Gladys Knight - Another Journey (2013)

Gladys Knight
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How can it be that an artist as revered as Gladys Knight -- GLADYS KNIGHT for God's sake -- can issue her first album in seven years and nobody knows about it?  Well, that is just what happened this Summer when Knight quietly released a long-awaited disc of mostly original material on indie music platform CD Baby. Lack of promotion for the album has led to zero impact on the charts or with any but Knight's most loyal of fans. And that's a shame, because there is an awful lot to like on Another Journey;  while imperfect, it is an album generally worthy of Gladys Knight's legacy.

How can it be that an artist as revered as Gladys Knight -- GLADYS KNIGHT for God's sake -- can issue her first album in seven years and nobody knows about it?  Well, that is just what happened this Summer when Knight quietly released a long-awaited disc of mostly original material on indie music platform CD Baby. Lack of promotion for the album has led to zero impact on the charts or with any but Knight's most loyal of fans. And that's a shame, because there is an awful lot to like on Another Journey;  while imperfect, it is an album generally worthy of Gladys Knight's legacy.

The somewhat skimpy Journey (eight songs and one remix) has the feel of a collection cobbled together from individual songs recorded at various times over the past half decade.  Its lead single, "Settle," hit the web over two years ago and its big ballad, "The Dream," was released and donated quite awhile ago to the Boys & Girls Club of America.

But despite its somewhat jumbled history and its understated present, Journey is surprisingly good.  The disc's song sequencing is a head scratcher, but those who are patient will find a handful of gems worth waiting for. So listeners can pass right over the opening trifle, "Old School," a soul meets hip-hop cut (with the requisite male rap interlude) that would have been mildly trite a half decade ago but which sounds positively ancient in 2013.  In fact, it really isn't until the middle of Another Journey that the album delivers the goods.  "All In Due Time" is a UAC ballad that fits Knight like a glove, with Leon Sylvers creating a laid-back groove and a harmonic wall of sound as Knight dishes out gentle wisdom on love and life. Just as good is "Settle," a classic call-and-response track that harkens back to the memorable vocal interplay of Knight's days with the Pips.  Lee Ann Womack topped the pop and country charts in 2000 with the plaintive "I Hope You Dance," and the song is a surprise addition here, with Knight reprising it in fine, restrained fashion.

Unfortunately, there are some questionable spots surrounding those gems. Producer Randy Jackson (yes, that Randy Jackson) has rarely met a shiny object that isn't worth shaking, and he brings his kitchen-sink overproduction to "The Dream," complete with a childrens choir and tired shout outs to inspirational leaders Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and...Muhammad Ali?  And the project gets a bit silly with "Searching For The Real Thing," a "let's bring Gladys forward"-style hip-hop track that is the disc's unfortunate coda. On the other hand, while I worried about Knight remaking her own 1970 hit, "I Who Have Nothing," the new version here is surprisingly urgent and strong, providing an enjoyable, very different look at a recognized soul classic.

Gladys Knight's disappointing performance on her 2006 covers album, Before Me, had many fans wondering whether she still had the pipes that made her a legend. Well, Another Journey answers that in the affirmative, even as Knight approaches her 70th birthday. At its best, the album is a classic Gladys Knight performance: expressive, immediate and inspirational.  And while the disc is too short and too uneven to be considered among Knight's best, it is a welcome return with enough quality songs to justify a much more visible launch than it received and enough great moments to make it worthwhile for her fans to seek out. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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