Her rearranged rendition of Simone's "Feelin' Good" offers remnants of the artist we love, but Adams just doesn't sound invested enough to take the oft-covered classic to the heights the tune requires. Adams' nearly unrecognizable instrumental of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" (Adams only plays the keys here) fares slightly better, if only by its melodic deconstruction of the standard. Still after one listen, you can't help but wonder how much better it would have been to hear Adams' sumptuous voice eating up Holiday's adulterer's confrontation. Only the rollicking gospel of "Act of Forgiveness" with its stripped down James Brown chords finds Adams singing with any real conviction. The rest of Let's Stay Here ranges from elevator music to almost interesting.
This isn't the first time Oleta Adams has delivered an album that didn't sing. 1995's Moving On may have been strained at times in Fontana/Mercury's failed effort to make the sweet Seattle church woman a bit edgier for the hip hop generation, but there were some satisfying major ballads, including: " I Knew You When," "You Need To Be Loved" and the anthemic " Life Keeps Moving On." Despite working with the A-list producers of Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, and Whitney Houston, Moving On, failed to capture the public's attention, and by 1997 Adams had successfully reinvented herself as a jazzy gospel singer with Come Walk With Me. It would be five years before she released another secular follow-up, All The Love (which was unscrupulously re-released three years later by Wave Records as I Can't Live A Day Without You), a project that would begin a trend of bland material, tepid hooks and uninspired, smooth jazz productions from Adams and a series of befuddled producers (their results certainly seem confused).
I had hoped after a nine-year hiatus from secular song, Adams would return refreshed, particularly after a few tracks from Christmas Time with Oleta offered such a gorgeous ruse. Instead, on Let's Stay Here I hear a singer who appears comfortable resting on her laurels, overly relying on her rich tone to carry songs that are not strong enough for an approach better mastered by Maysa, Will Downing and Lalah Hathaway. I would like nothing better than to inform you that Adams' first secular project in years is what you've been waiting for, but I'm disappointed to tell you that our Oleta hasn't been here for a very long time. Not Recommended.
By L. Michael Gipson