Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Miki Howard - Private Collection 2008

I know things can't be that bad when the likes of Miki Howard keep delivering strong, strong albums. OK, her last set was a set of standards, but covered in her own unique way and as such was still a real must-have. This new album for 2008 is one for all who love the Lady's classy take on old jazz standards, and those like me who appreciate her 80s Atlantic output. The first 5 songs on here are brand new tracks, and ably produced by the BRILLIANT yet criminally underused Chuckii Booker. Chuckii, a thoroughly and genuinely lovely person, really needs to get out there and do a lot more as his ability and talent is one that outshines many in the field and I for one want and need more from him. The fact that this great man's production and arranging skills have been paired with Miki's sexy and sassy style of singing is a match made in heaven. Take his work with C.J. Anthony (“Luv's Invitation” 1988), Kool & The Gang (“Rain Drops” 1989), and his recent work with Lionel Richie as well as his 1989 and 1992 sets for Atlantic – who can argue with this?! I am certainly not! The first song, “Crazee” may have you scratching your head. Well, let's put you at ease from the outset. This is NOT a standard but a new classic. This is Miki and Chuckii at their sublime best! The jazziness, the use of real instruments and the arrangements had me thinking “hey, who did this before?” but in fact, no-one has. Its 100% original and 100% essential.

Miki's ability to tune into the spirit of the likes of Billie Holliday is already known and appreciated, and Miki does so with aplomb on here, supported by the super-talented Chuckii Booker. This is easily my track of the moment. Deliciously put together and one for both soul and jazz fans. Pure class, and all within the first 5 minutes of the CD! Again, “Favorite Time Of Year” may sound familiar but it is definitely new. The piano line and how it scales is straight from the melodic style of Leon Ware. This is sheer class, and hats off to all involved in it. Now, the next song may have an odd title - “Beer For Breakfast” - but again I hear a Leon Ware influence, intricate though it may be, in the mix and the tongue-in-cheek lyrics talking about breaking all the rules is one I definitely connect with! Just don't pour them on your cornflakes, dear. Not nice at all. For lovers of her more soulful delivery please check the monster jams “She” and “You Made Me Love You”. The first is a solid head-bobbing jam complete with Chuckii on keys and backing vocal chores! This is exactly the sort of stuff I want to hear! The latter is more like what we would expect from her 80s collaborations on 1987's “Love Confessions” with Gerald Levert, Marc Gordon or Lemel Humes. I can do nothing but recommend this album – check out the standards also. Pure class, and so...Miki Howard!

Barry Towler

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