ERIC BENET

"Hurricane"

Reprise

In the wake of his notorious split-up with Halle Berry, just about everyone knows the troubles singer Eric Benet has seen. And you don't need to read between the lines on "Hurricane," his first CD in five years, to conclude that Benet could still benefit from some quality time with Dr. Phil.

Check out "Where Does the Love Go," for example. Nursing his wounds in a sweet soul croon, Benet asks, "How can people go from a feeling that words can't describe / To a place of not even caring if I'm even alive."

The good news is that the neo-soulman sounds terrific throughout "Hurricane," even when he appears to be digging his way out from under a ton of tabloids. Though he's clearly in a mood to vent now and then, the album is more about healing and redemption than self-pity or finger-pointing. The chorus on the album's title track pretty much sums up the prevailing mood: "Sometimes I cried / The tears wouldn't fall / And sometimes I tried to break those walls / And feel your love / But I came alive / When I finally found my way."

Not surprisingly, the music is suffused with gospel touches, beginning with the percussive acoustic guitar ballad "Be Myself Again." The spiritual tone often brings out the best in Benet's supple tenor on "In The End" and other tracks. Uber-pop producers David Foster and Walter Afanasieff, plus arranger Van Dyke Parks, lend a hand along the way, and adding grace notes are jazzmen Roy Hargrove, Chris Botti and Viktor Krauss, among others.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Monday at the Birchmere.