Patti LaBelle

Love Songs

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Dripping with soul, Patti LaBelle's Love Songs, one of five 2001 releases in the ongoing series, joyfully calls to mind shag carpets, polyester bell bottoms, and oversized sunglasses. The funky diva turns it out on 15 songs, all of which are not just heard, but felt deep inside. This is because LaBelle is one of those rare performers whose voice provides more than sound, it delivers an emotional listening experience. The songstress does depart from her soul roots on one of the set's most choice cuts: the Latin-flavored "Teach Me Tonight (Me Gusta Tu Baile)," which rivals the stylings of Jennifer Lopez and other contemporary Latin artists. Another stellar moment comes by way of "Come Into My Life." With its Cubana influences and sweet LaBelle singing, the song is deliciously irresistible.

Fans of Aretha Franklin, who also released a 2001 Love Songs album, and Natalie Cole will appreciate this album, as LaBelle's delivery is reminiscent of the two singers. All three performers fall into the same soul and R&B arena, the only significant difference lies in the tenure of their careers, with Franklin coming out ahead of LaBelle by a neck. The producers of this disc culled a diverse and top-notch selection of LaBelle recordings, and it's the intelligent assortment that puts the album over the top. There are pit stops made at gospel, soul, R&B, Latin, and pop. Love Songs is a winning retrospective of LaBelle's work spanning 1970 through 1980. Her uplifting voice, coupled with lively choir backup singers on many of the songs, energizes and inspires. The album's closing with the classic, get-down "Lady Marmalade" incites an urge to put on those bell bottoms, even 20 years later.

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