Gladys Knight & The Pips
Reviewed on this page:
Everybody Needs Love - Feelin' Bluesy - Silk 'N' Soul - Nitty
Gritty - All In A Knight's Work - If I Were Your Woman - All I Need Is Time - Imagination - Claudine -
Live - I Feel A Song - 2nd Anniversary - Pipe Dreams - Still Together - The One And Only -
Miss Gladys Knight - Gladys Knight - About Love -
That Special Time Of Year - Touch -
Life - Touch - All Our Love - Good Woman - Just For You - Before Me
Gladys Knight, her brother Merald, sister Brenda, plus two other
relatives, William and Elenor Guest, formed the Pips in 1952 when Gladys
was just 8 years old. Brenda and Elenor left soon after, and by 1961
when they scored their first big hit, "Every Beat Of My Heart," the
group had settled on the four members that stayed together for the
next twenty-five years. They struggled throughout the early 60s
(changing their name to "Gladys Knight & The Pips" in the
process) before coming to Motown, where they promptly scored several
hits. By the early 70s, though, they had tired of the Gordy regime and
headed off to Buddah, where they had phenomenal initial success. For the
past thirty years it's been up and down, with frequent breaks from
recording and occasional solo outings, mostly without much commercial
success. I'm not too sure what the other Pips ever contributed, and
Gladys is in the Aretha Franklin mold (R&B
belter/sensitive interpreter) but not nearly as good, so the group
really needs strong songwriting to succeed. And of course strong
songwriting is the hardest thing to come by in this industry.
Letter Full Of Tears (1962)
Released on Bobby Robinson's Fury records, the first Gladys Knight and the Pips LP contains their first national hit (#1 R&B), "Every Beat Of My Heart" and the title track, also a significant hit. I have half of these tracks on a cut-rate vinyl issue called Every Beat Of My Heart together with other single sides like "Come See About Me" (not the Holland/Dozier/Holland number) and "Really Didn't Mean It." It's not easy to hear anything indicative of the group's future success in these ordinary, two-minute rock and roll ballads, mainly because Knight's young voice is lacking the power and authority it would come to possess.
Following that LP, the Pips recorded for Robinson for a couple of years without making much noise before finding their way to Motown.
Everybody Needs Love (1967)
The Pips' first Motown hit (title track) and their biggest, a frenzied
version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," are here. Both were
written by Norman Whitfield, who produced most
of this album; he also came up with the funky "Ain't No Sun Since You've
Been Gone" (with Sylvia Moy and Cornelius Grant) and the ballad "Since
I've Lost You." Other contributors include Smokey
Robinson (the contrived "My Bed Of Thorns") and Ashford & Simpson (the routine love song
"I'll Be Standing By"). Then there's a cover of Barbara Mason's 1965 hit
"Yes, I'm Ready" (revived in 1980 by Teri DeSario and K.C.). Knight had
a rougher voice than any other female Motown singer of the period, but
that's not saying much - she doesn't make the material her own. And
since Whitfield was not yet pushing any boundaries as a producer, the
disc is just standard Motown product: an energetic, wonderfully
performed mix of R&B and pop, but nothing you won't find on dozens of
other albums from the label during this era. (DBW)
Feelin' Bluesy (1968)
Again, mostly produced by Whitfield, including the hit "The End of Our
Road" (like "Grapevine," this was later recorded by Marvin Gaye) and "It Should
Have Been Me." But the tracks are less arresting and original, both the
ballads ("Don't You Miss Me A Little Bit Baby") and the uptempo soul
("The Boy From Crosstown"). Once again, Robinson's contributions sound
like he's cleaning out his drawer ("Your Old Standby," "Ain't You Glad
You Chose Love"), and by the time Gladys sings the closing "It's Time To
Go Now," you'll be in full agreement. My LP only contains 9
tracks, so I haven't heard the remake of "That's The Way Love Is,"
"Don't Turn Me Away" or "I Know Better," but unless they really kick
butt, this is one subpar effort. (DBW)
Silk 'N' Soul (1968)
Usually on a late 60s Motown release, you put up with the pedestrian covers for the sake of the unforgettable singles. This time,
there are no singles: everything is a cover, either from Motown
(the Tempts' "I Wish It Would Rain,"
the Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving,"
Smokey's "The Tracks Of My Tears,"
Brenda Holloway's "Every Little Bit Hurts")
or from outside
(Bacharach & David's "The Look of Love,"
the Beatles' "Yesterday,"
the Young Rascals' "Groovin',"
Dionne Warwick's "Theme From Valley Of The Dolls,"
Little Anthony's "Goin' Out Of My Head,"
the appallingly overrecorded "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'").
I have almost nothing to say about the record because you already know all the tunes, the varied material is all given the same Funk
Brothers plus strings arrangement, and Knight
sounds just like usual. You'd have to be addicted to Knight's voice to want to pick this up.
Norman Whitfield is credited as producer, though I assume a number of people were responsible.
Nitty Gritty (1969)
A lot of Motown's 60s releases were unoriginal - studded with remakes
and copycat tunes - but nonetheless enjoyable. This is an extreme
example: there are several Whitfield-Strong compositions also recorded
by the Temptations ("Cloud Nine," "It's
Summer," and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" - cut at a frantic "Grapevine"
tempo, it's the only song of the three to be significantly rearranged).
Two Ashford & Simpson songs, "Didn't
You Know (You'd Have To Cry Sometime)" and "Keep An Eye," also turned up
on other Motown releases. The title track, a successful single, merely
throws together a James Brown syncopated
groove, Family Stone horns and gaga guitar
distortion, with minimal melody or lyrics. There's even a track repeated
from an earlier Pips record, "Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone." The
up side is, there are no failed experiments or drippy love songs -
every track succeeds - and Knight's voice adds urgency throughout. Also,
the Ashford & Simpson numbers are marvelous, and two songs I didn't know
before (Harvey Fuqua's "All I Could Do" and Ivy Hunter's "The Stranger")
are fine mid-60s soul. A blast if you aren't looking for any
The group had another charting single in 1969, "Friendship Train,"
and one more in early 1970, "You Need Love Like
I Do (Don't You)" (also recorded by the Temptations) - these only appeared on a 1970
greatest hits album (thanks Reese!).
All In A Knight's Work (1970)
A live release, in most respects close to Motown norms with rushed hits ("End Of Our Road"; "Ain't No Sun") and unexceptional covers (a flailing "Fever"; "Cabaret"; "Dr. Feelgood").
Atypically, though, the group performs their pre-Motown hits "Every Beat Of My Heart" and "Letter Full Of Tears" and closes with the gospel "He'll Guide My Way."
The Pips are also featured Knight-less on "Girl Talk," sounding like your garden variety doo-wop act. So there are no electrifying performances captured here (though "Grapevine" is a lively workout), but it's above average for the label's live output.
If I Were Your Woman (1971)
By now, covering outside rock and pop tunes was practically mandatory
at Motown, and this album has several: Dave
Mason's "Feeling Alright," the
Beatles' "Let It Be," Sly Stone's "Everybody
Is A Star," and Bacharach/David's "One
Less Bell To Answer" (originally recorded by the Fifth Dimension). So many,
in fact, that the album loses all coherence, despite several plaintive
love songs ("I Don't Want To Do Wrong," which the band wrote;
"Signed, Gladys," which they didn't; and the hit title track). Half the
record was produced by Clay MacMurray, the rest is split between Joe
Hinton and Johnny Bristol, and all the arrangements are standard low-key
R&B with none of the silly experimentation that marred a lot of Motown
releases from this period, but nothing innovative or distinctive either.
Standing Ovation (1971)
Again, a bunch of covers - James Taylor's
"Fire And Rain," Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge
Over Troubled Water," the Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road," the
Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" - with some originals ("Make
Me The Woman That You Go Home To," "It Takes A Whole Lotta Man For A
Woman Like Me"). (DBW)
Neither One Of Us (1973)
"Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" was a huge
hit; the other single was "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare," written
by Gladys and Merald. Most of the titles are unfamiliar to me,
except "For Once In My Life."
All I Need Is Time (1973)
A terrific album that slipped through the cracks when the group left
Motown (I think this was their last release before leaving the label). A large team
of producers managed to come up with a coherent sound: soul that's
sophisticated but down-to-earth, pensive yet vibrant. The gorgeous title
track and the testifying "Oh! What A Love I Have Found," written by Bud
Reneau and produced by Joe Porter, are two of the best examples. Clay
MacMurray produced three tracks, including the beautiful ballad "The
Only Time You Love Me Is When You're Losing Me" and the highly
orchestrated (by Tom Baird) "Here I Am Again." The opening "I'll Be Here
(When You Get Home)," produced and co-written by Johnny Bristol. Elliot
Willensky's "The Singer" (produced by Hal Davis) is the only track that
sounds false to my ear; even the Sly Stone tune ("Thank You falletinme
be mice elf agin") sounds genuine, easily the best of the many Sly
covers Motown cut during this period. This isn't an easy record to find
but it's worth some searching out. (DBW)
Knight Time (rec. 1973, rel. 1974)
I think this is a collection of outtakes left behind when the Pips left
Motown. Titles include "How Can You Say That Ain't Love" and "Somebody
Stole The Sunshine." (DBW)
A Little Knight Music (rec. 1973, rel. 1975)
The second album of Motown leftovers, including covers of "Come
Together" and (ack) "Sugar Sugar." (DBW)
The group's debut on Buddah, and they responded to the challenge with
three Top Five singles: the soulful ballads "Midnight Train to Georgia"
- their only #1 - and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (both by Jim
Weatherly, who wrote five of the album's nine tracks), plus the stomping
"I've Got To Use My Imagination" by Gerry
Goffin and Barry Goldberg. "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" was also a
single, with gentle wah-wah creating a pensive mood. The Pips get to
shine too, with Gladys turning over the lead vocal on the cover of "I
Can See Clearly Now" (with more reggae flavor than Johnny Nash's
original) and the closing "Window Raisin' Granny," which the band wrote.
Production was split between Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, and Tony
Camillo, but it's all more or less in the same style: Motown smooth
meets Southern grit. Aside from all the singles, "One In A Lifetime
Thing" is also memorable; you could probably live without "Storms Of
Troubled Times" and Paul Williams's "Perfect Love." The key Pips disc to
have; also their first gold album, though that doesn't mean much because
Motown didn't participate in the RIAA certification system. (DBW)
A soundtrack produced by Curtis
Mayfield. The rollicking hit "On and On" is the only track that
shows Mayfield's funky side, and there are none of his affecting doo-wop ballads; nearly everything is
string-drenched, soggy mush ("Claudine's Theme") even when the lyrics are
worthy ("Mr. Welfare Man" - Mayfield's own version is far superior). As with Mayfield's later work with Aretha Franklin, the lead vocals (let
alone the Pips' backups) are given far less prominence than the string
arrangements. Trouble is, those arrangements are depressingly routine,
lacking interest, variety and emotional impact. Mayfield's solo work during this period
was so good you have to wonder why his outside productions were so dull.
Live (rec. 1974, rel. 1996)
Recorded in Detroit, with (so say the liner notes) a number of
moonlighting Motown musicians on hand. The performance of "The Way We
Were" was included on I Feel A Song, but the rest of the show
didn't follow for another twenty years. Which is a shame, because it's
fast-paced and exciting, with just enough slow numbers thrown in for
balance, hitting all the high points of the group's career up to that
point. Gladys sounds great, interacting well with the audience, the Pips
stay in the background, and the band is sharp and well-recorded. It's so
packed with hits ("I've Got To Use My Imagination," "Neither One Of Us,"
"Grapevine") it has no surprises for collectors, but by the same token,
it's a great introduction to the group's sound and style. (DBW)
I Feel A Song (1974)
Much more ballad-heavy than their Buddah debut, with "I Feel A Song (In
My Heart)" (a Top Forty single, co-written and produced by Tony
Camillo); Jim Weatherly's anonymous "Love Finds His Own Way" (also a
single) and slick but pretty "The Need To Be," and Bill Withers'
almost spiritual "Tenderness Is His Way." Plus, a live cover of Barbra
Streisand's "The Way We Were (by Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn
Bergman) that was so popular with radio programmers it was eventually
released as a single. The production is so lush it can be syrupy, though
Knight's rough voice keep things from getting too saccharine.
The one song solely produced by the group, Ron Miller's "Don't Burn Down The Bridge,"
has perhaps the most interesting arrangement: solid R&B rhythm,
rapid slippery bass line, and a gear shift to a middle propelled by
percussive strings, followed by disarming dynamics changes before the
fade - it's fun. Weirdest collaboration is Burt
Bacharach working with playwright Neil Simon on "Seconds," an
off-kilter tune with a surprisingly ordinary pop arrangement. Another
gold record, but get Imagination first. (DBW)
2nd Anniversary (1975)
The last Buddah album to chart, largely written and produced
by Eugene McDaniel, including a funked-up version of his Roberta Flack hit "Feel Like Makin'
Love" and the fun, gritty O'Jays ripoff "Money."
Jim Weatherly also got another shot, and delivered the pleasant ballad "Where Do I Put His Memory."
On the down side, the orchestrated live version of "Georgia On My Mind" only makes you marvel that Ray Charles
could sell such a meandering tune - Knight can't work the same magic, and doesn't even try. The single was a sleepy ballad, "Part Time Love" (written by David Gates
of Bread - not the Elton John tune or the Stevie Wonder tune or even the Little Johnny
Taylor tune). Not as varied or hardhitting as the previous Buddah releases - McDaniels lets many tracks run on too long
("Summer Sun") - but there's a lot to like ("Street Brother," recalling Mayfield at his best). (DBW)
Pipe Dreams (1976)
A mixed bag; soundtrack from the movie starring Gladys Knight, mostly
produced by Dominic Frontiere and Bubba Knight.
Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin's "So Sad The Song" is a slick,
toothless orchestrated ballad - adding insult to injury, it's presented
in vocal and instrumental versions. "I'll Miss You" is similarly
overdone. Fortunately, Ivory Joe
Hunter's "Alaskan Pipeline" is a rollicking, wah-wah'd funk jam,
"Find A Way" is a feel-good anthem that's not quite too corny, "Pot Of
Jazz" is a fun if slight piece recalling Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
James Cleveland's "I Will Follow My Dream" is a dignified album closer
(or would have been, if not for the instrumental "So Sad The Song").
Still Together (1977)
I still haven't figured out why disco producer/songwriter Van McCoy got so much work: his
lowest-common-denominator blend of robotic rhythm section, overblown strings and minimal melodies hardly seems impressive.
I guess everyone was hoping he'd come up with another "The Hustle." Anyway, his contributions here are even more lightweight and
forgettable than usual ("Baby Don't Change Your Mind," "Home Is Where The Heart Is"). The one Jerry Peters production (the disco tune
"Love Is Always On Your Mind") is a bit better, with some funky arranging details, but at ten minutes it's still excruciating.
Tony Camillo returned to produce two tracks, "I Love To Feel That Feeling" and "You Put A New Life In My Body" - the album's
highlight, such as it is.
The One And Only... (1978)
I don't know the details, but some legal trouble prevented the group
from recording together from 1977-1980. I'm guessing this was a
collection of outtakes released by Buddah during the dispute, and if it
is, it's surprisingly solid and adventurous. The instrumental
combinations flout convention: an astonishingly loud guitar competes
with bell-like keyboards on the title track, and the Michael Masser ballad "Sorry Doesn't Always
Make It Right" features soaring steel guitar. The one straight-ahead
disco song, "It's A Better Than Good Time," is precisely arranged with
swirling strings, and Knight sounds terrific on the gospel-disco hybrid
(I know, but trust me) "Saved By The Grace Of Your Love." None of this
would matter much if the tunes weren't memorable, but most of them are
("Butterfly"); the disc would rate higher if it weren't for a string of
second-rate ballads ("Don't Say No To Me Tonight," "Be Yourself").
Unfortunately, my cassette doesn't give any producer, composer or
musician information, so I don't know who deserves the credit.
Miss Gladys Knight (Knight: 1978)
Knight's last Buddah release and first solo album is kind of a mess. There's some tuneful pop movingly performed
("Love Gives You The Power"), including a gorgeous, gospel-inflected medley you won't want to miss ("Sail Away/Freedom For The Stallions," arranged by Nick DeCaro). Unfortunately, that's more than made up for by sluggish, sodden ballads, in the same
Streisand territory as "The Way We Were" but without the memorable melodies: "We Don't Make Each Other Laugh Anymore,"
"The Way It Was" (by two of the Bee Gees). There's even a repeat from the last Pips album, "It's A Better Than Good Time." The arrangements - some by Dean Parks - are
standard pop rhythm section plus strings, without much acknowledgement of disco, funk or even R&B. Largely produced by Gary Klein, though Tony Macaulay produced the three songs he wrote ("I'm Still Caught Up With You"); the musicians include big names like David Foster, David Hungate, Victor Feldman and Jim Horn.
Worth picking up if you see it real cheap.
At Last (The Pips: 1979)
For anyone who wanted to hear the Pips without all those distracting Gladys Knight foreground vocals. On Casablanca.
Gladys Knight (Knight: 1979)
Knight's Columbia debut is a faceless assortment of disco, pop and ballads, produced by Jack Gold and
Knight. The disco tunes ("You Bring Out The Best In Me," "You Don't Have To Say I Love You" - are the most embarrassing
attempts to be commercial, as the arrangements are clichéd and perfunctory, and the tunes instantly forgettable.
It's not uniformly bad - "My World" is a tuneful ballad, engagingly performed, the standard "I (Who Have
Nothing)" has interesting harsh strings - just hollow. The same, unfortunately, goes for Knight's vocals: mostly she
doesn't belt, straining for meaning instead, but that only works when the words are actually meaningful.
Arranged and conducted by Gene Page; musicians aren't listed, but it hardly matters. (DBW)
Callin' (The Pips: 1979)
Casablanca continued their valiant, doomed effort to market the Pips without Gladys.
About Love (1980)
I think this was Knight and the Pips' first album back together after the legal problems.
Written and produced by Ashford &
Simpson, but they had no ideas this time around, just cranking out
disco-y grooves, nearly all in the same tempo, with no
memorable melodies and predictable horn and string flourishes
("Landlord," "Add It Up," you name it). The closing ballad, usually an
A&S high point, is just as rote and forgettable as the rest ("We Need
Hearts"). Strapped for material, the duo revived a tune they'd recorded
themselves in 1977 as an instrumental, and wrote new words ("Bourgie
Bourgie") - the sad part is, it's easily the best cut on the album,
generating the only real excitement. Ashford's lyrics are passable
but he doesn't achieve the moving quality he's capable of except on one
track, the meditative, battered-but-hopeful "Still Such A Thing."
Knight's voice sounds fine, but she never paints outside the lines: with
the tunes so flavorless, a bit of diva-ness would have been a big help.
That Special Time Of Year (1980)
A disco/lite soul Christmas album produced by Jack Gold, with AM legend Johnny Mathis on "The Lord's Prayer" and "When A Child Is Born."
Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" gets an updated Motown treatment, with prominent congas and soothing strings.
Since the tunes are so familiar and the arrangements so predictable, there's nothing much to focus on besides Knight's singing, and
fortunately she outdoes herself, ranging from gentle shadings on "What Are You Doing Christmas Eve" to soulful belting on a surprisingly
enjoyable disco take on "Jingle Bells," with the Pips providing unusually rich harmonies.
The one true cringe-inducer is "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," a duet with Knight's infant son Shanga.
Considering how slight this set is, it's a lot of fun.
Arranged by Larry Farrow, Joe Guercio, Gene Page and McKinley Jackson.
Again written and produced by Ashford & Simpson, and it's much more
varied and tuneful in their standard late 70s style: artful, impeccably
arranged soulful pop, sometimes with a funky edge ("A Friend Of Mine").
The usual high harmonies are sorely missed, though: the Pips' backups
are flawless but lack that joyous A&S feeling. Points of interest
include a gospel number ("God Is"), a lovely strings-and-piano ballad
("Changed"); there are only a few also-rans like the
repetitive "Baby, Baby Don't Waste My Time." The record closes with a
long, Knight-produced ballad treatment of the Gloria Gaynor hit "I Will
Survive" - one in a series of cover tunes where Knight underperforms the
original artist. Smooth, pleasant pop/R&B, though you're still better
off with a real Ashford & Simpson record. (DBW)
The single was "Save The Overtime (For Me)," one of several songs co-written by Gladys, Bubba and Sam Dees. They produced several tunes ("Heaven Sent"), but the hit was helmed by Rickey Smith, who also worked on "Ain't No Greater Love" with Richard Rudolph.
"When You're Far Away" is an early Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis tune, though Edmund Sylvers got the production credit.
This didn't sell worth a crap, but it's not bad at all: an attempt to catch up with then-current R&B/dance trends, and
a lot more successful in that department than the better-selling followup. The group sounds comfortable on a few
boisterous technofunk numbers ("Strivin'," "My Time") that have actual melodies to go with the crunching synths, and
the ballads are wisely left uncluttered ("Till I See You Again," by Marvin Morrow and Bunny
Sigler, is Knight at her best). Partly produced by Leon Sylvers III ("Keep Givin' Me Love"),
partly by Gladys, Bubba, and Dees (title track), and generally speaking the producers
wrote and performed the songs they produced. With all the programmed tracks, the list of musicians is short, but
there are a few notable guests: Jerry Hey, Ernie Watts,
Paul Jackson, and string arrangements by former Impressions
producer Jerry Pate. Also in 1985, Gladys appeared on the AIDS charity
single "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Elton
All Our Love (1987)
Reggie Calloway produced the hit "Love Overboard," first-rate late 80s
soul with a go-go beat, guitar scratching, plenty of open space, and
a desperate but controlled vocal from Knight. Too bad he didn't
produce anything else on the disc: seven other producers don't come up
with anything memorable among them. Howie Rice's single "Lovin' On Next
To Nothin'" ably uses electronic percussion and a bouncy tempo, but
there's nothing else, and his "Thief In Paradise" is glossy, hi-tech
noise. Knight's voice is lower than ever, which doesn't complement the
bass-heavy instrumentation too well; she doesn't take charge of the many
ballads, either ("Let Me Be The One," Bacharach & Carole Bayer Sager's
dreadful "Love Is Fire (Love Is Ice)"). The only song that deviates
from the standard synth-plus-sax instrumentation is Bacharach/Bayer
Sager's "Overnight Success," with a Bacharach string arrangement that's
nearly inaudible. Ron "Have Mercy" Kersey's two contributions are
sluggish; Sam Dees produced perhaps the second best tune, "It's Gonna
Take All Our Love," but it's formulaic, and Nick Martinelli's
productions are remarkably obvious ("Complete Recovery"). George Duke and Freddie Washington play on "Love Overboard";
otherwise, there are no noteworthy musicians except on the Bacharach
material, which features David Foster, Robbie Buchanan and Paulinho Da Costa. (DBW)
Good Woman (Knight: 1991)
Knight's first solo album in over a decade is a disaster, thanks to her embarrassing
attempt to keep up with production trends: nearly every cut has booming
faux hip-hop electronic percussion and loud characterless synth ("Give
Me A Chance," "Men"), and there's a Salt-N-Pepa sample on "Meet Me In The Middle"
that just shows she's trying too hard. Most of the production is by
Attala Zane Giles, who also co-wrote most of the material with Knight.
The album's centerpiece is "Superwoman," written by Babyface, LA Reid and Daryl Simmons with guest
vocals by Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, but the high-tech noise and
LaBelle's belting can't disguise the ordinariness of the tune.
It's rare that an album's best song is a bonus track, but that's the
case here with Mann and Weil's sensitive ballad "In This Life," pretty
much the only cut on the record that's tastefully done. Gerald Albright does play a nice sax
solo on the otherwise obvious title track. (DBW)
Just For You (Knight: 1994)
Knight recovered her footing by focusing on ballads, and bringing in hotshot producers like
Jam & Lewis and Babyface ("I Don't Want To Know"). They tone down the production from the previous release, though it's still largely synth-based; the lyrics are
mostly on romance themes, ranging from illuminating (the ambivalent "I'll Fall In Love If You Hang Around") to cornball ("Home Alone"). But she also tackles race relations on a cover of The Impressions' "Choice Of Colors" and her own "Guilty," both highlights.
The centerpiece, though, is a lengthy live medley: Knight opens with a paean to the love songs of the past, quotes "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (also covered by Patti LaBelle), then praises Boys II Men for bringing romance back to the charts and launches into a moving version of their hit "End Of The Road." There are plenty of forgettable tunes here ("Somehow He Loves Me," also by Knight) but overall it's easily her best work during this period.
Many Different Roads (Knight: 1999)
Recorded after Knight converted to
Mormonism, and it includes two songs written by Utah Senator Orrin
Hatch. I wish I were kidding. (DBW)
In 2004, Knight guested on Brother Ray's Genius Loves Company.
Before Me (Knight: 2006)
A set of Great American Songbook standards: "Good Morning Heartache," "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," "God Bless The Child," etc. Produced half by Tommy LiPuma, half by Phil Ramone, and the arrangements are stylish, sassy big band ("Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me") or hushed nightclub cool ("Someone To Watch Over Me").
The problem is, Knight is so busy paying tribute to past singers like Billie Holiday - in everything from the album title and cover art to the performances - that she doesn't put her own stamp on the show ("Since I Fell For You" is a pleasant exception).
It's rare that a performing artist can be accused of excessive modesty, but I wish someone had told Knight that her fans want to hear her singing like herself. That's pretty much the whole point of buying a Gladys Knight record, right? It sure isn't because we needed another recording of "Stormy Weather" or "The Man I Love."
This is the end of our road.