December 31, 2008

It's Gonna Take a Miracle X 3

Great songs inspire great cover versions. Duh!

Example: a great soul ballad written by Teddy Randazzo, Bob Weinstein, and Lou Stallman. Here's the original version by the Royalettes, featuring the extraordinary voice of Sheila Ross. I'm not wild about the production by Randazzo -- it isn't up to the heights of his work with Little Anthony & the Imperials on some Randazzo classics like Going Out of My Head or Hurt So Bad.

One of the great producers and songwriters in pop history, Thom Bell, produced the 1971 title track of Laura Nyro's tribute to soul music. Nyro is backed by Labelle (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash). This has to be one of the sparest Bell productions in his canon:

The biggest hit for the song was recorded by the criminally neglected Deniece Williams, who is making a bit of a comeback with both R&B and gospel recordings. Williams' 1982 cover, also produced by Bell, is the most restrained of the three versions, especially considering her four-octave range. I think the arrangement and production is the strongest of the three, but I miss the assertive backup of the Royalettes and Labelle.

There is a wonderful video of Williams lip-synching It's Gonna Take a Miracle on Soul Train, which you can find here, which also features a typically bizarre interview by Don Cornelius. Here's a visually static version: