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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: Michele Thomas - Messenger

Michele Thomas - Messenger
2010, Michele Thomas

Thomas returns with Messenger, her follow-up to last year's I'll Take Romance. Thomas spends six of the eight songs on Messenger exploring the spiritual side of Stevie Wonder's music, adding in two songs Thomas penned with other composers. Messenger was digital released in October 2009 as a digital album and CD.

Thomas opens with Wonder's Have A Talk With God, an outstanding, lushly dressed tune with just a hint of Funk and Jazz in the seams. Thomas has her way with this song, hitting it out of the park. Jesus Children Of America is done more in a Funk/Soul interpretation and was not as enjoyable. Dee Song was a tough listen. Wonder's Higher Ground is a brilliant tune, and Thomas gives it a go. This particular vocal line takes a bit more steel than Thomas has to give, but she makes the most of it in an earnest interpretation that's full of heart, and she really shines in the jazzier passages.

Wonder's They Won't Go When I Go received decent treatment here. The band is in particularly good form here. Thomas struggles a bit with the more challenging phrases of the vocal line, losing control of pitch and breath control in a couple of tight spots. Thomas turns it around on If It's Magic, nailing the song with easy feel. Triple Play finds Michele Thomas struggling to keep up with a song she wrote with Hal Galper. It's primarily an instrumental piece, but the vocal line, where it exists, is complex. Thomas gets it, but the pitch suffers a bit at times. Thomas closes out with Wonder's Big Brother. This is one of Stevie Wonder's best "lesser known" songs and Thomas saves her best performance for last.

Tribute albums are always the hardest sort to judge. Divining whether giving a traditional reading of a song is preferable to making it ones own is highly subjective, and really comes down to whatever works for the individual listener (reviewers included). Some of the material selected for Messenger was perhaps ill-thought, as Thomas just doesn't seem to have the breath control for some of Wonder's more complex vocal lines. But when Michele Thomas is in her comfort zone vocally she can be amazing. The bright spots on Messenger far outweigh any blemishes.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Michele Thomas at You can purchase Messenger in multiple formats from Michele Thomas’ web store.

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