If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Oleta Adams’ performance last Thursday evening at the Directors Guild of America, run to the nearest record store to pick up her sophomore release, “Evolution,” on the Fontana/Mercury label.“Evolution”– the follow-up to “Circle of One,” her million-selling debut album of 1990 — features six songs written by Adams. It also contains stylized covers of such favorites as “New York State of Mind” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” both of which showcase her throaty alto and vocal range. This new disc demonstrates the clarity, control and discipline gleaned from many years as a performer in clubs and hotel cocktail lounges, including the Century Plaza Hotel here in L.A. The album spans several styles and genres — classic R&B, gospel, world music and, of course, jazz. The poignant and passionate ballad “I Just Had to Hear Your Voice” is the first single to be released, with a video to follow. Between recordings, Adams admits, she’s become “not only a frequent flyer, but a freaky flyer,” traveling to promote the first album. “And then in 1991 I opened for Michael Bolton for three months. I took last year off just to write this album,” which was produced by Stewart Levine. This latest effort is based upon “personal experiences and observing the personal experiences of others who are closest to me. You write about what you know. So, if there’s something that I feel that’s important enough to mention to someone else, to deal with something I think others can relate to or something I wish to expose about myself, it becomes — making the music, singing songs and writing — a form of therapy.” The big break for the Seattle-born, Yakima-raised singer came when she was heard by British pop duo Tears for Fears in 1985 while performing in a Kansas City hotel’s lounge. But it took them two years to call and ask her to join them on tour. Though hard-pressed to name her favorite cut from “Evolution,” Adams admits, “I feel a certain closeness with ‘My Heart Won’t Lie’ just because of the nature of the song … sometimes you get in that mood where you need to comfort yourself through your music.” Adams, who during high school trained to become a classical lyric soprano, says of her music, “I sing the way I sing — I’m not apologizing for it and I don’t plan to ever apologize for it. My music demands that you listen. … It’s not fast food. It’s gourmet. I’m not trying to ring my own bell, but it demands that you listen with a different kind of ear. You have to participate, you have to be more attentive.”
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