‘Rox’ is the nom de plume of Roxanne Tataei, a half-Iranian, half-Jamaican retro soulster. Her music is less intriguing than her background, though, and fits firmly in the Amy Winehouse/ Duffy/ Adele mould.
The opening track No Going Back sounds like a statement of intent. It showcases some impressive vocals and finds the right balance between the modern incarnation of RnB and the old incarnation of soul. The rest of the album is, unfortunately, a patchwork which at times seems to chime with the bravura of the opener and at others sinks into a morass of mediocrity. So highlights such as the bouncily infectious I Don’t Believe and the snappy and sharp Page Unfolds contrast with the rather insipid and listless Heart Ran Dry or the vapid ‘Rocksteady’. Given her Jamaican heritage, it would be tempting to think that reggae/ska would be a stronger suit than some other elements of the album. Rocksteady disabuses you of any such notion and is probably the weakest cut on the album – sounding like a track whose idea of reggae comes from a UB40 b-side.
Rox, happily, avoids the self-indulgent vocalisations a la Mariah Carey where, for example, the word ‘love’ can end up with ten syllables and end in a range that only bats and particularly senstive dogs can hear. Sadly the same lack of self-indulgence doesn’t stretch to the production. Sleek it may be but on the slower numbers all the knob twiddling gets in the way of the actual songs.
The strongest songs here provide evidence that Rox could match her retro-soul peers. There are, though, rather too many wrong turns for the album to truly convince. Different collaborators and stronger material might see her move forward. But even those stronger tracks don’t provide much that is sufficiently different or better than that provided by the others currently occupying the retro-soul niche.