Montell Jordan's Romantic ...Ride Into Fatherhood

Singer stays soulful and seductive on upcoming album while embracing family life.

Those who flock to crowded malls and gallerias for copies of R&B star Montell Jordan's newest album would be wise not to expect a reprise of his bouncing multi-platinum debut, This Is How We Do It, or a carbon copy of the mellower More....

With More..., Jordan softened his musical pitch in an attempt to move beyond the high-energy sound of that earlier album. Let's Ride (March 31), his third LP, continues the progression with a more mature and sophisticated take on modern soul music.

"The first album was a party album," said Los Angeles native Jordan, 29, who became a father not too long ago, a fact that has influenced his sound. "It's the same thing with most parties. Sometimes, they have to end. If they don't, then you're the last one sitting at the party by yourself."

Addressing his move to a gentler brand of R&B, Jordan was emphatic. "It's definitely a turn we needed to take," he said.

Not that Let's Ride strays too far from the sexual heat of Jordan's earlier albums. Although somewhat toned down, the singer slides right into his trademark vocal seduction with the album opener, "When You Get Home" (RealAudio excerpt), detailing all the things he'll have prepared for his lover when she comes home. "Girl, your shower's ready/ Steamy hot for you/ Cristal popped for two/ To get you in the mood."

Other tracks include a grinding collaboration with Redman on "Anything & Everything," as well as the title song, "Let's Ride" (RealAudio excerpt), and its remix featuring No Limit Records kingpin Master P and his signature grunting.

"About a third of the songs on the album were written on airplanes, something that happens because I fly a lot with the hectic schedule I have," Jordan said. "When the airplane starts taking off, I pick up the barf bag and start writing."

The lullaby "Missing You" (RealAudio excerpt) laments the time Jordan spends on the road, away from his 18-month-old daughter, Sydney. The arrangement features Jordan singing silky harmonies with himself over a bed of softly strummed strings.

Fatherhood is not the only new influence on Jordan's sound. A September break from recording Let's Ride took the Pepperdine University grad to Slifden, Ireland, for the Celtic Harmony Music Conference, where he found himself collaborating with Irish folk-favorites Hothouse Flowers and Brian Kennedy.

The experience bodes well for Jordan's further artistic growth.

"I never thought I'd go to Ireland," he said. "I never thought I'd allow myself to be held captive in a castle for 10 days and nights, paired up and writing songs with people I'd be least likely to write songs with. It was great, and at the end of the day we'd all end up in the pub, singing songs."

Jordan, who cut his teeth on funk and R&B legends Stevie Wonder, the Isley Brothers and Curtis Mayfield, said he hopes Let's Ride will further define his sound without entirely abandoning his good-time roots.

"I want this album to be a party, but much more of a cool party," he said. "I picture people sitting at a dinner table sipping on Merlot, but eventually, somebody gets up and dances on the table, and it just goes from there." [Wed., Feb. 25, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]