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Leela James

Let's Do It Again

(Shanachie; US: 24 Mar 2009; UK: 24 Mar 2009)

This one’s almost a no-brainer. Find a young woman with a great Soul voice and an established fan base and have her cover great R&B songs from the past. The results, as one might expect, are terrific. Leela James understands how to build a fire underneath the slow songs and express joy and happiness on the more upbeat numbers. Some of the esoteric choices work better than others. James does a smokin’ version of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” as the gender switch reveals passionate depths. This same technique doesn’t work as well as her rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”. The latter song doesn’t seem to carry the weight of her emotions. In fact, the deeper the yearnings, the better James sings the song. She turns Al Green’s song of love “Simply Beautiful” into a textured sigh. She remakes Angela Bofill’s jazzy “I Try” into a hot and steamy affair. This album is guaranteed to work better than a log in the fireplace to create a romantic atmosphere.


Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.

Leela James - It's a Man's Man's Man's World
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She makes Etta’s earthier version sound a bit silly by comparison. Making love with Leela sounds more fun than heavy -- which is a good thing.
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Leela James is a strong singer who has to fight against her arrangements.
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Leela James' small frame packs a punch as big as her hair, and her potential is palpable. Despite aiming at the old stars, though, she remains frustratingly stuck in today's well-worn orbits.
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