Thursday, 19 February 2009

Evelyn Champagne King - Open Book

It has been a long time coming and being a fan of this Lady, it's with great pleasure that a NEW Evelyn champagne king album lands upon us. So what of it? Well, if you're looking for songs as strong as “Cross Your Mind”, “Kisses Don't Lie”, “The Show Is Over” etc. then you may be left wanting but do not allow yourself to be deterred from this album. It is one that you will need to listen to properly as it s rather deceiving. For instance the first track, “Skillz” left me stone cold on first play BUT after repeat plays it had worked it's magic on me, and the saxy moments really go some way to rekindling happier musical times. A track that will need no convincing for you is the strong, strong “Whole Lotta Yum Yum” with its strident rhythm, dreamt keys and laissez-faire vibes. This is a persistent record and will creep up behind you and GRAB you. Let's face it, Evelyn still sounds wonderful and her talents are well served on this type of groove. Superb. The title track, “Open Book”, is an understated song. It reminds me of the sort of wistful yet powerful efforts that we would expect from a new Chaka Khan or Gladys Knight set. A song like this adds gravitas and depth to a set that ensures it has wider appeal than it may hitherto have. Another strong song is the excellent “Standing On The Rock Of Love” which is a cover of Aretha Franklin's song from the excellent BeBe's Kids soundtrack. Though the original had John Barnes hallmark groove stamped all over it, this version owes more to the style of Preston Glass' brilliant “Weight Of The World” and for me is actually a far better version. This is a lot neater, tidier and does the business – for me at least! The beat ballad “Nobody Knows” may not reach the dizzy heights of her 80s work but is far better than most of the younger artists' attempts at balladry. This bass-heavy song is a nice contrast to the more uptempo and spangly “(You Deserve) An Academy Award”. Of the latter song I do approve heartily of the keyboards used, though the song is not the strongest of songs either on this album or of her back catalogue. Better than this is the more worthwhile toe-tapper “Paradise” which also employs some haunting synths. Fans of the Lady will definitely find something to cheer about on here, and with remixes of both “Skillz” and “The Dance” there may be appeal to the young R&B crowd but for me the real winners are “Whole Lotta Yum Yum” and “Standing On The Rock Of Love”.

Barry Towler

Buy CD on Amazon