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September 2007

Deborah Cox
Destination Moon
Decca Records

When word first surfaced that Deborah Cox, the Toronto-born, R&B popster with the strong Whitney Houston vibe and a flair for chart-topping dance mixes, was planning an album-length tribute to Dinah Washington, I’ll confess I dismissed the notion as yet another misguided, cross-generational urge to cash in on an icon’s legacy. Where Washington was equal parts sass, scorch and sly sexual energy, Cox’s recipe for success comprises creamy, caramel-smooth vocals and a seductiveness more coy than cunning. Now, having listened to Cox’s 12-track sojourn into various aspects of the prolific Washington’s massive songbook, I’m here to say that I’m ready, willing and eager to re-judge Cox by these covers. Wisely, Cox makes no attempt to imitate Washington’s inimitably distinct style. Instead, she takes such Washington signature tunes as “What a Difference a Day Made,” “This Bitter Earth,” “Squeeze Me,” “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” and the title track and, eschewing all the flourishes, curlicues and studio wizardry that have defined her decade of pop work, serves up nakedly gorgeous interpretations that are, in their own, uniquely sleek way, both aptly and lovingly honorific. There’s genuine grit in her “New Blowtop Blues,” her “Blue Skies” is appropriately expansive and joyful (with a sagely subtle hint of gospel underpinnings), her “September in the Rain” captures precisely the right degree of cozy, autumnal satisfaction, and flying solo on “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes” (where Washington got plenty of help from lighthearted recording mate Brook Benton) she easily manages to make the tune’s jaunty playfulness freshly groovy.

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Joanne Savio

Deborah Cox

Originally published in September 2007
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