REGINA BELLE: Show Me The Way (SoulMusic Records)

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New Jersey’s Regina Belle broke through in 1987 after being discovered working with the Manhattans. A wonderfully church-reared, emotive singer, Ms Belle never quite made the major leagues, despite considerable chart success and a faithful cohort of fans. Not that that now bothers Ms Belle. After a 2009 major health scare, she’s happy to work with her husband, John Battle in their Atlanta New Shield Of Faith Church. Surrounded by her children and grandchildren, I wonder does she ever think back to her late 80s hey-day when she was an ever-present chart contender via her work with major label, Columbia.

If she (or indeed any decent soul fan) needs reminding of what she achieved, this new two CD, 29 track album from David Nathan’s SoulMusic Records will do the trick. The collection brings together the best of her four Columbia long players and, of course, all the big hits are here. Things like ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘Baby Come To Me’ retain the magic despite the passage of time and as was the way back in the day major labels often had their “big names” perform duets. Here you can enjoy Regina’s collaborations with people like James JT Taylor, Johnny Mathis and Peabo Bryson.

The less well known items show that Ms Belle was always a major contender. Try her version of Sam Dees’ ‘After The Love Has Lost Its Shine’ while, though many deride covers albums, the lady’s last Columbia LP, ‘Reachin’ Back’ – her versions of Philly classics – yielded many treasures. Here, from that set, the compilers have selected ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’, ‘Love TKO’, ‘I’ll Be Around’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’.

Sleeve notes from US writer Kevin Goins will tell you all you need to know.

(BB) 3/5