Vanessa Williams

The Real Thing

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    6
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On The Real Thing, her sixth studio album (not counting two Christmas releases), Vanessa Williams switches from the '70s soul covers that made up 2005's Everlasting Love to a mix of adult contemporary originals and faithful interpretations. While Rob Mathes produced the entirety of the previous set, the labor here is divided between him and Rex Rideout (Boney James, Will Downing), as well as Keith Thomas and Babyface, both of whom go way back with Williams. With four people sharing the producer's chair, the whole album nonetheless carries a relaxed, serene feel, even when it is at its most active and spirited. The highlights tend to come with the Latin material -- including the title track, written by Stevie Wonder for Sergio Mendes, and "If There Were No Song," switching between a lush ballad and splashes of percussion and horns -- which Williams pulls off with natural ease. It's not likely to raise anyone's body temperature, but it's too welcoming to ignore.

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