Having produced two albums for Motown’s now defunct MoJazz imprint, the man who has showcased many a would-star vocalist returns with his first set since 1996’s Easy Living. Now signed to The Right Stuff, Connor’s once again brings us an album with a whole slew of guest artists.
Highlights include the opener “So Hard To Say Goodbye,” where Gerald Albright’s alto sax is complemented by some rather nice background vocals and a keyboard solo from Bobby Lyle; a Peabo Bryson vocalled version of the classic “You Are My Starship,” which also features Marion Meadows; the Phyllis Hyman-esque “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” featuring Angela Bofill; and the Denise Stewart-vocalled “Can’t Say No”.
However, the two tracks which really stand out from the rest are the superb two-step “Not Just Another Love Song” featuring Donald Tavie and (I assume) Gerald Albright, and the majestic cover of The Delfonics “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” which features the exceptional vocals of Lisa Fischer. On the strength of this performance and that of her appearance on the recent 24 Hour Woman soundtrack, she more than deserves to put together an album of her own.
A few words of warning though. In spite of these numerous gems, many may be put off by the remaining eight tracks. Of these there is an acceptable cover of Donny Hathaway’s “We’re Still Friends,” which, whilst featuring the vocals of Donald Tavie and some nice guitar work from Blue Note artist Paul Jackson Jr., is unfortunately fighting a losing battle with the memory of the great man’s gut-wrenching live 1972 recording; a mediocre cover of Toni Braxton’s “You’re Making Me High”; and seven cuts that fall under the heading of the rather bland side of smooth jazz.
As ever, Connors’ arrangements are impeccable. Indeed, they are capable bringing a whole new life to classic songs. However, it must be said that he works best (on this album at least) when he is creating the magical backdrop for a talented vocalist. That is why he is best remembered for his work with the likes of Phyllis Hyman. Overall then, a mixed album which despite having its fair share of standout moments may be a little too smooth for some.
// Notes from the Road
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