Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Let's Do It Again by the wonderful Leela James finds her making music the old school way. With eleven of the greatest tunes ever written she is, in her own words, “taking it back as she moves forward” and paying her respects to some of the artists that have influenced her own musical development. What this means to Leela is turning back time to record live in the studio, drawing her energy from the musicians performing around her and rekindling the same excitement that back in the day characterised the output from studios such as Stax, Motown and Muscle Shoals. The result is a joyous celebration of some of the most soulful sounds of the last forty years and for those who were there it is certain to bring back glorious memories. However, for those who were not, this is a heaven sent opportunity to capture the magic of the music and of Leela James.
Leela James’ debut album A Change Is Gonna Come seemed to arrive from nowhere. With production from luminaries such as Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Wyclif Jean it was a striking combination of original songs and well chosen elucidations that included the impressive title cut which Leela used to tip a hat to the timeless Sam Cooke. The momentum the CD provided launched her into three years of intensive touring that twice found her at the Montreux Jazz Festival and also on the road with BB King during his farewell tour. She has soul to burn and this becomes immediately obvious with the opening track of ‘Lets Do It Again’, her sassy yet faithful interpretation of Betty Wright’s seminal ‘Clean Up Woman’. It’s a tune that sets the tone for what is to follow and lays a foundation for infectious grooves such as ‘Nobody Wants You When Your Down And Out’ that Leela fashions entirely in the style of Bobby Womack’s 1973 blockbuster.
Leela had the opportunity to open for James Brown during his tour of Europe so its not surprising that here she finds a place for his ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Soul Factor 10 would be a great way to describe her handling of it and this too would be a fitting label for the slinky ‘I’d Rather Be With You’ that was a hit for funkster Bootsy Collins in 1976. Delving further into the vaults Leela reignites the underrated Womack & Womack’ tune ‘Baby I’m Scared Of You’ while equally delightful is her sensitive handling of Angela Bofill’s ‘I Try’. From the 1979 Angel Of The Night it was a tune which at that time helped build Bofill’s reputation as a consummate interpreter of sophisticate soul ballads and Leela stays with that era for Phyllis Hyman’s sensational breakout hit ‘You Know How To Love Me’. Without doubt this is one of the albums standout tracks yet just as good is Leela’s fine version of the Staple Singers ‘Lets Do It Again’.
This moody gem articulates everything that is good about soul music and when she effortlessly steps beyond the genre into musical areas that have inspired her, the result is a heart felt rendition of the Foreigner anthem ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’. That said, she is quickly back in ‘soulsville’ to ensure Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful’ remains completely loyal to its title but its her version of the Rolling Stones mega hit ‘Miss You’ that totally steals the show. In fact Leela has been performing the number for some time as part of her live concerts and here in the organic setting of a live studio she delivers what will prove to be one of the best covers of 2009.
Let's Do It Again hits record stores across the USA on March 24 and is for soul lovers everywhere.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.Posted by Denis Poole at March 15, 2009 4:26 PM