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Soul Express Album of the Month - September 2006

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Pillow Talk - Miki Howard Sings the Classics

US Shanachie CD, 2006
1) I Can't Stand the Rain - 3:47 2) Do That to Me One More Time - 4:16 3) Go Away Little Boy - 3:26 4) Pillow Talk - 4:06 5) This Masquerade - 5:40 6) Inseparable - 4:13 7) Lowdown - 4:36 8) Misty Blue - 3:37 9) Just Don't Want to Be Lonely - 3:50 10) Which Way Is Up - 4:27

I know we are all getting tired of this "singing the classics" formula, but the artists themselves still love the idea of recording an album-ful of their personal all-time favourites, and that's all that the US big labels seem to publish these days from established soul singers. So here we go, the fourth Shanachie release of all-cover CD this year - the previous ones by Phil Perry, Maysa and Glenn Jones were also all reviewed in my latest Upfront Soul column.

Like the other Shanachie cover version CDs, Miki's album contains both programmed and real instrumentation. As a singer, Miki has developed enormously since the early days of her solo career, and today I rate her as one of the most breathtaking female soul singers. Just take a listen to Miki’s reading of the old Natalie Cole smash Inseparable, and you know what I mean: from the very few seconds when Miki starts wailing the tune you get that spine-tingling feel that only the first-rate soul singers can create.

  Furthermore, I love Miki’s instantly captivating version of Boz Scaggs 1976 smash Lowdown, which was also covered by Jazzhole (with Marlon Saunders) recently. Miki’s version of the Leon Russell song This Masquerade was not inspired by George Benson’s version but Shirley Bassey’s reading of the song, and it has been arranged in a traditional jazz setting with Kim Waters on saxophone. A splendid version! Dorothy Moore’s classic Misty Blue and Marlena Shaw’s bravura Go Away Little Boy also get mellow sax-drenched backdrops which surely sound good to me. Instead, for some reason Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain has been set in a funky, guitar-driven setting with some rocky and bluesy overtones.

  Benny Latimore has proved that Captain & Tennille’s Do That to Me One More Time can be turned into a passionate soul ballad, and while Miki’s reading has a more pop-oriented feel, it is quite listenable. The CD as a whole has received surprisingly sour criticism, so I reckon that the younger generation would have preferred more funky and programmed tracks like the closing tune Which Way Is Up, originally a dance funk hit for Stargard, but for me it’s the weakest cut on display. Robert “WaWa” LeGrand on guitar is not a new Wah Wah Watson!

Look forward for our complete Miki Howard story to be available on our online pages later this year - meanwhile have a look at the discography of Miki's albums.

-Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

Other Fresh CD Reviews
Albums of the Month in 2006
Albums of the Month in 2005
Albums of the Month in 2004
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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