Gladys Knight - Guest Judge on March 18, 2003

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Gladys Knight got her start in music at an early age. When she was only 8 years old, she and her brother, sister and two cousins sang supper-club material during the week and gospel on Sundays. They called themselves the Pips. Six years later they were in the recording studio. A short three years after that they were back in the studio and launched a version of "Every Beat of My Heart" that showcased her distinctive bluesey style. This recording got a lot of attention nationally, and with the changes to the lineup of the group came the change of name to Gladys Knight and the Pips.
In 1966, Gladys Knight and the Pips were signed to Motown Records' subsidiary, Soul. They never really fit the Motown mainstream, but in '67 they had their first major hit with "I heard it Through the Grapevine", which would become a Motown standard when Marvin Gaye sang it in 1969. The early '70s saw the group change their style and record label. This move landed them a US chart-topper when they released "Midnight Train to Georgia". Movie soundtracks, a television series and more albums followed. Gladys added acting to her repertoire when she appeared in the movie where the group recorded a soundtrack album.

Gladys and the Pips alternately recorded together and separately over the years until 1989 when they went their separate ways. Gladys then went on to earn a UK Top 10 and collaborated with Chaka Khan, Brandy and Tamia in '96 on "Missing You" from the movie "Set It Off". Her distinctive, seductive style continues to dominate her recordings.

As for her newest album At Last? Here's an overview: "Do You Really Want to Know" (What makes me fall in love) alternates between a husky, intimate sound and a clear, open style, and asks for honest answers. "If I Were Your Woman II" continues to ask questions with a very definite beat. Things slow down and mellow out with "I Said You Lied". You can feel the pain. "Grandma's Hands" has a touch of gospel and speaks of her grandmother's influence. "Love Hurts" gets slow and smooth, and talks about how love can make you feel. The slow beat continues with "I Wanna Be Loved" featuring Jamie Foxx. "Greatest Love Of All" has an uplifting tempo and speaks of a love that transcends all other. "Better Love Next Time" takes an optimistic look at love, even when things are falling apart. "Please Help Me I'm Falling" (in love with you) is a soulful and interesting rendition of an old country standard. Sweet sounds, complete with birds singing, open "Something Blue", but it tells a sad story. "Just Take Me" is slow and smooth with lots of great piano. An interesting mix of sounds blends with soft, husky vocals on "Rose Bouquet". "That's Why They Call it Love" picks it up for a great finish to this album.

This is a great CD to listen to alone and even better to listen to with someone special. It looks at all aspects of love - from the beauty and wonder to the pain and sorrow, all sung with a depth of feeling. This CD proves that Gladys Knight still has what it takes.

By Marie Leppard, 2001

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