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.
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