RANDY CRAWFORD: ‘You Might Need Somebody: The Warner Bros. Recordings (1976-1993)’ (SoulMusic Records)

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Blessed with a softly distinctive, immediately recognizable voice, Georgia peach Randy Crawford has never been one for histrionics or indulging in gallery-pleasing melismatic curlicues lifted from the gospel and R&B music playbooks. Like fellow soul-sister Roberta Flack, she mostly sings her notes straight without any unnecessary or fanciful and distracting embellishments; a minimalist who makes telling the song’s story her priority. And what compelling stories she tells on You Might Need Somebody, a three-disc compendium of her Warner Bros tenure that compiler and essayist A. Scott Galloway has astutely grouped into three themed discs: ‘Rain,’ ‘Romance’ and ‘Razzamatazz,’ arguably the holy trinity that defines Crawford’s unique musical world. Viewing the singer through these three unique prisms offers new perspectives on her repertoire and elevates this compilation above the kind of bog standard ‘best of’ anthology mainly served up by unimaginative major record labels, which don’t know how to present an artist’s back catalogue in a fresh, new and meaningful way.   

Drawing its material from eleven albums recorded during 1977-1993, You Might Need Somebody goes beyond the remit of a greatest hits collection, providing the secret combination that allows the listener to dive deeper into Crawford’s world. It’s an immersive listen, one that takes you on a journey from desperate heart-rending ballads (‘Almaz’) to odes of quiet resolve (‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’) and giddily euphoric dance numbers (‘Last Night At Danceland’). Whatever type of song Crawford touches, she turns to gold. For example, she imbues The Eagles’ ballad ‘Desperado’ with a more profound and soulful sense of poignancy than the country-rock band’s classic 1973 recording. She brings another, transformative dimension to Brooke Benton’s ‘Rainy Night In Georgia,’ wiping away the memory of the 1970 original. And she even makes you feel like you’re hearing John Lennon’s utopic hymn ‘Imagine’ for the first time. Her sophisticated musical sensibility is such that it allows her to take a jazz standard or two and make them indelibly her own, evidenced by her sublime versions of ‘At Last’ and Endlessly.’ 

There’s so much to enjoy in this well-curated retrospective, which seamlessly blends familiar classics with forgotten and hidden gems to paint a vivid and truthful musical portrait of one of popular music’s greatest voices: the singer from Macon, Georgia born Veronica Crawford.  

(CW) 4/5 

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