Oleta Adams

All the Love

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The richly emotional, sultry voiced soul singer is best known for her powerful rendition of Brenda Russell's "Get Here," which became an anthem for the Gulf War. No such anthems for other wars are immediately apparent here, but Adams continues to show a remarkable ability to turn great songs into spiritual experiences and make even mundane songs poignant experiences. With tracks produced by Ricky Peterson and Peter Wolf, Adams should have no trouble -- with the right promotion -- getting further in the R&B crossover market, even if her label is more jazz oriented. The funky opening track, "Sweet Side of Life," has smooth jazz written all over it; it's cool (hardly mining the depth of where that voice can go) and just a bit gospel flavored, and features Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitar and a smoky sax solo by Gerald Albright. She turns the familiar, somewhat clich├ęd "I Can't Live a Day Without You" into a resonant declaration of love, despite being backed by an Art of Noise-like synth foundation. She shows optimism and bluesy hip hope sensibilities on "I Hope You Dance," wistful sorrow on the plaintive "Love Was Spoken Here" and a deep sense of spirituality on the worshipful ballad "In the Beginning." Amazingly, for someone who relies so much on outside songwriters for what success she's had, Adams actually creates the best pieces here herself. "The Power of Sacrifice" invokes an image of Christ for the world today and how people can offer themselves to others. "Learning to Love You More" is the one track that brings Adams back to her gospel roots (this disc needs more of this), a heartfelt chronicle of a tempestuous lifelong relationship -- now reconciled -- with her sister. "Just Before I Go to Sleep" is saved for last, but it displays Adams at her most heartfelt on both piano and vocals. It's a simply arranged, loving prayer sung to a lover before God. A strong effort overall, but greater simplicity and heart like this would have made it more of a slam dunk.

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