Roberta Flack

Quiet Fire

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Quiet Fire proves to be an apt title, as Flack's MOR-informed jazz and gospel vocals simmer just below the surface on the eight sides here. Forgoing the full-throttled delivery of, say, Aretha Franklin, Flack translates the pathos of gospel expression into measured intensity and sighing, elongated phrases. There's even a bit of Carole King's ashen tone in Flack's voice, as manifested on songs like "Let Them Talk," Van McCoy's "Sweet Bitter Love," and a meditative reworking of King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." The album's other high-profile cover, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," features the ideal setting for Flack's airy pipes with a tasteful backdrop of strings and a chorus featuring soul songstress Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom). Switching from this hushed sanctity, Flack digs into some groove-heavy southern soul on "Go Up Moses," "Sunday and Sister Jones," and an amazing version of the Bee Gees hit "To Love Somebody" (this perennial number has been done by everyone from Rita Marley to Hank Williams, Jr.). Flack finally completes the modern triumvirate of southern music, adding the country tones of Jimmy Webb's "See You Then" to the Quiet Fire's stock of gospel and soul. And thanks to top players like guitarist Hugh McCracken, organist Richard Tee, bassist Chuck Rainey, and drummer Bernard Purdie, the varied mix all comes off sounding seamless. One of Flack's best.

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