When Mary Ann Redmond's "Prisoner Of The Heart" album was initially released back in 1994 it was lauded by the critics. Subsequent albums have also been praised by those in the know. It does seem slightly odd then, that her latest album is a re-issue of "Prisoner Of The Heart" albeit given a makeover with guitarist John Jennings re-producing the tapes.
"Make It Last," which opens the album, is the first of five original tunes. It shows that Redmond has a wide vocal range, and the inflection of her voice sounds like Tina Turner in some places, and Minnie Riperton in others. The Turner influence also comes through on a slightly beefed up version of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed."
Although Redmond is confident enough and capable of tackling a range of musical styles, she sounds most natural on songs like the jazz standard "Since I Fell For You." She gets plenty of sympathetic support on keyboards (John Ozment) and guitar (John Jennings). She is equally at home on the original "Blind To Love" too, where she gets more funky. In places it reminded me a bit of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." The title track also slots into a funkier groove.
The choice of some of the covers seems slightly dubious. Taking a classic sweet soul song like "You Send Me" and trying to jazz it up is not a good idea. Covering Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross," may have seemed like a good idea at the time, and Redmond does make a good fist of it, but Cliff's recent resurgence makes it pale in comparison with the original.
Elsewhere, Redmond shows that she is quite happy to slow things down, and take on quieter songs like the two originals, "That's All" and "Ain't It A Shame." The latter does ramp things up a bit for the chorus. She also closes the album out in a relaxed vein with Michael McDonald's "I Can Let Go Now."
"Prisoner Of The Heart" shows that Mary Ann Redmond has a good voice. The disparate nature of the material suggests that she was not quite sure which direction she wanted to take at that point in her career: rock, soul, jazz or blues. The album ends up lacking a bit of focus and coming across as more of a sampler. Redmond can handle all the different styles, but sounds more assured doing jazz ("Since I Fell For You") and soul/funk ("Blind To Love").
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