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Sounds like … Ruben Studdard, Marvin Sapp, and Fred Hammond, but performing material that is decidedly on the inspirational side of contemporary R&BAt a glance … though not quite a victory lap debut, Jason Champion's Reflections has enough next-door charm to indulge fans of inspirational urban musicTrack Listing Always Find a Reason Friend of Mine The Life (feat. Michael Champion) I'm Sorry For Better or for Worse (Paula Champion) Reflections Father You He Is the Way Ain't So Bad
The EMI Gospel debut from newcomer Jason Champion is actually the work of a seasoned veteran. Champion's career dates back to the early '90s, when he and his friend Dave Tolliver formed the R&B/hip-hop duo Men at Large. While only hardcore urban fans would likely remember the group's modest hits "So Alone" and "Use Me," the pair had something going for it, tempering their slow-burning, for-the-ladies appeal with humorous skits and a commendable rap swagger.
Their skills garnered a couple of albums and singles that charted on Billboard's R&B tallies, but Men at Large never quite took off, and the two eventually went their separate ways once Champion heeded the call of Christianity. Champion resurfaced in 2005 as a traveling and recording member of Kirk Franklin's entourage during his Hero era. That stint led to Champion reconnect with his former Men at Large manager, Leonard Brooks, with whom he forged a partnership and launched a solo career as a gospel artist.
The result is Reflections, Champion's first release in the faith arena. Produced by longtime Mary Mary producer Warryn Campbell, the outcome is much more subdued and smoother than the sisters' work, or for that matter, Champion's own résumé. Campbell is more an urban architect than a gospel one, so it's no surprise Champion sounds like an urban inspirational crooner, singing soulfully to the Lord while coasting effortlessly on tracks that never quite jump out; they simply go through the motions of contemporary R&B.
There's still an everyday, teddy-bear charm to Champion's material, similar to Ruben Studdard's pleasant but ultimately run-of-the-mill I Need an Angel, his gospel excursion from 2004. A bolder, more personable sound—perhaps something with the bite of his Men at Large days—could give Champion a stronger identity in gospel, which has its share of urban practitioners, but not an undisputed leading man. As it stands, Reflections isn't quite a victory for Champion, but still a satisfactory runner-up.