Some songs are impossible to mess up. I feel like Burt Bacharach’s “(They Long to Be) Close to You” is one such song-a timeless standard. I first heard the song back when I was a little kid, as performed by Diana Ross, and my collection has grown to include the most popular version by The Carpenters, as well as versions by Jody Watley (as part of a Carpenters medley) and Gerald LeVert (quite possibly my favorite version of the tune, as he joined forces with Tamia and created a Luther Vandross-style reconstruction of the song).
The latest version of “Close to You” brings together two singular talents, both of whom appear to be in the throes of a full-fledged return to music after some time away. R&B and rock ‘n roll godfather Ronald Isley is scheduled to release his first album in his name and his name alone, after serving a jail sentence from tax evasion, and Grammy-winning superstar Lauryn Hill appears poised for a “for real” comeback after a decade of personal issues and false starts. Together, they’ve created a sumptuous version of a pop classic. No Auto-Tune, no dance remix, no synthesizers. Two voices, tasteful instrumentation, and one fantastic song. It’s a trade up for Isley as far as his recent material has gone (although I’m sure his upcoming album will have at least one R. Kelly contribution), and it’s a sign that L. Boogie hasn’t lost her considerable vocal gifts. I’m excited for what the future has in store for both artists.
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