Georgia-born R&B/jazz singer Randy Crawford and keyboardist Joe Sample go back a long way. Sample played on The Crusaders' huge 1979 hit, Street Life, which featured an extraordinary vocal by Crawford - check out the excellent YouTube footage, complete with Sample's frilly shirt! Although Crawford's early run of subsequent solo hits (Rainy Night In Georgia, You Might Need Somebody, etc) wasn't sustained, and she's had a fairly low profile in recent years, the UK's Shola Ama enjoyed success with a more or less copycat version of You Might Need Somebody in 1997. In 2006, Crawford and Sample made their first joint album, Feeling Good, which he claims was the first time her voice had ever got the stripped-down setting it really deserved.
No Regrets continues that approach with the same small ensemble on a selection of carefully chosen, lovingly crafted standards, plus a few less familiar numbers. There's great, unobtrusive backing by Steve Gadd (drums) and Christian McBride (bass), the occasional tasty touch of guitar and brass, and intuitive piano accompaniment by Sample. Crawford's voice has deepened and mellowed over the years and she doesn't go in for the vocal gymnastics she once did, but her tremulous phrasing is as distinctive and appealing as ever.
Sample's intro to Everyday I Have The Blues seems to teasingly half quote My Baby Just Cares For Me, by Nina Simone - one of Crawford's idols - and there's more blues on Today I Sing The Blues and Don't Put All Your Dreams In One Basket. The old Billie Holiday hit Me, Myself and I wanders into jazz, and there's a soulful, Staxy vibe on Leroy Mitchell's Starting All Over Again. With knife crime and anti-social behaviour grabbing headlines, the tough R&B take on Respect Yourself has an uncanny resonance. Crawford takes convincing ownership of Sarah McLachlan's 1997 hit Angel, although the same might not be said of the title track, which probably should have been left to Edith Piaf. Apart from that, and the fact that the world probably doesn't need another version of Chip Taylor's Angel Of The Morning, this won't disappoint old fans. --Jon Lusk
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