Reviewed by James Attlee
There's nothing like a good rags-to-riches story to melt the heart of the most hardened music hack; Oleta Adam's bio is made-to-measure, with the result that many will already know her story. For those who don't, Adams was languishing in a Kansas City piano bar when she was 'discovered' by Roland and Curt of British pop combo Tears For Fears. A place on their 'Seeds Of Love' album gained her critical acclaim and led to this Orzabel/Bascombe produced solo-album. She recently visited the U.K. with her own spot on the Tears For Fears Tour and solo media appearances, and it seems that this Kansas City Cinderella has finally arrived. What we have here is what's known as a 'class act'. Adams has a voice that betrays her background in black gospel, yet has all the sophistication and control of a seasoned soul performer - the dues are all paid up, and it shows. The Tears For Fears boys produce in a way that's state of the art without ever resorting to the dance floor clichés that have so often instantly dated Aratha's product for example. Of the eight tracks, four are self-penned, and on balance provide the highlights of the album which bodes well for the future. They vary from the electronic soul of the title track, to the moving ballad 'You've Got To Give Me Room' and the brass-powered jazz-tinged 'I've Got A Right'. The fourth Adams composition, I've Got To Sing My Song', goes right back to her gospel roots, and is addressed to her father, a Pentecostal minister who didn't want her to sing outside the church. The backing is stripped down to her storefront-style piano, rhythm section, Hammond and backing vocalists giving a fair impression of a black choir. "All of this was my own choice/since the Man Upstairs has given me this voice/ no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard the breaks...I've got to sing my song." Say Amen, somebody. The maturity of her performance, the excellence of the arrangements and production and the way the album draws on much of what is best in many different strands of contemporary music make this a uniquely satisfying product. As I said, a class act. Hats off to Adams, Tears For Fears...and the Man Upstairs.
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