Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Today's music - Niecy, Patti, Brenda and Oleta

Yup, it's another busy workday. So, this is sort of a lull before the storm, so to speak. A good time to exercise my gray matter before I plunge into work. Today's edition of our musicspeak features four elegant ladies, soul sisters who've made their mark and whose musical contributions linger up to now.

First, there's Deniece Williams. She could've probably easily done opera with her clear and expressive soprano which she put to good use in such songs as her breakthrough single, "Free," the emotionally-charged "Black Butterfly," or the popular duet with Johnny Mathis, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late." Her pop anthem may be "Let's Hear It for the Boy," or the less popular but excellent cover of "I'm So Proud." But
I will always admire her gospel tour de force, "Your Love Just Keeps Healing Me." There's gentleness and strength in that honey/silky voice that compel and persuade.

Patti Labelle is one of the acknowledged voice of soul. I admit I'm not that familiar with her earlier output but I've witnessed her "comeback" in the 80s with the upbeat "New Attitude."
I consider her duet with Michael Mcdonald, "On My Own," as a landmark soul duet -- one of the greatest in my book. Her original, "If You Asked Me To" is stark, simple and honest in contrast to Celine Dion's.

Brenda Russell is not a popular mainstream act but
I admire her songwriting skills. Her "Piano in the Dark" with Joe Esposito is dark, haunting, ambient. It's hard to believe it was a U.S. top ten hit from way back.

And now, Oleta.  She borrowed Russell's "Get Here" and made it her own. This is one of those rare songs that evokes places, people, water, air, earth into your consciousness. The voice is dark and smoky, deep and full, strong yet emotive. Even her reading of Eton's "Don't Let the Sun gGo Down on Me" is remade like it's her own. She may have not achieved the stardom she and her voice deserve but she's one of the greats -- that's for certain.

Tom's edition: Dianne Reeves, Pauline Wilson


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