OLETA ADAMS — Circle of One (review)

OLETA ADAMS — Circle of One album cover Album · 1990 · Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Matti P
I believe most people -- at least in Europe -- best remember the American singer and pianist OLETA ADAMS (b. 1953) from the highly succesful TEARS FOR FEARS album the Seeds of Love (1989), in particular as a duet vocalist on the gorgeous ballad 'Woman in Chains'. Actually I've never come across her own albums, which feels rather unfair considering her talent. Having released two self-budgeted and largely ignored albums in the early 80's, she re-started her recording career with this album that TFF's Roland Orzabal co-produced with David Bascombe. Most tracks are written by Adams herself. The genre is basically soulful r&b, not jazz per se.

'Rhythm of Life' was written by Orzabal and Nicky Holland, the keyboardist who had contributed to The Seeds album as well. As a TFF admirer I'd prefer the song closer in spirit to the organic approach of The Seeds album, ie. with less dominant r&b programming. 'Get Here' was originally a moderate hit for its writer Brenda Russell in 1988, but Oleta's version became even more popular and remains her best known recording. A nice ballad not so far from the style of Randy Crawford a decade earlier.

The next four songs are Oleta's own compositions. The title track is suitably catchy with the horn section and backing choir, slightly reminiscent of Phil Collins at his most commercial. Listening to the excellent drumming on e.g. 'I've Got a Right' I wouldn't have been too surprised to see Collins in the album credits. The bass is marvelously played by Pino Palladino. Guitarist Neil Taylor is a former TFF member and a long-time collaborator of Robbie Williams.

The album seems to be pretty solid and even, maintaining a high level of songwriting, musicianship and production. The evenness can be taken both positively and negatively, though. In the end several of the uptempo pieces sound alike more than necessary. Fortunately the slow ballad 'Everything Must Change' (by Benard Ighner) sticks out as an emotional highlight. A very good album in the r&b genre, and easily enjoyed also by the listeners of mainstream pop. Let it be said once more that Oleta Adams really should have become more widely known as an individual artist!
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