Days Like This
LeArt World Music, 2013
The Italian singer Linda Valori has a big, dramatic voice. She can generate a brassy roar, or dial down to an introspective level. For her new project, Valori traveled to Chicago to work with producer and guitarist Larry Skoller. In addition to a basic guitar-bass-drums rhythm section, the instrumental lineup features keys, percussion, harmonica, and a horn section of trumpet, tenor saxophone, and baritone sax. The resulting album, Days Like This, is an interesting, occasionally innovative set, heavy on classic R&B given a contemporary shine, with some straightforward blues along the way.
Where Van Morrison’s original of the title cut was leisurely soul, Valori’s supercharged version is upbeat, with an electrifying horn chart and an irresistible combination of drum pattern, keyboards, and vibes straight out of a Motown bag. Ike Turner fans will appreciate the love shown the late bandleader, whose catalog is twice called on, for the shuffling “The Way You Love Me” and the exotic “I Idolize You,” in which an edgy solo by guest guitarist Mike Wheeler cuts through the track’s urban shimmer, which, reminiscent as it is of some of the B.B. King-Crusaders collaborations, sounds slightly dated.
A solid trio of songs closes the long-player. A version of Janis Joplin’s “Move Over” sacrifices some grit but gains in percolating funkiness, due largely to Billy Dickens’s electric bass. Punchy horns and some stinging lead guitar from Wheeler make for a splendid recording of Bobby Bland’s “I Smell Trouble” on which Valori is appropriately tough. “If I Can’t Have You” is arranged to retain the raunchy flavor of the immortal original, with its talkative saxophones recreated by Doug Corcoran and Marqueal Jordan. Valori gamely does her best with Etta James’s part, and though she can’t match the original for raw sensuality, acquits herself well. Mike Avery is impressively smooth in the duet’s Harvey Fuqua role.
The prime tracks come in the middle of the program, with a take on Ray Charles’s “Your Love Is So Doggone Good” that evokes the sultry feel Etta James brought to her reading of “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Also superb is Valori’s cover of Deitra Farr’s exultant, upbeat “It’s My Time.” She deftly handles the acrobatic melody and quick changes, and the band is right on time with the soul blues arrangement, highlighted by Corcoran’s memorable trumpet solo.
The sole misstep is a fine, creative reggae arrangement of The Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong” that simply doesn’t fit into the setlist’s flow. Overcoming one potential hurdle, Valori sings largely without accent throughout the album, though a detectable (not distracting) trace creeps in at the slowest tempos, as in the Bobby Charles ballad “The Jealous Kind.” Consider Days Like This and its updated gloss on traditional R&B an enjoyable calling card, introducing Linda Valori to U.S. listeners as a capable singer of technique, passion, and taste.
Review copy provided by Frank Roszak Radio Promotions.