John Legend
Darkness and Light
Columbia

For his fifth studio album, Grammy-winning crooner John Legend decided, for the first time in his chart-topping career, to work with one producer. Blake Mills, the man behind the soulful sound of Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Colour, was the chosen one. “Following the tradition of soul/R&B music that celebrates love and challenges indecency, Darkness and Light digs into John’s long-stand­ing devotion to social justice,” the producer has said. “This record goes against the grain, boldly reminding us that though darkness abounds, it is the light that will ultimately push us forward.” Playing several instru­ments and co-writing all but one song with Legend, Mills has had a big influence here – there’s a pounding heart and burning intensity to the 12 tracks on offer. Right by You (for Luna), a moving ballad dedicated to Legend’s young daughter and featuring the horny loveliness of saxophonist Kamasi Washington, is the highlight, but this is an album of gospel, folk and R&B that boasts earthier tones throughout. The singer is calling it his “best work yet”, and it would be hard to disagree.