Wipe Off The Dust: Ephraim Lewis' 'Skin' Is Still A Thing Of Beauty

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lost in the void, R&B vocalist Ephraim Lewis' Skin is what you'd strongly call a music experience. Many albums promise to its listener that it will "cast you away" with it's whole package, from start to finish. No filler, no skip button usage necessary. But most albums that claim this rarely do deliver that sentiment. Skin, on the other hand, is that album that takes you away, Calgon style...but without the intoxicating Morning Glory scent suffocating you. This experience is much more pleasant.

Once your ears grace Lewis' 1992 debut album, it lingers with you, haunting you with every song or vocal tone that Lewis executes long after the chords have evaporated, and you thus, want to hear more. The thought that Lewis died shortly after this album was launched adds to the mystique this album has. Lewis is one of those classic cases of "could've been" due to the tragic circumstances revolving around his death and that his one and only album, Skin, came out at a time where the whole atmospheric, spacey electronic soul sound was emerging and morphing into what would become neo-soul in later years. In some ways, if Lewis was still around, he probably would've given Seal a run for his money. The two men (besides hailing from England and possessing similar spacey sounds in their musical compositions) oddly have the same vocal range, yet, to my ears, Ephraim's voice transcends over Seal's especially on tracks like the soaring, "Summer Lightening" and "Sad Song" with its brooding Jazz backdrop.

Track "It Can't Be Forever" is proof of Lewis' excelling vocal abilities, as he bounces from a creamy falsetto tone to a growling alto all in one refrain. It's rather stunning, especially when paired with the brooding instrumentation.


The sole hit from Skin was the gorgeous love ode, "Drowning In Your Eyes", which got some airplay on Adult Contemporary and smooth Jazz stations back when it was freshly derived. Yet, don't let those genres make you believe the song as some elevator or department store background music. It's far too delish to even be considered such. Dare I say that Maxwell might have been a tad bit inspired by this song...that is if he has even heard of it. Still, if you close your eyes and listen, from its harmonies this could easily be something that would've been lifted from Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, just a little less grittier. Listen for yourself.


Though this album was released 17 years ago, it still sounds crisp and modern, not aging in the slightest, as possibly at its original release date it was ahead of what was taking place in the music industry at that time (the emerging of hip-hop and grunge). Even with the haunting nature swirling around Ephraim Lewis' passing and the sounds that expel from Skin, after all these years it is still an elegant slice of soul life.

1 comment:

  1. As a little girl at about the age of 6, I strongly remember when I heard Ephraim's 'Drowning In Your Eyes on the smooth jazz radio station. It was late at night and I'm laying in bed listening to this small boombox on my nightstand,when suddenly this beautiful, captivating song starting playing. I stayed awake humming that song until I fell asleep.I started to like that song, just from hearing it at a very young age.Almost 20 years later, I was finally able to google search this song and found out the artist's name. I was expecting to see an entire discography of him, but was sadden when I learned Skin is his first and last album. I have my copy of Skin and I must say that this is the best album of the 90's decade. This is probably one of the only CDs I can truly say I love EVERY song on it. I like your review of Skin. R.I.P Mr. Ephraim Lewis, you were truly a talented person and I'm pretty sure you're singing with the angels.:)

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