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For adult contemporary R&B fans, it was disheartening that a vocalist as talented as Leela James went almost four years before releasing a follow-up to her flawed but promising debut. Coming into her second album with the knowledge that it is part of the Shanachie label's extensive series of all-covers sets, predominantly the province of artists twice James' age who are on album number ten or 20 instead of two, gauging the level of expectations is tricky. On one hand, it is frustrating that James' second album, after all this time, contains no original songs; on the other, it should be a loose, no-fuss affair, less measured than A Change Is Gonna Come and more like James' well-regarded live show. The latter, thankfully, is very much true. James' selections are mostly inspired, containing some natural (if obvious) material -- like the album's bookends, Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman" and the Staple Singers' "Let's Do It Again" -- and some others that are bound to raise some eyebrows, just from seeing the titles. Womack & Womack's gently swinging "Baby I'm Scared of You" is a highlight, despite the absence of a sparring partner, which lends it a tone that is more serious than the Womacks' typically playful original. Phyllis Hyman's "You Know How to Love Me," perhaps the boldest inclusion (written and recorded when Mtume/Lucas and Hyman were at the peak of their powers), gets a faithful look, proving that James should do free-spirited and uptempo material more often. "I'd Rather Be with You" (Bootsy's Rubber Band) could use more sleaze and Bobby Womack's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" lacks some necessary unease, and it would have been a nice twist for James to tackle something from the last 25 years, but overall, Let's Do It Again is one of Shanachie's best all-covers discs. May James find a support system that allows her to record albums of new material every other year (or so) from here on out.
Performance CreditsLeela James Primary Artist,Background Vocals
Rudy Bird Percussion
Andrea Martin Background Vocals
Teodross Avery Saxophone
Melonie Daniels Background Vocals
Ricardo Ramos Guitar
Roland Barber Trombone
Steve "Supe" White Drums
Ralph "Buttaz" Kearns Keyboards,Vocals
Kenyatta Beasley Trumpet
Kenyetta Beasley Trumpet
Christopher "Rahboo" Sabb Bass Guitar
Tiffany T'zelle Background Vocals
Technical CreditsRandall Grass Executive Producer
Suzette Williams Executive Producer
Leela James Producer,Executive Producer,Audio Production,Vocal Producer
Eric Elterman Engineer