Dianne Reeves - When You Know (2008)

Dianne Reeves
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Blessed with one of the most crystalline voices of her generation -- perhaps rivalled only in popular music of the last two decades by Linda Ronstadt -- Dianne Reeves has migrated from genre to genre over her career, touching on R&B and African music before settling in a decade ago as one of the most popular contemporary jazz singers.  Reeves has, first and foremost, been known as an extraordinary song stylist; so in this era where everyone from Rod Stewart to Boz Scaggs has released albums of "standards," it makes sense that a singer of Reeves' ability would follow her 2004 covers album A Little Moonlight with another discful of old favorites on her newest release, When You Know.  But unlike Moonlight, the new disc grabs a much more varied mixture of songs from pop, jazz and soul, giving each a smooth, silky edge on a disc clearly aimed at adult listeners.

Blessed with one of the most crystalline voices of her generation -- perhaps rivalled only in popular music of the last two decades by Linda Ronstadt -- Dianne Reeves has migrated from genre to genre over her career, touching on R&B and African music before settling in a decade ago as one of the most popular contemporary jazz singers.  Reeves has, first and foremost, been known as an extraordinary song stylist; so in this era where everyone from Rod Stewart to Boz Scaggs has released albums of "standards," it makes sense that a singer of Reeves' ability would follow her 2004 covers album A Little Moonlight with another discful of old favorites on her newest release, When You Know.  But unlike Moonlight, the new disc grabs a much more varied mixture of songs from pop, jazz and soul, giving each a smooth, silky edge on a disc clearly aimed at adult listeners.

A album of remakes needs to grab its audience quickly, and When You Know starts off tremendously, with Reeves giving a surprisingly fresh take on the otherwise over-recorded Temptations classic "Just My Imagination."  But even that quality cover doesn't prepare listeners for the next cut, a breathtakingly beautiful version of the more eclectic Nancy Wilson recording, "Over the Weekend."  Reeves and veteran producer George Duke are so perfectly in sync on this cut that it becomes not only the greatest version ever recorded of this song, but stands as one of the finest tracks of Reeves' two decade career and reason enough to by When You Know.

Understandably, When You Know never again achieves the high it reaches on "Over the Weekend," but has its moments.  While the disc falters a bit with an overabundance of soft, somewhat meandering ballads ("Once I Loved," "I'm In Love Again") and questionable song choices (Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" and the 1968 Oscar winning "Windmills of Your Mind"), the Duke/Reeves collaboration reconnects on more tempo-filled songs like "Midnight Sun" and the title track, and the disc finishes in fine fashion with Reeves' own composition, "Today Will Be A Good Day." 

Dianne Reeves is certainly a monumental vocalist -- so much so, that she stands out on even the weakest moments of When You Know.  But it is on the album's high points that she ascends to another level, reaching a plane of sheer listening pleasure rarely achieved by contemporary artists. So while When You Know isn't perfect, it has enough fine moments to make it a worthwhile addition to the discography of one of the truly great singers of our time.

By Chris Rizik

 

 
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