From the Soul
Veteran smooth-jazz/R&B vocalist Jeffrey Osborne joins the rush of contemporary artists covering their favorite songs, joining recent efforts by Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun and Eric Marienthal. It's typically a savvy move, especially for artists who may have peaked and are struggling to make fresh music that casual fans will pay attention to--but they may listen to Osborne's glowing vocals wrapped around such classics as "Yes, I'm Ready," "All at Once" and "Hey Girl." Osborne's selections have the advantage of time-tested melodies sounding fresh with clean and crisp production, thanks to smooth-jazz hit-maker Paul Brown.
Two great choices are quintessential 1960s anthems, Curtis Mayfield's gospel-cum-protest song "People Get Ready" and Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth." The latter selection is probably due to Brown's hippie-leaning influences, and it's great to hear a soul singer pouring himself into a song that's not his usual his style. Then again, it's 2005 and there's much to protest, right?
Osborne really nails it with the Roberta Flack-associated "First Time I Ever Saw Your Face," its swaying melody augmented by Latin-lite percussion, and with Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet." Osborne's rich vocals turn the sunny tune even brighter.