Nancy Wilson

A Lady with a Song

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After Nancy Wilson signed to Columbia Records following a lengthy stint at Capitol, she tried for a contemporary R&B style on such albums as Forbidden Lover and Nancy Now!, largely without success. A Lady with a Song, the 52nd album by the soon-to-be-53-year-old singer, is another effort in the same direction. The arrangements are full of electronic keyboard washes, popping basslines, and soulful female backup vocals with the occasional piercing saxophone part, all in support of (and at times overwhelming) Wilson's smoky alto vocals. The material includes the statement of purpose that is the title song, the arousing "This Love Is What I Need," and the gospel-styled closing anthem "Heaven's Hands," each of which requires Wilson to come out of her jazz-pop comfort zone and try for growls and wails. It sounds like she and her producer had been listening to recent Arista Records releases by Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, and trying to do something similar. But the quality of the songwriting lets Wilson down, and, anyway, the approach is not natural to her. She is jazzier and classier than this kind of thing, and while she made a valiant attempt to meet the R&B charts more than halfway, she is not heard at her best here.

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