Gladys Knight & the Pips
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2005, Volume 12, #2
Written by John Metzger
In 1961, Gladys Knight & the Pips scored its first Top Ten single with Every Beat of My Heart, but despite this early success, it wasn’t until the mid-’70s when the group, however briefly, became a superstar ensemble. Although the recent compilation Love Songs focuses upon this latter era — and, in the process, completely forsakes the group’s classic Motown moments — the result is still a middling collection of songs. The biggest problem is that on many of the album’s 14 tracks, Knight’s glorious, gospel-infused vocals (as well as the smooth, tight-knit harmonies of her backing band) are engulfed by lightweight, and increasingly overwrought, string-and-horn-adorned arrangements. True, there is no denying the power of her presentation, and just as it has been throughout the entirety of her career, every utterance she makes contains a wealth of emotion that conveys far more than the often banal, but undoubtedly heartfelt, sentiments of the lyrics with which she typically has been saddled. Therefore, it’s not surprising that her triumphs and failures are tied closely to the significance of the material she has opted to cover. Simply put, her rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s The Makings of You works; her spin on a pair of torpid Ashford & Simpson ballads (Still Such a Thing and A Friend of Mine) does not. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the manner in which, after sinking deeply into the muck of Barry Manilow’s maudlin ballad All the Time, she brilliantly turns the tune into something special, elevating it entirely via her ardent delivery. Even so, the highlight of the set is the utterly magnificent gem Midnight Train to Georgia, which effortlessly torpedoes the rest of Love Songs’s easy-listening soul and blows its mawkish musings right out of the water.
Love Songs is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box