To this day, I regard the entirety of the albums of "Songs From The Big Chair" and "The Seeds Of Love" as some of the most perfectly crafted records ever made. It is not often that you find a full album wherein every single song is just as phenominal as the last and they are all close to perfection, and that is what these represent to me.
I remember anxiously awaiting the release of "The Seeds Of Love", which took over a year to record and almost as long to produce. It was then that I first came to be a fan of Oleta Adams. She was performing in a hotel lounge in Kansas City when TFF were on The Big Chair tour, they heard her and asked her to work with them on their follow up album. It was the break she needed to launch her career as a major label solo artist, thankfully. The day the album was released, I bought it and read the liner notes before listening to it, which is where I found a thank you to her - it read "...to Oleta Adams, thank you for authenticating our soul", which totally intrigued me. First listen to "Badman's Song and getting a taste of her range, I was hooked. Completely elated on the joy this music brought, I blasted that album all day long, danced all over the house, and was even inspired to completely clean the house in the process. All these years later, that album still brings the same kind of joy upon successive listenings.
Oleta's voice reminds me in many ways of a mixture between Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Anita Baker, other artists I revere. Not necessarily for any similarities in the tone of her voice, but perhaps in her deep vibrato and her unique pitch, and it's not necessarily the tone of her voice that makes her extraordinary - it's what she DOES with it, in the same vein as Holiday & Simone. (I may be crucified for saying this, but I don't think that either of those two had the best voices, it was their abilities that made them.) Every song you hear is more amazing in the last, it's incredible. Listening to her music is fantastic therapy for me. Also, I love to hear me some black girl's hollerin' when you get down to it. That and being the possessor of an extraordinary and/or unique sound will definitely score cool points with me.
I generally don't like cover songs, particularly when they're songs by artists that I adore and need no improving upon. Oleta covered one of my favorite songs of all time, Billy Joel's "New York State Of Mind", and in doing so made it one of the most soulful, heartfelt renditions I've ever heard in a cover. She pays perfect homage not only to the song, but to Billy Joel and to the frame of mind that the city inspired him to compose it. Actually, it is my very favorite cover of a song, bar none. She also did a fantastic job on Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better", with saxophonist David Sanborn. She's one of those artists that can get away with covering the great songwriters, because she always does them justice. Perhaps her most famous cover is her rendition of Brenda Russell's "Get Here", which is the single that launched her solo career. While not my favorite song by her, it is definitely a great one that she totally made her own.
I judge great music by whether or not it is something I'd listen to on a roadtrip or on the kitchen stereo while I'm cooking. The following songs are on a cd I play when I'm spending time in the kitchen. These are only available for a limited number of downloads and the links will expire in a week, so get them while the gettin's good - and listen LOUDLY!
- Get Here
- I've Got To Sing My Song - this song makes me wish I believed in God so I could go to black folks' church and sing my ass off.
- You've Got To Give Me Room - still breaks my heart every time I hear it, very reminiscent of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face".
- I Just Had To Hear Your Voice - this one will rip you to shreds and make you want to call everyone you know to tell them that you love them.
- Rhythm Of Life
- New York State Of Mind - BEST. COVER. SONG. EVER.
- Nobody Does It Better (featuring David Sanborn)
- Circle Of One
- Window Of Hope
Tears For Fears (featuring Oleta Adams)