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Jody Watley : The Makeover
Watley is known as one of the top dance-pop vocalists of her time, dating back to her days with Shalamar in the 70s through her commercial zenith in the late 80s.  With The Makeover, Watley has challenged herself by mixing new tunes with bold covers of dance classics. The result brings to mind something like a remix project, but given a new twist. And like those remix albums, there are some startling interpretations alongside tracks that leave you scratching your head. 

The grooves are ultra-contemporary, from the pulsating deep house of "A Beautiful Life" to the riffing strings on "A Bed Of Roses," a 4 Hero production. Given the chemistry as demonstrated on this cut and on previous releases, one yearns for a full-length collaboration between the two musical giants. The Mark de Clive-Lowe dub of "Midnight Lounge" is also included.

As for the remakes, they come off well enough to stand next to the originals with their head held high. "I Want Your Love" and "Borderline" are more than respectable and boast strong vocals.  She even does her 1987 classic "Don't You Want Me," given a luscious mix by King Britt.  

Elsewhere, her selection is to commended but her execution faulted, primarily because she chose material so memorable in their original versions that it's nearly impossible to do properly. I'm speaking here of "Love Hangover" and Bob Marley's "Waiting In Vain," as well as her own "Friends." Whereas the original "Friends" was one of the first mergers of r&b and rap, it's now commonplace, and so is the performance of Voshaun Gotti.

Oddly enough, the most worthy cut may be the most ambitious, a medley of "Close to You- Superstar-We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters (!).  Where she got the idea to translate these pop chestnuts into club stormers is anyone's guess, but much props for her performance here.

Overall, Watley indeed given both her career and these songs a makeover, as she has effectively turned in a record of dance standards in the tradition of jazz stylists like Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall. In the process she has delivered a lesson in longevity and relevance that both her peers (Janet Jackson) and her acolytes (Lisa Shaw) can learn from.   

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