Prime Cuts: The Day Life Began, You Saw the Good in Me, You Know How to Love Me
The Day Life Began is not precisely a Gospel like her preceding two albums were. Neither is it a booty-shaking frivolous throwaway either. Like the woman in Proverbs 31, this is a treasury of wisdom about life, God, and living coming from a wizened woman who has seen the woes and weals of the entertainment business for the last three decades. Here there's no topic that is beyond this R&B songstress' grasp. Whether it's the upheavals of relational woes ("Imperfect Love") or the subtlety of sins associated with modern technology ("Open Our Eyes"), Belle exudes wisdom in her sonic deliberations. And Gospel music fans who cannot wait to hear Belle sing the Lord's praises will get their fill with "He's Alright" and a few love ballads that can function both as a secular love songs or a love celebrated between Jesus and us.
Following in the footsteps of Whitney Houston & Natalie Cole, Regina Belle can shade well outside the contours of her R&B roots. Since 1987, Belle has had left her mark on the R&B charts with her classic quiet storm ballads such as "Show Me the Way," "Baby Come to Me," and "Make It Like It Was," but she's able to also excel above her comfort zone. In 1992 her Disney duet with Peabo Bryson "A Whole New World" was the song that usurp the #1 spot from Whitney Houston's 14 week #1 reign of her immortal hit "I Will Always Love You." Not only could Belle rule the R&B and pop charts, but she was also able to serenade her fans with her jazz "Lazy Afternoon" excursion. Then in the last few years, she has placed her iron fist down on the Gospel charts with "I Call on Jesus," "God is Good" and "Make an Example Out of Me."
This new album again expresses the sonic diversity exemplified in Belle's career. Lead single, the thumping "He's Alright," is already blazing up the Gospel chart as we write. A funky piece with lots of Gospel claps and brassy interludes, Belle encourages us to "sing with me" as she hollers the Lord's praises. Drawing us back to the 90s to those days when synth-driven big ballads with those unforgettable Olympian hooks ruled, the title cut "The Day Life Began" belongs in this league. If you love the way Belle croons her ballads, don't miss "You Saw the Good in Me." Though the song could be read as a love song from one paramour to another, the lyrics speaks of a love so transcendent and imminent that we can't help but think of Christ's unconditional love for us. And if you like Belle's R&B smoothies such as "Baby Come to Me," "You" is a treat.
Showing her acumen for being spiritual discerning, Belle in "Open Our Eyes" warns against the subtle temptations modern technology can do to our souls. She sings: "Look what we've created/The price that we're paying/Is creation gonna be our end? ... Technologically crazy, we all come to the table with our phones/And we don't even talk to each other, it's tech, e-mail, and Twitter, that's all ... Crazy's the new normal, and we can't afford to ignore that everything's goin' wrong." Not to be missed is "You Know How to Love Me." In a time warp back to the 80s, paying homage to the late Phyllis Hyman, Belle delivers a crisp disco version of Hyman's 1979 gem "You Know How to Love Me" that is nothing short of breathtaking!
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