutally honest about the difficulties of life. I am puttering around right now. What I want to say is, Reuben's music is getting better to listen to at the same time his lyrics are necessitating more earnest reflection. Reuben is also improved as a rapper, his flow more relaxed, but intense when it needs to be.
Most importantly, though, these songs are great. The two collaborations with The Benjamin Gate's Adrienne Camp, "Freedom to Feel," and most particularly, "I Haven't Been Myself" are both excellent, but the solo "Time to Leave" gives me chills, and the lyrics make me cry, so here's that one instead.
1. Move 3:50
2. Have No Opinion? 3:17
3. I Haven't Been Myself 3:43
4. Life Is Short 4:10
5. Treats 3:22
6. Freedom to Feel 3:57
7. Time to Leave 3:52
8. Re-Record 3:28
9. Jammin' John & Mixin' Manny 1:29
10. All in All George Harrison / John Zappin r 3:24
11. 5 Years to Write 5:06
12. Higher 3:35