Jaki Graham

When A Woman Loves

(JNT Music/Absolute Label Services)

 

British soul singer Jaki Graham has been in the music business for over forty years and she just has not stopped. Still touring today, Graham is the first black British female solo artist to have six consecutive Top 20 hits and now she has a brand new full-length studio album ‘When A Woman Loves’ to share with the world.

The record was mastered at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios and boasts no less than fourteen tracks for the listener to get stuck into so let’s do just that…

Opener ‘Sometimes’ has a pulsating electronic keys and synth backing as Jaki’s lead vocal comes in and although she is singing the lyrics clearly the volume of her voice seems quite low and at times gets lost up against the louder music. I’m reminded by the solo work of the American artist Mayer Hawthorne whose material is upbeat and funky. I wonder if she is a fan of his?

‘News For You’ is an Eric Benet tune and features a touch of horns blended with light drumming which works well for the song. Jaki Graham’s voice is well-controlled and floats without shouting the words. A lovely track that when you close your eyes makes you think of summer and being outdoors. This will be a highlight at outdoor music festivals I think.

‘Stop The Ride’ is one of the cuts on the album which is a result of Jaki’s personal and, at times, challenging life journey as she sings “Nothing’s gonna break me down!” At this point I have to mention the powerful backing vocalists who sound just like Macy Gray who help make the track three-dimensional.

‘Get It Right’ hits you straight away with its Eighties production as Graham coos “everyone is funkin’ like the eighties” with a full band sound. A very cool addition indeed.

‘Eye To Eye’ is a tender affair courtesy of the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire who wrote the song. Graham’s voice is heartfelt and genuine and with the simpler production the lyrics can shine which I think was her intention. A highlight for me.

‘Through The Rain’ is one of three tunes penned by ‘Mr Boat-Rock’ himself Michael McDonald which have been recorded for ‘When A Woman Loves.’ Graham doesn’t take any music risks on this and follows the song to the letter alongside the smooth piano.

‘When A Woman Loves’ for me, sounds like an unreleased Imagination feat. Leee John and you can’t help but move a little bit. If a co-headline tour of Imagination and Jaki Graham could be arranged I’m sure it would sell well.

‘Leftover Tears’ has a soulful electric guitar as Jaki Graham sings about reconnecting with an old flame and she is trying to make sense of her conflicting feelings.

‘Someone Like You’ obtains the use of the electronic drum machine on another of McDonald’s ditties and I’m a little disappointed because it has made it sound like a budget track compared to its predecessors. Maybe an acoustic guitar and percussionist would’ve been a better fit to give it a stripped-back feel.

‘About Your Love’ has a groovy bassline and a slick saxophone solo (Finally!) which takes you back in time. Alexander O’Neal fans will enjoy this imho.

‘Use Me’ starts with a wah-wah electric guitar and it is the Bill Withers classic. Graham is clever because rather than just perform a carbon copy of the original she puts her own spin on it and it suits her voice perfectly.

‘All Night Long (1985)’ is another trip to the Eighties (specifically 1985 as the title suggests) but it feels too modern to me and more like a collaboration with an outfit such as Clean Bandit. Well-executed but slightly formulaic.

The stunning ‘Song Inside Me’ allows Jaki Graham to sing out on the third and final Michael McDonald song and they have really thought about the song’s arrangement here. Absolutely gorgeous delivery and the perfect encore for a live show.

Closer ‘Ready For Love’ has the band and backing vocalists framing the track and Graham’s vocals with such skill. Vocally, Graham sounds vibrant and you can hear that she still really enjoys what she does for a living.

In conclusion, ‘When A Woman Loves’ is an album that contains some real gems with ‘Song Inside Me’ and ‘Eye To Eye’ but it relies far too much on samples and drum machines when really ‘less is more’ should apply to truly allow both the material and Graham to flourish. However, old and new fans will love the quality of her vocals and her passionate delivery which is the main reason why she has lasted forty plus years in the world of music.

Glenn Sargeant



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(Thanks to the team at Republic Media for help with this review)

Jaki Graham's new album 'When A Woman Loves' is released on Friday 6th July 2018 on JNT Music/Absolute Label Services.

To pre-order the album and for more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2HiHIVi

Jaki Graham