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4.5 out of 5 stars25
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 12 January 2013
Roberta Flack's recording career started late - just before she turned 30. She had been classically trained, initially as a pianist and then on voice, but turned to modern music whilst teaching. Her singing is exceptional for its clarity and her ability to convey emotion.

The first CD in this set is her first album, First Take, released in 1969, and is the most accomplished debut I have ever come across. Combining pop, soul and jazz styles, this is crossover music of the highest order. It was not an instant, success, but "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" became a huge hit in 1972.

The second CD is her third album, Quiet Fire, a title that accurately describes Flack's early style. Most of the songs are delivered at particularly slow tempo, but with a passion that makes this far from dull.

The third CD, Killing Me Softly, starts with the major hit of the same name. It is another excellent album, but one in which her style starts to transform into one that is more maintstream.

The fourth and fifth CDs, Feel Like Making Love and Blue Lights in the Basement are good quality albums, but, at times, lack some of the distinctive features that make the earlier albums so interesting. Nevertheless, they still contain good songs and Flack's singing is peerless.

One factor to consider is that at least two of these albums (Quiet Fire and Feel Like Making Love) are deleted as single CDs - so, short of paying an exhorbitant price in the second hand market this is the only way to get hold of them. Thus, although I would otherwies recommend First Take and Killing Me Softly as single CD purchases, this set is an economical way of buying Quiet Fire and getting the other two CDs as a free part of the bargain.
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on 5 August 2013
What an excellent opportunity to replace your old vinyl copies of these records or, as I did, to purchase them for my son who grew up with Roberta. Her voice has never sounded better than on these early offerings and let's face it, at her best, she's peerless. All the famous singles feature here as well as lots of really classy album tracks. The sensitivity with which she manages to interpret these songs has not, in my opinion, been matched by any of the other great vocalists who emerged in the late 60's/early 70's. A must for any serious fan of great female vocalists!

Dave
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on 7 November 2013
The fact that this is four stars and not five is perhaps unfair but due to personal tastes in music. The early albums feature the Roberta Flack I recognise. In the last two of the series it is still very much her but some of the material is far more forgettable and though Roberta does it very well not much stands out in the same way as earlier work. However, I also recognise that someone else might have discovered her later than I did perhaps through this later work and it may be this that holds the greater appeal for them. So four stars not on the basis of recording quality or performance but on grounds of musical taste.
In an age where you are not sure you are hearing the real voice of the artist and not one that has been comped from a dozen takes then autotuned, EQ'd and compressed to deliver maximum sound pressure rather than reveal quality hearing a real singer who understands voice control and projection is refreshing. Yes, you expect to find these qualities in classical and operatic recordings and Roberta's command owes much to her training but the world of popular music in its many sub-divided genres is not rich in natural talent placing much reliance on the manufacturing processes to get a decent sound. Roberta Flack cuts right through that mix with little more than a captivating voice and sparse arrangement that will never be out of style.
Five stars for value and recommended to aspiring next generation singers to show them how it's done.
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on 5 December 2012
Not a bad track on any of these albums from the sublime 'the first time' to the lesser known, but equally classic. ' Ballad of the sad young men' this is quality music.
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on 12 June 2015
Let me start by saying that this is a review of the first 3 albums in this collection The last 2 are pleasant, smoothly produced, but ultimately slight soul/pop albums which, I sense, were trying to cash in on the commercial success that Roberta was beginning to achieve. Those initial albums are about the singer and the song. And what great songs, beautifully interpreted, often with minimal arrangements, accompanied by Roberta's piano playing. You will all know about '...First Time....', and 'Killing Me Softly'. The former I have personally tired of but cannot deny the beauty of this definitive version; the latter is one of the best songs ever written, or is the nostalgia factor being overplayed here? I hope not. However, 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' is unquestionably a top 10 of all time song and this IMHO is its best version. These 3 songs are available on 'Best Of' collections, but if you are prepared to dig a little deeper then there are many other gems here. Leonard Cohen ('Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye', 'Suzanne'), Jimmy Webb ('See You Then'), Janis Ian ('Jesse') are some of the (then!) contemporary songwriters featured. A more obscure track, but one of my absolute favourites, is 'Sweet Bitter Love' a slow meditation on a lost relationship, which those who have loved and lost will find much to wallow in. Aretha sung this many years before and rerecorded it in the 80s. Roberta wins hands down.

As with (probably) most reviews on Amazon there is significant bias. I have already alluded to an extreme soft spot for 'Killing Me Softly' which has always been a part of my musical journey, and I must now concede that the first of these albums 'First Take' contains my favourite all time song, 'Ballad Of the Sad Young Men'. Gorgeous, moving, sublime. Most of the other versions I have heard of this song have a jazz leaning (indeed there are many instrumental versions, led by Keith Jarrett's impossibly beautiful rendition with his Standards Trio on 'Tribute') and it is apparently a difficult song to sing, but Roberta delivers in a beautifully understated style.

One disappointment, as with many of these 'Original Album Series' boxes, is that her second album 'Chapter Two' is omitted. It is right up there with 'First Take' and 'Quiet Fire' and deserves to be heard.
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on 7 April 2015
This is really fantastic value! I've always been a fan and already had the individual Cd's; I bought this set for the car! Most of the best of Roberta's work is here and several of the tracks still have the ability to make my spine tingle. I've never heard a voice I've liked better and the sensitivity of some of her own arrangements is a real stand out feature. She brings a new dimension to tracks like Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" , Carole King's "Will you still love me tomorrow" , S&G's "Bridge over troubled water" and Stevie Wonder's "I can see the sun in late December". There are also the obvious, really famous tracks that were big hits; I still love Killing Me Softly With His Song, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Feel Like Makin' Love. If you are a fan of singers with superb voices who really know how to interpret their material, then this is for you.
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on 17 February 2014
Roberta has left a legacy with these 5 album collection!
They are addictive!
Should have recorded more than these.
Enjoy!
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on 10 October 2012
a great set of blues and soul albums similar in style but with softer tones than nina simone.
tasteful cover versions including the peerless the first time ever i saw your face.
although you will also need a comprehensive best of for the sublime duets.
Original Album Series
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on 3 August 2014
A real bargain, woth buying just for "first take " , there are some truly amazing songs on these albumns. A real unexpected pleasure as i had not really thought about buying any of Robertas material until I heard "compared to what" on Jamie Cullums show. Brilliant.
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on 11 September 2015
I've always liked Roberta Flack but up until now I only had her Greatest Hits Album,this set gave me a chance to hear more of her regular stuff,I wasn't disappointed!
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