Vanessa Williams | The Real Thing

While it has been a minute since Actress-model-Vocalist Vanessa Williams stepped into the recording studio to radiate for us once again, its apparent she chooses a particular fragment of music to lean on. That fragmentation leans on the ever clear spirit of jazz music. As I listened to “The Real Thing”, I was challenged to review this CD, my friends, from different angles. One from a Rhythm & Blues side, the other from a jazz vocalist side. Although I believe Vanessa could handle any platform of music if ever given to her, sometimes we want to hear some from our favorite aspects of her career – Rhythm & Blues.

Since Vanessa broke out with “The Right Stuff” in the 80’s, her stance on the music industry became well apparent. The album spawned numerous charting singles & elevated her position on the planet as being a singer & songwriter. A gifted talent alongside her acting career. Many other albums came through down the years & of those, Vanessa touched on various genres – such as jazz, pop, hip-hop, & latin music. She even Christmas caroled with a couple of seasonal projects & remained consistent over the years with releasing quality material.

In “The Real Thing”, Vanessa continues the tradition. This chance, from Concord Records, comes a little more solid on the jazz standards side than the R&B angle I was just talking about. Although many of the songs were done before, many others were new compositions brought to us from Big producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, well known jazz producer Rex Rideout & many others.

In “Breathless”, I’m reminded of a sultry, romantic escapade ready to break the tender luscious harmonies Vanessa is well known to touch & sparkle.; “Hello Like Before” & “Loving You” clips the shoulder pad of the jazz standard format, while “The Real Thing” explores the very area of spicy latin jazz vocals. “Lazy Afternoon” is covered once again, while “Close To You” regains the tranquil environment the CD opened up to – A much mellow, watered down R&B production line with a jazzy approach & latin music appreciation.

Many of Vanessa’s listeners may get a little disappointed about “The Real Thing”. Where many of them hoped to catch a mouth watery taste of her much brighter & successful, “The Right Stuff” recipe, others will possibly accept the transition to much rather mature format of the jazz vocals platform. I would rather slip this new chance, “The Real Thing”, into my player because of the quality of the music, the quality of the production & the quality of Vanessa’s precious voice. Sometimes its not so much the format or genre a singer chooses to partake in that matters, it’s how the message of their music is crossed, conveyed & received. I heard a great deep texture in her voice & she delivered a considerable specialty.

Again, “The Real Thing” is not so much for the younger group, but much more on the older, jazz vocal loving’ crowd. On that mark, I grade this hallmark card a 4- out of 5. As much as I have admired the presence of Vanessa’s beauty on stage, in film & on wax, this is one of her finest materials. It could have been much more better if there was a little bit more of an edge to R&B rather than jazz, but I’m sure it was Ms. Williams decision to put these tracks together & publish them.

George Strand
The Urban Music Scene

PS: By the way, Ms. Williams is still stunning after all of these years…

Album available June 2nd, 2009!

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