Patti Labelle: “Over the Rainbow” (Live on The View)

Labelle: Back To Now

The name Labelle may not be familiar to younger readers, but you’ve probably at least heard the Moulin Rouge cover of their song “Lady Marmalade”. The trio, which featured Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, was named after and led by powerhouse vocalist Patti Labelle. They originally formed in 1960 as The Bluebelles, enjoyed a successful run as Labelle in the 1970s, and split to pursue solo careers in 1976. The three women recently reunited to record Back To Now, the band’s first full-length album in over three decades. I’ve always like Patti Labelle’s big voice, and the album was released by Verve Records with production by Wyclef Jean and Lenny Kravitz. So I was disappointed that – with a few exceptions – it wasn’t the grand return it should’ve been.

The catchy chorus of the opener “Candlelight” is one of the few hints of classic glam-funk Labelle, but the verses of the song drop into bland ballad territory. “Roll Out” is a car wreck driven by Wyclef Jean, such a mess that I almost didn’t bother reviewing the album. Patti Labelle’s voice does not need that kind of Auto Tune electro-polish crap. And I think the title “Superlover” is enough to convey the cringe worthy nature of the tepid ballad that follows.

The album starts to get back on track slightly with “System”, though it would’ve been so much better if the ladies had been allowed to wail earlier in the song. The bombastic cover of Mother’s Finest’s “The Truth Will Set You Free” is finally what I wanted to hear from this reunion and proves my opinion of the preceding tracks. These women are just as capable of howling funk music now as they were in the ’70s, so there is no reason for the other songs being so tame.

The second half of the album is better than the first. “How Long” is the kind of soaring ballad I’ve come to associate with Patti Labelle, and the final cover “Miss Otis Regrets” is so absolutely stunning I wish Labelle had recorded an entire album of standards.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.

Labelle Official Site

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