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"The dana owens album" by queen latifah
by Mike Heyliger
Although multimedia icon Queen Latifah
began her career as a rapper, to me it only
seemed a matter of time before she made
the transition into a full-fledged singer. One
of the first MC's to rhyme verses as well as
sing her own hooks, Latifah's singing
ambitions were sort of derailed by a little
thing called an Oscar-nominated movie
career. However, even her success as a film
star afforded her opportunities to sing, most notably as a lounge
singer in the film “Living Out Loud”. Since then,m folks have been
asking the Queen to record an album of standards in that vein, and
finally, “The Dana Owens” album arrives.

The folks who loved “U.N.I.T.Y” and “Ladies First” will do a triple take
here, because Latifah isn't rhyming or even making R&B records like
her underappreciated hit “It's Alright”. This is a traditional vocal album
in the vein of recent efforts by pop legends Rod Stewart and Cyndi
Lauper. Guided by Arif Mardin, the man who helmed records by Chaka
and Aretha, as well as the recent successes of Norah Jones, this
album finds latifah wrapping her strong pipes around a selection of
songs that run the gamut from jazzy vocals to classic soul.

There's no doubt that Latifah has what it takes to handle these
challenging songs. She puts a hushed spin on the classic “Moody's
Mood For Love” (as usual featuring saxman/songwriter/title subject
James Moody on sax), and gives an elegant, acoustic rendition on the
60's pop classic “California Dreamin'”. It may be a bit difficult to come
to terms with the vocalist singing these elegant tunes being the
same woman who was screaming “who you callin' a bitch?” on record
a decade ago, but Latifah's vocals are impressive throughout.

She holds her own against the Reverend Al himself on a version of
Green's classic “Simply Beautiful”, then turns around and rides the
groove on a peppy version of Bill Withers' classic “The Same Love
That Made Me Laugh”. She also beautifully handles Barbara Lewis's
“Hello Stranger” and puts a haunting spin on Screamin' Jay
Hawkinsblues classic “I Put A Spell On You”.

“The Dana Owens Album” marks a daring turn for Latifah. She
could've put out another rap album and cashed in on her success as
an international film star/product pitchwoman/all-around renaissance
girl, but this challenging collection of tunes is an artistic triumph for
the Queen, proving that she is truly a jack of all trades.