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Deniece Williams | Features



Amsterdam 2007 - Legendary songstress-songwriter Deniece Williams is still going strong. In an interview with SaveOurSoul from the Netherlands she revealed that she has been writing new material to share with her fans in the near future.

Deniece WilliamsThe Dutch soul crew spoke with Deniece because of the release of her latest album "Love, Niecy Style". An album where her peers Stevie Wonder, George Duke and Philip Bailey lend a hand. Where many a person think that Stevie Wonder is singing background vocals on "If You Really Love Me", one of the songs on Niecy's new album, it are her two teenage sons who do the backing vocals. Those two lads are also very busy working on their own album with Deniece as executive producer. With her elder sons Deniece Williams will start a filming project in the fall of 2007.

Her latest album "Love Niecy Style" has received a warm welcome in The Netherlands. It is very in demand with Old-Skool radio shows and with Classic R&B stations in the land of tulips, cheese and windmills. In June 2007 Deniece Williams will perform in The Netherlands together with The Daughters Of Soul.

Multi Grammy-Award Winning & Platinum Selling R&B Singer Deniece Williams Makes Major Return to R&B After A Decade with Shanachie Debut Love, Niecy Style

The Legendary Vocalist Reunites on Record with Some of the Artists Who Have Been Instrumental in Her Career – Stevie Wonder, George Duke and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey!!!

Deniece WilliamsDeniece Williams will forever be one of the great all-time R&B divas. Processing an infectious, angelic and soulful honey -coated voice with an awe-inspiring range, Deniece Williams set the bar high for R&B singers back in the 70s and to this day her influence can be heard on everyone from Mariah Carey to Beyoncé. Her songs have been sampled by dozens of artists including Will Smith and Master P. Deniece’s pure, rich and spine-tingling vocal quality, along with her impeccable diction and ability to honestly connect with any song has resulted in a vast catalog of hits. Some of her timeless anthems include “Silly,” “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” (her No. 1 pop and R&B duet with Johnny Mathis), “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” (the million-selling pop/soul chart-topper from the movie Footloose), “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle,” “Free” (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy album) and “Black Butterfly.” In recent years the chanteuse has primarily been recording gospel records but on April 24, 2007 Shanachie Entertainment will release Deniece Williams’ highly anticipated return to R&B Love, Niecy Style. Deniece’s label debut will mark her first major return to R&B in over a decade. For this momentous occasion Deniece called upon some of the artists who have been instrumental throughout her career: Stevie Wonder, George Duke and Philip Bailey.

In 1978, Deniece Williams’ sophomore album Songbird was released, coming two years after the classic “Free” (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy album) propelled her into international fame and success. The title was a perfect description of the soulful vocal beauty associated with this legendary singer/songwriter and it is as appropriate now as it was back then. Indeed, a songbird with a dynamic range, a distinctive sound and a true gift for lyrical interpretation, Deniece has long enjoyed a place in the hearts of music buyers who embraced her through a rich legacy of close to thirty charted singles and a dozen best-selling albums.

A four-time Grammy winner, whose extensive list of credits also includes sixteen Grammy nominations, three Stellar Awards, an American Music Award and an Oscar nomination, Deniece Williams’ high-powered vocal style has been emulated by a whole generation of singers who have cited her as a major musical influence. With such a dazzling legacy of accomplishments and achievements, it’s no surprise that music lovers the world over have been eagerly awaiting a new record from the longtime Los Angeles resident and thankfully, the wait is now over with the release of her Shanachie Entertainment debut Love, Niecy Style, a superb ten-song collection produced by renowned Philly soul producer Bobby Eli.

As Deniece reflects “I wasn’t really thinking about making a new record until a mutual friend put me in touch with Bobby, who I knew from the recording sessions I did with Thom Bell in the early ‘80s which included songs like “Silly” and “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle.” Bobby talked to me about the idea of doing a project of songs that I’ve always loved. I thought it was a great way to honor artists like Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway and Gwen Guthrie and what their music has meant to me. When people listen to this project, I hope it will take them back down memory lane as well as create new memories for those who may not be familiar with all the songs on the album.”

Within weeks of agreeing to Love, Niecey Style, Bobby Eli (whose extensive production credits include such favorites as Sister Sledge, Atlantic Starr, Major Harris, Blue Magic and Engelbert Humperdink and whose discography includes countless Philly soul sessions as a star guitarist with Billy Paul, The Spinners, Wilson Pickett, The Salsoul Orchestra, The O’Jays, MFSB, The Temptations and Elton John) and Deniece had begun selecting songs for it. “There were so many songs I had been carrying around forever, humming them, singing them and never thinking I would be recording them!” she declares. “By the time we finished, I felt we had done what we set out to do.” For Eli, working with Deniece was “a pure pleasure. She’s a producer’s dream, a very special artist and someone I always wanted to work with from being on the Thom Bell sessions with her.”

Love, Niecey Style is particularly special, given the presence of three distinguished music men who have played an integral role in Deniece’s career at different times: icon Stevie Wonder (with whom Deniece got her first gig as a member of his touring backup vocal group Wonderlove in 1972); super producer, songwriter and artist in his own right, George Duke (who produced 1984’s Grammy-winning “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”); and renowned vocalist Philip Bailey, of Earth, Wind & Fire, with whom Deniece was associated by virtue of working with EW&F’s Maurice White and Kalimba Productions from 1976 to 1982.

In addition, what distinguishes Niecy’s new CD from other albums of R&B ‘cover’ tunes is the range of her choices, starting with the 1963 Baby Washington chestnut “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” through to Donny Hathaway’s eternal “Someday We’ll All Be Free” and on to Luther Vandross’ first solo 1981 smash, “Never Too Much.” For good measure, Deniece re-recorded her own “Cause You Love Me Baby,” a staple in her repertoire since the track was included in her 1976 Columbia debut album as well as cutting a brand new song, “The Only Thing I’m Missing Is You,” a prime romantic mood-setting, sensuous cut which showcases the songbird sounding better than ever!

The basic tracks on Love, Niecey Style were cut by producer Eli in Philadelphia; an all-star cast of West Coast musicians including saxman Everette Harp, bass player extraordinaire Freddie Washington and Tower Of Power trumpeter Greg Adams then added their musical skills to the album. Says Deniece, “It was an extraordinary experience to make music with such gifted musicians…words could never truly express how special it made me feel being in the studio again with Stevie, George, Philip, Greg, Freddie and Everette. Truly, I was surrounded by friends and loved ones.”

The spirit of love and celebration is displayed throughout Love, Niecey Style. Speaking about her choices for the album, Deniece explains, “I’d been wanting to record “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” for years. I was thirteen when I first heard Baby Washington sing this song. It touched my heart because at the time, I was in love with this boy but he didn’t love me the same way! When we started recording the song, I could hear Stevie (Wonder) playing harmonica on it. ‘Can you come down?’ I asked and he was gracious enough to play on the track. It turned out beautifully. Then, “Love’s Holiday” has always been one of my favorite EW&F songs.

It was also written by Skip Scarborough, who I feel was one of the best songwriters of our generation. Then having my dearest friend Philip Bailey sing on it…it doesn’t get any better than that!”

The standout ballad “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” (previously cut by both Angela Bofill and Roberta Flack, one of the many artists whose recordings – including Minnie Riperton and Esther Phillips – benefited from Deniece’s work as a session singer in the ‘70s) is a tribute to a longtime friend: “The song was written by the late Gwen Guthrie who we lost to breast cancer. Gwen used to sing with me, Lani Groves and Patti Austin – we were in the same circle of background singers when I lived in New York and I remember when she wrote the song. I always wanted to do it and it’s my way of honoring Gwen.”

Deniece says the two most challenging tunes were her reading of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free” (which features Greg Adams) and one of the only covers ever done of Luther’s “Never Too Much.” The vocalist shares, “I told Bobby (Eli) and Executive Producer Danny Weiss that I wanted to do Donny’s song. After I listened to his rendition again, I just broke down and cried. I thought, ‘do I have the audacity to do this song?’ I called the record company and told them I’d made a mistake. They said, ‘are you crazy? No…you gotta do the song!’ It has a beautiful message of encouragement so I’m glad I did it. As for the Luther song, well, he was a friend and certainly one of the best vocalists of our time. I had no idea how hard a song “Never Too Much” was to sing – you can hardly sing and breathe on it. I tell people, when I get to heaven, I’m going to tell Luther how hard it was to do!”

Keeping with contemporary classics of the ’80s, Deniece chose Kool & The Gang’s “Cherish” about which she says, “real love only happens on a few occasions and when we have it, we shouldn’t take it for granted”; and George Benson’s 1983 hit, “Love Me (One More Time)” which she declares is her favorite Benson song, given “something really special by George (Duke) who played on the track.” Rounding out this stellar collection are her own “Cause You Love Me Baby” and “If You Really Love Me,” another nod to Stevie Wonder. “I sang this song so much as background for Stevie that at one time, I was singing it in my sleep! I was very apprehensive about doing this song because he was and still is my mentor and I wanted to please him. I think I’ve made him proud.” The choice for Deniece Williams to revisit one of her own classic tunes “Cause You Love Me Baby” was easy: “I’ve been very blessed as a songwriter and publisher to have so much of my music sampled. I was going to re-do “Free” but then I thought it would be good to do something up-tempo because it’s been sampled by so many other artists…and being the romantic I am, it seemed perfect for this project.”

Deniece Williams in SaveOurSoul newspaper clippingRomantic music, inspiring music and music that touches the heart have been the cornerstones of Deniece Williams’ body of work since she began her career in earnest in the ‘70s. Born in Gary, Indiana, Deniece sang in the local Pentacostal church, listening at home to the sounds of Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson but primarily influenced by her mother who also sang in church. A few attempts at recording for local Chicago labels yielded no real success and Deniece recalls, “I was going to be a nurse, working at a hospital with my Mom but I flunked out of college! I auditioned for Stevie as a background singer (an audition arranged by her cousin who worked for Stevie at the time) but my original intention was to merely tour with him for a while and then go back to school. By my fifth album, it dawned on me that I really had a career in the music industry!”

After her three years with Wonder, Deniece met Maurice White, leader of EW&F, who signed her to Columbia Records. Her debut LP, This Is Niecy, brought the singer with the multi-octave range immediate success thanks to “Free,” a tune co-written with former fellow Wonderlove member and then-future Supreme Susaye Greene.

1977’s Songbird yielded the hit “Baby Baby Love’s All For You” and within months Deniece was back in the studio recording an album with the legendary Johnny Mathis. The result was “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a gold single which established Deniece as a mainstream chartmaker. 1979’s “I’ve Got The Next Dance” was a major disco hit and two years later, Deniece found herself in the studio with Philly producer Thom Bell (known for his work with The Delfonics, The Stylistics and The Spinners among many others). The result was another best-selling album (My Melody) and the hit single, “Silly.” Recalls Deniece, “I’m always wanting to improve what I do, striving to do my best and I was very angry with Thom when we did “Silly” because I wanted to do it over and he wouldn’t let me!” Back with Bell in 1982, Deniece revisited the Royalettes’ “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” and was rewarded with another No. 1 R&B and Top 10 hit single. Two years later, she was topping the charts once more with “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” and subsequently, Deniece recorded a number of critically-acclaimed pop/R&B albums, launching her career as an inspirational artist in 1985 with So Glad I Know for Sparrow Records. Long known for including inspirational and gospel-flavored tunes on her previous secular albums, Deniece was immediately embraced by the gospel and Christian music markets, with a resulting three prestigious Stellar awards.

Since the mid-‘80s, Deniece has been busier than ever, recording a children’s CD, Lullabies To Dreamland, appearing in the London cast of the pioneering musical “Mama I Want To Sing,” producing and hosting her own radio program, “The Deniece Williams Show” for BBC Radio for almost ten years. Purposely devoting much of her time to raising her four sons, Deniece says she made a conscious choice to limit her touring activities: “I’ve been doing maybe ten concerts a year and in recent years, I’ve really got into writing theater pieces and developing film scripts with my older sons. I felt it was time to test myself in other creative ways. Now with my children grown, it’s time for mom to be out there again! I chose to stay at home and did only 10% of what I could have done. Vocally, I think I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and it’s time to get out there and do it. I’ve been blessed with a fantastic audience and I’m always humbled by that. My audience reminds me that this is what I’m supposed to be doing!”

As evidenced by the vocal beauty and soulful splendor exhibited on Love, Niecy Style, this is indeed what Deniece should keep on doing for the many music buyers who will be gratified to hear her once again, stronger than ever, making, in her own words, “beautiful music!”

Love, Niecy Style
Deniece Williams - Love, Niecy Style

01. That's How Heartaches Are Made
02. Love's Holiday
03. This Time I'll Be Sweeter
04. If You Really Love Me
05. Someday We'll All Be Free
06. Cherish
07. Lady Love Me
08. Only Thing Missing
09. Never Too Much
10. Cause You Love Me Baby

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