Salaam Remi, producer for an array of stars including Alicia Keys, steps out with a solo debut showcasing his romantic sensibilities and versatility. Instead of collaborating with pop’s usual suspects, Remi works with vocalists who best serve the songs’ moods. He gives a platform for developing artists like Brit, Liam Bailey, while bringing Akon, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Jordin Sparks back into focus. This isn’t the typical producer-driven record relying on beat-happy tracks. Remi, who has worked extensively in film scoring, brings cinematic sweep to the set. With its evocative string arrangements and graceful melodies, the music works on multiple levels. Bailey Rae connects with “Makin’ It Hard for Me” — so seductive and filled with longing. “Cup of Tea,” featuring Estelle, is sly and sexy while an ode to a femme fatale, “One in the Chamber,” makes for a crisp pop noir. A reggaefied “Eleanor Rigby” feels redundant while the instrumentals seem incidental, but this is buoyed by the often lush, dimensional songs. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Makin’ It Hard for Me”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.