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Soul Express Album of the Month - August 2004

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Lazy Afternoon

US Peak Records 2004
1) Lazy Afternoon 2) Fly Me to the Moon 3) What Are You Afraid Of 4) If I Ruled the World 5) Corcovado 6) There's a Love 7) Why Do People Fall in Love 8) For the Love of You 9) If I Should Love You 10) Moanin' 11) The Man I Love 12) Try a Little Tenderness

Regina Belle's new CD is among the best in the talented songstress' recording career. Regina emerged in the late 80s in the wake of Anita Baker as one of the new school of brilliant female soul vocalists and has continued to release albums regularly ever since. Her last couple of CDs, however, have been somewhat uninspired particularly with regard to their arrangements. On this jazz-flavoured set she has fortunately opted for a more acoustic approach. Producer George Duke has assembled an all-star cast of musicians including Everette Harp, Ray Fuller, Christian McBride, Oscar Brashear, Lenny Castro, Dean Parks and the Perry Sisters (Lori, Sharon & Darlene).

On her 1995 album Reachin' Back Regina already interpreted soul classics, and here again she delves into the songbook of yesteryear. This time around, she has decided to cover old Broadway / jazz standards with a couple of soul favourites thrown in. However, you should not be alarmed by the word Broadway, or the fact that she has chosen tunes from Tony Bennett's (a favourite of Regina's) repertoire, since under George Duke's production she definitely makes the tunes into something every soul fan should pay heed to.

A case in point is the opening title track. The Broadway tune is transformed into a lingering, fascinating soul ballad, on which Regina's voice sounds more magnificent than ever. The same can be said of the jazzy soul ballad exercise Fly Me to the Moon and the swinging What Are You Afraid Of, which have quality written all over them.

The Man I Love is the jazziest ballad reading of the set, an impeccable vocal performance caressed by George Duke's piano and Oscar Brashear's trumpet. Moanin', the Bobby Timmons penned hard bop classic which is best-known as the signature tune of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, demonstrates Regina at her bluesiest.

A dash of Brazilian flavour is offered on Antonio Carlos Jobim's Corcovado, crowned by Everette Harp's tasty sax solo, while There's a Love, the sole original composition, is an excellent bassy midpacer with Regina and the Perrys sounding particularly terrific together.

For the Love of You is an impromptu a cappella (save for some Fender Rhodes courtesy of George Duke) finger-snapper, opening with a remembrance of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' The Love I Lost, and then settling into a relaxed interpretation of the Isley Brothers song. Try a Little Tenderness is a decent enought reading, but stylistically the tune seemed a little out of place on this particular set.

Since the beginning of her career, Regina has had an affinity to cover ballads somewhat more MOR-oriented than I personally care for, and there are couple of those on offer here, as well. However, there's no denying the soulfulness of the interpretations: for reference, take a listen to her vocals on If I Ruled the World.

Experimental? No. Conservative? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely. (8)
-Petteri Ruotsalainen

Albums of the Month in 2003
Albums of the Month in 2002
Albums of the Month in 2001
Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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