On The Very Best of Randy Crawford - The Times We've Shared , Randy Crawford brings a sweet girlishness to the torch song. She effortlessly injects soul into soft rock classics, from the first chord to the fade out. Though she wrote few of her songs, Crawford seemed to own the songs she covered, adding something to whatever she sang you wouldn't find elsewhere.
The classic "Streetlife", a masterpiece of pop marred only by one climactic octave-above chorus repeat, opens disk one. And there are no shortage of magic moments on this double CD, 38 track collection. The touching "Windsong" is followed by "Almaz" (a perceptive, inspirational ballad, which she wrote herself), and "Rainy Night in Georgia". The smooth 70s-flavoured "You might need somebody" and "Rio De Janeiro Blue" keep 'em coming in a sexy set of modulated synthed key changes with flute and exxxtra reverb. "I'll fly away" and "Give me the night" will get your nostalgia juices flowing.
Compiler Neil Greenberg admits that picking what to include was difficult, faced with Crawford's catalogue. He has certainly packed them in, including Crawford's sensual cover of Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door", which survives the producer's souled out, smooth jazz restyling (and a cheesy the fade out) in good nick.Unfortunately, Randy does her share of Whitney Houston-style screeching. Some will recall, with a shudder, the days when "tonsil-pop" was the height of radio chic. But that sort of thing doesn't date well. Like big hair, big noisy choruses are part of our shameful musical past (unless you're an Idols finalist, or you're Meatloaf). On The Times We've Shared, one of the sadder casualties of overdramatic vocals is her ornate cover of John Lennon's "Imagine". "One hello" isn't much more bearable. Yep, parts of this collection could be more appropriately titled The times we've shared and really wish we hadn't.The album's packaging lets it down. These days, if you're going to shell out for a CD, the least you could expect are well written, track by track liner notes. Perhaps a free video? Instead fans are fobbed off with a few paragraphs of fawning garbage written by compiler Neil Greenberg, and only three small pictures, which are tiled to fill up empty pages in the booklet.Overall? Randy Crawford's fairly consistent musical style and production values means this Best of flows smoothly. None of the important hits are missing. Sure, a rarity or two would have made it more attractive - how about the song she recorded with Cannonball Adderly "Don't get caught in love's triangle"? But, despite the lack of surprises and the tacky packaging, this is by far the best collection of Crawford's work on the shelves right now.
- Jean Barker
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