Dee Dee Bridgewater – Memphis…Yes, I’m Ready

Dee Dee Bridgewater "Memphis"Another homecoming record of sorts here from Dee Dee Bridgewater who recorded an album of songs associated with her hometown Memphis, Tennessee. Barbara Mason‘s “Yes , I’m Ready” starts off this mixed bag and it is clearly the most fulfilling and satisfying tune on the album. After the opening, things get worse. Her voice sounds strange and like plastic on “Going Down Slow” and the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong classic “I Can’t Get Next To You” is much too rocky for my taste.

I like the Staples cover of “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)” with its effective background vocals (Kevin Whalum, Sharisse Norman, Candise Rayborn-Marshall, and the Stax Music Academy?) and boiling organ courtesy of Charles Hodges. Still, I can’t help but think that the 1967 original by the Staples Singers sounds hipper and groovier than this new version. Same applies for the Isaac Hayes tune “B.A.B.Y.”, recorded by Carla Thomas in 1966, one of the defining Stax songs. “The Thrill Is Gone” is a mediocre light stomper – where is the oomph? Where is the immediacy of the version that Roberta Flack recorded so successfully for her 1995 album “Roberta”? Here, the organ solo is much too much. The tune just burbles along and goes nowhere.

Another Isaac Hayes/David Porter song, “The Sweeter He Is”, recorded by The Soul Children in 1969, works well with its Southern twang. The crew here brings nothing new to the Ann Peebles hit “I Can’t Stand The Rain”. I also have the feeling that some of the material simply doesn’t suit her, like the Otis Blackwell/Elvis Presley cut “Don’t Be Cruel”. The soul in her voice is gone on this track – it’s all about shouting and hollering. Dee Dee also uses her rockier, raunchier voice on “Hound Dog”. I don’t like this style at all. I much prefer her smoother, more soulful, and jazzier approach of albums past – and who wants to listen to “Hound Dog” in 2017? What’s the use?

Things get slightly better at first on the ballad “Try A Little Tenderness”, the ingenious Otis Redding tune from 1966 which somehow sounds dated here – trying to stay as close to the original sound and atmosphere doesn’t always work. Yes, the brass section is cool and sexy and everything, but it just takes me nowhere I’m afraid. Does she want to bring this programme to Las Vegas? With Thomas Dorsey‘s Gospel classic “(Take My Hand) Precious Lord” (more shouting and hollering), the most disappointing set of her career comes to a close. And I’m now putting on her Thom Bell-produced LP from 1980.

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