Paulette McWilliams – These Are The Sweet Things

There was a time period from the late 70s to the late 80 when looking at album credits was at least as important as the music of the main artist. Background vocalists were especially important to me when picking up records from formerly unknown artists. Paulette McWilliams was singing lead and background vocals on albums like Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and the Quincy Jones classic “Mellow Madness”. She was also featured on every Luther Vandross record starting with his 1982 album “Forever, For Always, For Love”. She was part of the most amazing backing vocalist groups with every record Luther put his hands on. I saw her live in the late 80s when Luther came to Frankfurt. Paulette can be heard on albums by Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Woods, Candi Staton, Johnny Guitar Watson, Carl Anderson, the Brecker Brothers, the Jacksons, Johnny Mathis, Tom Scott, Harvey Mason, Mandrill, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, James Ingram, Thelma Houston, Patti Austin, Cheryl Lynn, Stephanie Mills, Jonathan Butler, Whitney Houston, Jody Watley, Patti Labelle, Lisa Fischer, the list is endless.

Paulette McWilliams "These Are The Sweet Things"

I saw her in New York several years ago during one of the APAP music conferences where she performed at Steinway Hall with legendary saxophonist Houston Person. The place is now home to the ultra-luxury skyscraper 111 W 57th Street. Anyway, her voice resonated then and still does so today with her latest solo release “These Are The Sweet Things”. Co-written and produced by her former husband, drummer, producer and songwriter Ivan Hampden Jr. who was also a member of Luther’s band, the album just came out on the UK-based indie soul label Expansion Records which always comes up with fine, quality records.

Paulette’s sultry, low vocal is the perfect vehicle for the 13-track, digital-only release. Her voice really shines and directly gets to you on tracks like “Tell Me You Love Me”, “Take A Drink Of Me”, or the subtle and mellow title track. The late 80s-inspired slower tune “Share”, with sweet backing vocals, probably best demonstrates the power and elegance and artistry of Paulette. She is still able to soar and fly high. “New Tunes Old Grooves” harks back to those glorious days when soul music was just that. With backing vocals by Pam and Philip Groves and keyboards by Nat Adderley, Jr., who was also one of the main contributors to the best Luther records, the track hints at Earth, Wind & Fire and DeBarge and is pure sweetness.

Paulette moves into a jazzier side on “Baby Think Again” and once again shows her amazing vocal chops on the melancholy, bittersweet “Love Is Why”. “Sometimes Your Eyes” is a solid midtempo groover, “Teddy’s Got A Plan” a funky bass-heavy affair (bass courtesy of Fred Cash), and “Stop & Listen” comes over with a sexy groove with Paulette delivering another pretty sultry performance. She turns “I Feel Ya” into a party jam which closes out the album on a positive, feel-good note.


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