A recent episode of Unsung on TV One made people realize the many ups and downs singer Melba Moore has had in her career. With the help of Shanachie Records, she has teamed up with Phil Perry for an album that puts her back into the spotlight once again. The Gift Of Love has them doing primarily covers with a small hint of original tunes from Perry, and the album opens with a personal favorite, a cover of Sounds Of Blackness‘ “Optimistic”. They show how great they are, and how great they are together, on a song that still works 20 years after the fact.
Another great performance of them is their cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Weakness”, which he wrote and recorded for The Woman In Red soundtrack. It’s a nice ballad that will definitely be some nice mood music for those special moments. Also here are two Ashford & Simpson compositons made famous by Marvin Gaye & Terri Terrell, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By”.
If there’s a song that stands out as something exceptional, it would have to be “We’ll Be Together, Then”, written by Dwayne C. Palmer. In this song, Moore takes the lead and while the background vocals are shared by three people, there’s a primary male vocal that stands out in this song. It’s credited to Vonquest but I’m not sure if it’s Gary Vonquest. Nonetheless, he and the arrangement from Palmer is exceptional, very reminiscent of Howard Hewett and Tony! Toni! Tone!-era Raphael Saadiq and in better times, this would be promoted with a classy video and a push that would make this a hit single. Moore’s performance sounds like some of Patti LaBelle‘s best, but in truth it’s one of Moore’s best and you can now hear why she has moved people in the last 40 years.
If there’s one downside, it’s the smooth jazz approach to some (read “some”) of the songs, where everything is synthesized and computerized, songs that would have sounded a lot better if it sounded less plastic and more down to Earth. The songs that do work on this album, they should have done more like that. Nonetheless, it is a Gift that will keep on giving, and one must give thanks to The Gift Of Love that they have chosen to share. Perry as always is in fine form with his vocals, and perhaps it will get more people to explore their collective catalogs, especially Moore. With luck, it will also bring more work her way too.