Richie Stephens

Covers for Lovers

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Few reggae singers of this era are as well suited to do an album of romantic reggae-style R&B covers as Richie Stephens, who has distinguished himself with similar material (notably a fine version of the Tom Jones schmaltz classic "It's Not Unusual") scattered across his previous albums. Covers for Lovers is a mostly winning set of classic bedroom pop, though it's something of a mixed bag in terms of both sound quality and the wisdom of the selections. For example, there's no arguing with the Luther Vandross cover that opens the program (a stellar reggae arrangement of "So Amazing"), and his selections from the Jeffrey Osborne book ("All Because of You" and the charmingly grandiose "Greatest Love Affair") are both well chosen. The strange, slippery rhythm he brings to bear on "Forever By Your Side" is quite effective, as is his drastic deconstruction of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." But he doesn't do anything much with "Lady Lady Lady," nor does he improve on Teddy Pendergrass with his version of "Come Go With Me." And his choice of "Ebony Eyes" (yeah, nothing says romance like a Rick James cover) is a bit questionable. Most disappointing is Stephens' version of the immortal "Baby Come to Me," which he takes too fast and which is mixed very quirkily. This album is worth hearing, but Sanchez isn't going to be losing any sleep over it.

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