The list of major artists who have employed Monalisa Young as a background vocalist is a long and impressive one; Billy Joel, Joe Cocker, Sheena Easton, and Aaron Neville are among the heavyweights she has worked with. But, regrettably, Young never got very far as a solo artist. Knife, the singer's debut album of 1983, fell through the cracks and was ignored by radio, although it's a generally enjoyable dance/synth funk outing. Part of the problem may have been an excess of Motown covers. This out of print LP finds the singer (who has a girlishly soulful style of singing á la Deniece Williams) putting her spin on several Motown favorites, including the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine," Michael Jackson's "I'll Be There," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and Smokey Robinson's "Don't Mess With Bill." Meanwhile, "Never Can Say Goodbye" was a hit for the Jackson Five and was also embraced by Isaac Hayes and Gloria Gaynor. Young also offers a few tunes that aren't covers -- most notably, the reggae-tinged "Sweet Remedy" and the exuberant "Bust My Bubble" -- but because the covers are so abundant, people tended to dismiss her as simply a Motown cover act. And that's regrettable because she had potential as a solo artist. Knife (which has never been reissued on CD) is a pleasant debut, but Young was capable of much more.
by Alex Henderson