It is so easy just to want to call it a Randy Crawford album when it is actually a Randy & Joe album. He showcases vocalists so beautifully. Over the years, Joe has collaborated with Nancy Wilson, Lizz Wright, Phyllis Hyman, Lalah Hathaway and Dianne Reeves. It was in 1979 when Randy and Joe joined forces on the classic gem, “Streetlife.” Now 27 years later, Randy Crawford and Joe Sample have struck gold again with their new release, Feeling Good.
There is no secret combination. The magic in their pairing is very evident from the first song until the last. Randy and Joe bring new life and emotion to classic standards and pop songs on this release. The rich, playful opening title track “Feeling Good”, a classic Nina Simone gem, sets the mood. Randy’s vocals are effortless yet there is so much conviction in her voice that it feels like a personal mantra. She even scats a little near the close of the song and Joe’s piano is impeccable. “The End of the Line” is very breezy and has a light bossa nova feel. They take their time on “But Beautiful.” Joe’s opening notes let you know the romance is about to begin. It is poetry between the vocalist and the pianist. He is always so generous with his vocalists, giving Randy space to be romantic, lush, and smoldering without crowding her with notes. He punctuates as she delivers each beautiful phrase. Randy sings at the end “and that would be but beautiful, I know. I know.” The additional “I know” takes the beauty of this ballad to an even higher place. Randy originally recorded “Rio De Janiero Blue” on her Secret Combination album in 1981. There is something special about hearing an artist’s approach to one of their classics. Randy takes us back to Rio in grand style and the experience is even more powerful. Randy is sassy and sultry on “Lovetown”, a Peter Gabriel song. At a point in the song, Randy weaves a second layer of vocals into the chorus singing a couple of verses of the Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” Listen carefully and you will also hear a tip of the hat to “Streetlife.” The arrangement is incredible. “See Line Woman,” another Nina Simone classic is no less naughty than the original but a little more playful in this rendition. Randy lets you know with conviction that the “See Line Woman” is still wrecking hearts and Joe, in addition to his fine piano playing, provides the “See Line” vocal chants. “Tell Me More and More and Then Some” was written by Billie Holiday. Randy and Joe’s rendition of this classic is bluesy, smoky, and powerful. I especially like how the guitar responds to Randy’s vocals. “Everybody’s Talking” was the theme song from the movie “Midnight Cowboy.” This version has a breezy, island feel. You can imagine tropical beaches and sunny skies. Randy sounds wonderful and the organ adds a nice touch to the song. Randy makes “When I Need You” a testimonial to love. She takes this pop hit and makes it her own and Joe is right there laying the foundation with his piano. It is bluesy, soulful with a little bit of Sunday morning. “Save Your Love for Me,” made popular by Nancy Wilson, is beautifully done. Randy is warm and simmering on this ballad. The passion in her voice will make you save all your love for her. Joe co-wrote “Last Night at Danceland” with Wilton Felder for Randy’s Now We May Begin album in 1980, which The Crusaders produced. Just listening, you can tell that Randy and Joe were having great time remaking this tune. As she soars vocally, you can hear Joe having a scatting conversation with the piano. I first heard Shirley Horn sing Curtis Lewis’ “All Night Long” and fell in love with this song. It looks like I will have second love affair with Randy’s reading of this magnificent ballad. Randy brings to it the seasoning that only years of living can bring. I was driving the first time I heard her sing it and I had to pull over to listen to it again. When she belts her final “Now I’ve got to find the man who’s haunting me… all night long” it is riveting. It reaches to the depths of your soul. Joe’s phrasing and tinkling of the ivories during his solo is moving. The closing song on this spectacular album is “Mr. Ugly,” a lovely ballad in spite of its title. This song was originally done by Carmen McRae.
Feeling Good has been a long time coming. Randy Crawford and Joe Sample have brought us an album that will be cherished for years to come. I just hope we will not have to wait another 27 years for them to record together again.
Enjoy your music!