Deniece Williams – 1976 – This Is Niecy
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Intro by Dusty Groove Review 1 by Lejink Review 2 by M.Spencer
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Genius work from Denice Williams – a singer who’d cracked the charts a bit as Denice Chandler, with a little girl soul sound, way back in the 60s – but who’s grown up considerably by this essential 70s set! Chandler’s voice is still a bit high – almost in a Minnie Riperton sort of mode – and she’s working with some great help from theEarth Wind & Fire camp, considering that production is by Maurice White and Charles Stepney! Like the best EWF work of the 70s, the album’s polished, but has a tremendous sense of depth – feelings that are mature and massively soulful, and which are quite different than Williams later pop from the 80s.
A1 It’s Important to Me 4:21
A2 That’s What Friends Are For 4:27
A3 Slip Away 3:49
A4 Cause You Love Me, Baby 4:08
B1 Free 5:57
B2 Watching Over 3:53
B3 If You Don’t Believe 7:54
Three of my favourite albums by soulstresses from the early 70’s are “Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta“, Minnie Riperton‘s “Perfect Angel” and this debut album by Deniece Williams. All three ladies had connections with Stevie Wonder and the first two albums benefitted immeasurably from the great man’s writing and production skills, which in the mid 70’s were at an artistic peak. For her album, Niecy had to make do with the next best thing, Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire fame and together with the assistance of coproducer Charles Stepney and EWF for instrumental backing, came up with this quite beautiful and wonderful album.
The production really is exquisite, every element of the band, from brass to percussion, strings to bass, shining brightly in the service of some delectable music. The full version of “Free” is for me one of the highlights of 70’s soul, especially that “dawn-breaking” intro, while “Watching Over” and “Important To Me” are good examples of that much maligned musical style jazz funk.
The two follow-up singles to “Free”, “Cause You Love Me Baby” and especially “That’s What Friends Are For” are honeyed mid-tempo things of beauty, but there’s really very little to complain about here.
Deniece’s stratospheric vocals hit the high notes when she has to but her singing never sounds showy or unnecessary.
It would of course have been easy for her to unleash her voice every chance she could, but she intuitively treats each song on its merits, always quitting while she’s ahead.
This type of music is sometimes labelled “Quiet Storm”, in which this can’t have been far off the perfect storm right here.
In the summer of 1976 Columbia Records finally release ex-Wonderlove vocalist Deniece Williams debut album. Produced by Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire and Charles Stepney this turned out to be a very stunning debut and was one truly one of the best debuts of 1976. After singing in Stevie Wonder’s background group Wonderlove from 72-74 Niecy finally steps out on her own and showed why she deserved to be a solo act. Maurice White was really on a roll during this era producing not just Niecy but also his band and the Emotions. This is why I love so many songs albums from this era because producers were very creative by letting you keep your own sound but at the same time not compromising their talent. Right off the bat you could tell this was going to be spiritual joy ride with “It’s Important To Me“,”That’s What Friends Are For For“, and “How I’d Know That Love Would Slip Away“(which was also covered by the Emotions the next year). But things really get going on “‘Cause You Love Me Baby” with it’s beautiful arrangement and great bass and guitar work by Verdine White and Al McKay of EWF who also play on all the song. But my hands down personal favorite is the next song Free which is so beautiful with its subtle arrangement and melody. Niecy really shows off that 8 octave range with such an angelic voice that is beyond description. The final song “If You Don’t Believe” is also one my favorites with its spiritual message and Maurice helping out on vocals, it also conludes with an excellent horn arrangement which is also played by members of EWF. This a great debut with Niecy co-writing all song including the solo penned Cause You Love Me Baby and showed a lot of promise for the near future. I mom originally had this on vinyl and I’m just about to replace my old cd version for the newly mastered edition which I orderd three days ago, which shows you how much I love this album. Overall if you want to hear another beautiful voice other than Phillip Bailey on a Maurice White produced album grab this and see why Niecy is one of the greatest female vocalist to ever touch a microphone. Enjoy.