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Review Rewind – Vanessa Williams: The Comfort Zone

Posted by ThatsMyJamRadio on May 30, 2007

Albums you might have missed, but aren’t too late to check out

Vanessa Williams is versatile actress who has won accolades for her comedic and dramatic performances. As a singer, the album that is most reflective of her diverse musical abilities is 1991’s The Comfort Zone.

This collection of songs may be overshadowed by the multi-chart No. 1 hit, “Save the Best for Last,” but there are many other stunning performances on this disc as Williams taps into hip-hop, house and jazz influences for her sophomore set.

The sophisticated and sultry “The Comfort Zone” leads off the album, with sometimes-whispery invitations to visit the place where you can “do whatever feels right and turns you on,” but Williams manages to keep classy the tempting suggestions throughout the track. “What Will I Tell My Heart?” is a heavily jazz-influenced number that could easily pass as having been recorded live at some exclusive members’-only cabaret. Before “Love Is,” Williams teamed up with Brian McKnight for some back-and-forth on “You Gotta Go,” while the Isley Brothers’ classic “Work To Do” received a ’90s makeover.

Tribal beats blend flawlessly with house rhythms on the floor-filling “Freedom Dance (Get Free),” an empowering anthem encouraging dancers to escape the pains of love and a troubled world. (Guilty pleasure lyric: “No your momma can’t help you now/And your daddy can’t show you how.”) Equally upbeat is “Running Back To You,” a slickly produced new jack swing cut that utilizes horn and keyboard riffs typically absent in the genre’s body of work.

No album by Williams would be complete without ballads and The Comfort Zone has plenty. The tear-jerking “Just for Tonight” showcases Williams passionate pleas for one more night with her soon-to-be ex-lover, while sexy strings and a seductive saxophone take an unfaithful Williams through eloquent and convincing reasons why her lover should stay with her on “Still In Love.”

Unlike some albums that segment all the fast and slow songs into monotonous clumps, The Comfort Zone is a well-sequenced mix ― some interesting cross-fading between cuts probably helps the flow ― and, if listening close enough, there’s a story that can be heard in different portions of the CD (pay special attention to the one told in tracks 11 through 14). This disc is solid from start to finish and is perfect for those who like their R&B on the softer side with a tint of eclecticism.

Track List and Highest Billboard Chart Positions:
1. “The Comfort Zone” – No. 62 (Hot 100), No. 2 (R&B/Hip-Hop), No. 25 (Dance Music/Club Play)
2. “Running Back To You” – No. 18 (Hot 100), No. 1 (R&B/Hip-Hop), No. 2 (Dance Music/Club Play)
3. “Work to Do” – No. 52 (Hot 100), No. 3 (R&B/Hip-Hop), No. 8 (Dance Music/Club Play)
4. “You Gotta Go” with Brian McKnight
5. “Still In Love”
6. “Saved the Best for Last” – No. 1 (Hot 100, R&B/Hip-Hop and Adult Contemporary)
7. “What Will I Tell My Heart?”
8. “Stranger’s Eyes”
9. “2 of a Kind”
10. “Freedom Dance (Get Free)”
11. “Just for Tonight” – No. 26 (Hot 100), No. 11 (R&B/Hip-Hop), No. 2 (Adult Contemporary)
12. “One Reason”
13. “Better Off Now”
14. “Goodbye”

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