GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: Visions (Label: Superbird)

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‘Visions,’ released in 1983, was Gladys and The Pips’ fourth and penultimate album for Columbia. Though arguably not the group’s best set for the label (that honour, I contend, belongs to 1980’s Ashford & Simpson-helmed ‘All About Love’), it yielded a US R&B chart topper in the shape of ‘Save The Overtime (For Me),’ a catchy drum machine-driven dance cut co-written by that redoubtable Southern Soul tunesmith, Sam Dees, and produced by Leon Sylvers. It’s one of several highlights on this commendable first time CD reissue of ‘Visions.’ Though not as cohesive, perhaps, as some of the group’s previous Columbia long players – perhaps, due to the presence of four different producers – it’s a fairly strong set and besides the quartet’s big US number one includes gems like the poignant ballad, ‘Heaven Sent,’ and the brassy, funk-fuelled outing, ‘Don’t Make Me Run Away.’ The album spawned three more Billboard R&B chart entries – namely another Stateside Top 5 smash, the lovely mid-tempo ‘You’re Number One (In My Book),’ ‘When You’re Far Away’ and the album’s closer, the histrionic power ballad, ‘Hero’ (which Bette Midler recast as ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ in 1989). All are fine cuts that highlight Gladys Knight’s magnificent gospel-hued vocals and the smooth, velvety supporting harmonies of The Pips. Even though the album is mostly characterised by ’80s production values that sound a bit dated now, ‘Visions’ is well worth adding to your collection if you’re a serious soul fan with a soft spot for the incomparable Gladys Knight (the group’s 1981 Columbia LP, ‘Touch’ has also just been reissued by Superbird).
(CW) 3/5