The hooks on the rap records indicated it could be possible, the roles in Living Out Loud and Chicago made it possible -- the first record in which Dana Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, does nothing but sing. On The Dana Owens Album, she takes on vocal standards and an unlikely array of blues, pop, and soul classics that were adaptable to this intimate setting. The worst thing about it? It makes you upset that it isn't her seventh or eighth record in this vein. Owens' seasoned voice isn't the only attraction. This is a big-time production with a cast of all-star support that includes Arif and Joe Mardin, Herbie Hancock, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jeff Porcaro, and John Patitucci. And then there's Al Green, who steps in to duet on a sizzling and delicately playful cover of his "Simply Beautiful." The range of material is very surprising. The assurance in Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" is all the more spooky given Owens' poised quietude; Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band's "Hard Times" (!) is one or two production tricks away from sounding like a missing cut from a '70s Rufus & Chaka Khan record; the version of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" is so faithful and knowing that a young Owens must've worn out her parents' copy; the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'," unlike so many other versions, doesn't sound ironic or willfully corny; and most fitting of all is Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," in which Owens is able to let loose and belt it out a little. Through and through, this is a real delight -- very classy and a whole lot of fun. Owens has been a busy woman the past several years, whether in front of a camera or behind the scenes, but she really ought to consider doing this type of thing more often.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman