“I want people to have an overview of who I am as an artist and as a woman.”
Music fans should be very happy that the legendary Deniece Williams is a woman of her word.
Last summer, Williams promised an EP of new music, and the songbird has made good on that promise with the new, exceptional Gemini.
I was honored to interview Williams a couple of months ago, upon the release of a multi CD box set that spans her tenure with Columbia Records. Towards the end of that conversation, as she told me about her upcoming 2022 touring show, she casually made mention of what would become the new project, released earlier this month.
“I have some of the songs that I did for the show that I’m going to put up on my website,” Williams said, “like a little EP.”
I’m not in the habit of correcting legends, but the only thing “little” about Williams’ new Gemini EP is the set list. While it is comprised of only five songs, the singer has delivered five of the most stirring vocal performances of her 45 year recording career.
And guess what? The 70 year old chanteuse still commands that piercing, multi-octave soprano that few could touch. Let’s hear it for the girl!
And let’s hear from the girl about the new EP.
“I want people to have an overview of who I am as an artist and as a woman,” Williams recently told ABC Audio. “The experiences just take me wherever — experiences that I’m going through, experiences that friends are going through, experiences on how I was raised on the different artists that I love. So that’s the feel of this project so that you get a total overview of who I am.”
It sounds it sounds like a cliché, the type that artists themselves often employ when asked of their favorite song on a new album, but I cannot settle on a favorite or two from Gemini. If I singled out a standout, I’d have to tell you about all five tracks.
But what the hell? It’s only five tracks, right? Let me walk you through Gemini.
“When You Love Somebody” leans into a mid-tempo, contemporary bounce, most closely resembling one of Williams’ classic tracks with producer and Earth Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, or something from her 1989 Special Love album. When Niecy ad-libs the line “I TELL you!” near the end of the track, you know that she’s still got it!
“If It’s Magic” is an introspective, sparsely-orchestrated slow-burner that highlights the delicacy and beauty of Williams’ voice. Listening to it, I am reminded of the power of the singer’s classic “Black Butterfly.”
“One Kiss” is a gorgeous ballad, with a melody and chord progression that recalls the best of Williams’ work with producer Thom Bell, like “Silly” and “Waiting.” You’ll want to stick around for the fade-outs on that one and on the EP’s fourth track, “Lover’s Holiday,” during which Williams delivers one of her most spritely vocal performances, enchanting listeners with some of the most jazz-inflected music of Williams’ career.
In fact, four of the EP’s five tracks were originally recorded for Williams’ upcoming show Live At The Crescendo Club starring Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Pearl Bailey, during which Williams will play Vaughn.
We haven’t seen enough of Williams’ acting over the years, as her focus has been on sharing one of the most world’s most glorious voices with the world. During our conversation last July, Williams insisted that she’d never envisioned becoming a singer.
“I didn’t. I really didn’t,” Williams implored, recalling the early years of her groundbreaking career. “I was just around a bunch of friends and musicians. We were just hanging out, sitting around and writing. I never thought I would be a singer. I never really wanted to sing.”
“So for everything to happen the way it’s happened, it had to be God,” Williams continued. “I was just going through the process of living my life. I wasn’t thinking about whether or not something would turn out to be something special, as my music has turned out to be.”
That has be one of the great understatements that has come my way in a long time. As I revisit Williams’ words from our conversation, and reflect on her recorded output, the fifth and final song on her new EP, “You Are The Melody,” comes to mind.
Miss Williams, you are the melody.
And if you doubt that, download or stream Deniece Williams’ Gemini…and prepare to join the choir.