The Soul Express Album of the Month

August 1999

HOLLOWAY
BIG, BAD & BEAUTIFUL
Expansion, 1999
1) Everything You Do 2) Can You Stay 3) You Won't Have Another Chance 4) Funky Town 5) Whispers 6) When I Think of You (duet with John Whitehead) 7) What's a Woman to Do? 8) If You Want It 9) When Was the Last Time 10) Again and Again 11) Love on a Two Way Street 12) You're All That Matters (duet with Brandi Wells) 13) Why Aren't You Here with Me?
Produced by Terry Price Grant
Charlene Holloway was one of the excellent Philly soul singers featured as guest vocalists on the Philly Nights - A Romantic Tribute to the Sound of Philadelphia album by The Price-Bernstein Project (see the review in our jazz-funk column this issue). The producers behind the project were Terry Price Grant and Steve Bernstein, who were the originators and producers of WMOT and Omni labels back in the 80s and have worked with numerous legendary Philly soul artists.
Charlene Holloway is undoubtedly the least famous singer of those who participated in the Philly Nights project, yet she definitely deserves more recognition by serious soul followers, since she belongs vocally to the same category with Regina Belle, whom Charlene cites as one of her friends, and who is also the songstress I'd name as the nearest point of comparison as a vocalist for Charlene.
Thus, Charlene's solo album from the same Price-Bernstein team is more than welcome. I would have preferred a bit more real instrumentation, but at least Steve Wise with his tasty sax and flute solos and Daryl Johnson with his rhythm guitar do their best to colour the programmed beats.
The most impressive background setting of the CD can be heard on Whispers, which is a stylish flute-laden acoustic ballad with a beautiful melody written by Terry Price Grant. Vocally more powerful deliveries are displayed, though, on the splendid, instantly capturing mid-stepper You Won't Have Another Chance and the refined yet ultra-soulful ballad When Was the Last Time?.
Of the other ballads, Love on a Two Way Street is a passable remake of the Moments hit, while You're All That Matters follows much in the same manner, being an old Thom Bell song that features former WMOT / Omni artist Brandi Wells as a duet guest. Why Aren't You Here with Me? and What's a Woman to Do? are quite satisfactory, sophisticated ballads, too.
A couple of upbeat joggers are clearly better than average, too. Everything You Do is an excellent melodic swayer spiced with a touch of saxophone, although Charlene's wonderful vocals remain in the spotlight. The strongly sung, sax-drenched mid-plodder Can You Stay and the funkier handclapper Funky Town (not the Lipps, Inc. song) are quite punchy, too. Steve Wise's robust saxophone dominates another mid-pacer titled If You Want It.
John Whitehead (of McFadden & Whitehead fame) duets with Holloway on When I Think of You, which is an acceptable synthetic jogger on which the backing is rather sparse and pedestrian but the tune is respectable and John still sounds terribly soulful although not as powerful as during his heyday. The only track I don't personally care for is Again and Again, which tries to repeat the Sounds of Blackness / Ann Nesby type of soulful house format but fails mainly due to its tacky production.
As a whole, Big, Bad & Beautiful is a strong debut set which show-cases the first rate vocal abilities of this Philly songstress both on ballads and several exceptionally strong mid- to uptempo tunes. (Rating: 8) -IT


The review from Soul Express issue 2/99.

Other albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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