Patti LaBelle

Gems

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Patti LaBelle's ballad-heavy 1994 album, Gems, doesn't necessarily rank as one of the singer's crowning achievements, but as the title (and cliché) implies, this set certainly offers more than a few gems to unearth. Gems also features a couple of prolific productions courtesy of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (on the set's up-tempo first single, "The Right Kinda Lover") and new jack swing maestro Teddy Riley (on LaBelle's mellow yet hypnotic cover of DeBarge's "All This Love"). The true standout, however, is "Stay in My Corner." That song, with its gospel undertones, features Labelle wailing as only she can, holding out her famous long notes and delivering a truly mesmerizing performance. The song is so good, in fact, that any self-respecting Labelle fan would have to own this set if only for that number. Other highlights include another gospel-infused tune, the ballad "If I Didn't Have You," the smooth "Time Will Tell," and the album finale, "Come as You Are." As a final note, this album also contains some truly stellar background vocals.

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