Gladys Knight

Before Me

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At a time when most of her contemporaries are satisfied reliving their glory years to appreciative audiences in casinos and theaters, Gladys Knight continues her refusal to be pigeonholed as a soul singer. With 2000's At Last, she returned to the mainstream R&B circuit with a session of adult contemporary R&B that was equally accessible and refreshing, and with 2005's One Voice she collaborated with the Saints Unified Voices for a fiery gospel and praise record. So this time around, Knight recruited legendary producer Phil Ramone and an impressive lineup of jazz musicians to record an album of jazz ballads and standards that influenced her during the formative years of her singing career. At first, the prospect of Knight's soulful, gritty vocal styles taking on some of jazz's greatest moments may be a questionable proposal for jazz purists, but all hesitation can be safely swept aside during the album's opening moments, a fantastic rendition of the Ellington classic "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me." Gone are the grit and raspy nature of Knight's voice, and in their place is a smooth, sultry set of vocal cords safely in control of the delivery of the material. Every single song here is already a bona fide hit, and Knight does them all justice in a way few soul singers could. Wonderfully relaxing, classy, and pleasantly void of vocal histrionics, Before Me is another important chapter and highlight in a career that is chock-full of them.

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