After flirting with English-language material on 2007's Smile and almost going the whole hog on 2009's Christmas, French-Canadian vocalist Marie-Andre Bergeron, aka Ima, finally takes the plunge and records an entirely English-sung album with her sixth studio release, Precious. Continuing her recent fascination with interpreting '60s and '70s standards, this 13-track set is yet another collection of cover versions of the songs which inspired her musical ambitions. But this time round, she follows in the footsteps of Tori Amos and has chosen a repertoire of songs all originally recorded by men. Unlike the banshee pianist, Ima doesn't attempt to offer a different gender-reversal perspective on her rather uninspired selection, instead opting to play it straight on an array of retro-pop and soul classics from the likes of Al Green ("Let's Stay Together"), Simon & Garfunkel ("The 59th Street Bridge Song"), and Otis Redding ("For Your Precious Love"). Although long-term collaborators Tino Izzo and Guy St-Onge's organic production ensures that Precious doesn't descend into pure karaoke, the whole project feels like a wasted opportunity, as the likes of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," and the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" have already been covered by countless other female artists. And while there a few attempts to put her own stamp on the proceedings, such as the shuffling, banjo-led reworking of John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders," the twanging country-pop rendition of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," and the Southern soul retooling of Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You," on the whole, the arrangements stick too faithfully to the originals, particularly on Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," which is just crying out for a modern, club-friendly adaptation. Ima herself, is in fine voice, sweetly cooing over the Broadway number "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," and purring seductively on Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find a Love Like Me," but after such a promising start to her career, it's disappointing that for her fourth album in a row, she's still focusing on other people's songs. Precious is by no means a disaster, but apart from the odd flash of inspiration, there's very little here that would prevent anyone from seeking out the far superior originals instead.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien