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Brian McKnight, ‘More Than Words’

Fifteen records into his solo career, Brian McKnight has basically mastered the tasteful, artfully arranged R&B song, and here he gives his audience more of the same. That’s good and bad news as, while this is a spirited, confident 15-song set, it rarely veers out of the singer-songwriter’s comfort zone. Maybe he’s pulling back after 2012’s polarizing let-me-teach-you to-freak single, “If You’re Ready to Learn.” While this disc doesn’t challenge, it does satisfy with funk-lite workouts (“Made for Love,” “Don’t Stop”), mid-tempo pop (“Sweeter”), and jazz-influenced grooves. The expansive “Ididnt-reallymeantoturnuout” features a vocal from his son Brian Jr. and fluid piano fills while “Get U 2 Stay” echoes “Aja”-era Steely Dan with its cool sophistication. McKnight does get playful with the ode to sexting, “The Front the Back the Side” while his other son, Niko, flashes his guitar chops. Sometimes, the vocalist goes on autopilot (“Slow,” “Another”) and stalls the disc’s momentum. With his flawless falsetto and versatile musicianship McKnight hardly falters, but he also rarely thrills. (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Get U 2 Stay”

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