ANTOINETTE: Verbal Crush (Label: Pyramid Records)

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ANTOINETTE: Verbal Crush

One of the key songs on Norman Connors’ recent album,’ Star Power’, is the beautiful ballad ‘Where Do We Go From Here’. The track’s an emotionally-charged duet between Howard Hewett and the song’s creator, Antoinette Manganas and the very same cut is one of the focal points on ‘Verbal Crush’ – Ms. Manganas’ debut solo set. The good news for those who like that special, “grown-up” variety of soul music, is that there’s plenty more of it on offer here. Sure, ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ still shines but there are lots that rival it – notably another Norman Connors production, ‘ Special’. The veteran producer offered Antoinette the song clearly knowing that between them they could create real soul magic… and they do! The pair collaborate again on ‘My Love Is All That’ and the way Antoinette handles the lyric must have reminded Connors of the classics he created with his muse, Phyllis Hyman. Donald Tavie’s ‘Show Me’ is another gem of a ballad on which Antoinette conjures up an enigmatic yet delightful sadness – totally appropriate to the song’s sentiment. Elsewhere the lady shows that she’s confident enough to tackle classic, well-known songs and on cuts like Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late’ and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘How Insensitive’ she again achieves a moving melancholy that King and Jobim would surely approve of. Other covers include a female slant on Hall and Oates’ ‘Sara Smile’, a sensitive reading of Major Harris’ ‘Love Won’t Let Me Wait’ and an uncluttered take on Isaac Hayes’ ‘Déjà Vu’. Indeed on that one, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that Antoinette comes across like a youthful Dionne Warwick – the lady most associated with the song. It’s clear that Ms M has listened long and hard to singers of that calibre … her perfect diction on ‘Could It Magic’ and ‘These Foolish Things’ is proof of that. On the debit side, the jury is still out on the album’s opening track – a dancey version of the Gershwins’ ‘Summertime’. Though it offers variety, it’s out of kilter with the album’s overall ambience, but that shouldn’t stop you investigating what is an excellent smooth soul album… like I said up top – proper grown up music. The album is currently available form the usual internet outlets; alternatively go to – and check out our interview with the lady on our news pages.
(BB) 4/5