Produced by Tommy LiPuma and Phil Ramone, Before Me, is a poignant, heartfelt tribute to stellar female artists - Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, and Nina Simone - who set the path for such vocalists as Gladys Knight.
In an two-disc re-release, Knight not only pays tribute to these women, but she also includes an exclusive DVD that highlights interview and recording footage of Before Me. The listener can also view Knight describing her high school years performing with an Atlanta jazz band; her early encounters with the female artists profiled throughout her project with interpretation as to how these great songs influenced her life; a live in the studio footage of recording vocals for Before Me with Phil Ramone at Right Track Studios in New York and with Tommy LiPuma at Capital Studios in Los Angeles.
The instrumentalists and orchestra who perform with Knight throughout the 12-track project are certainly on key, and very little seems out of place. If there are any discrepancies, one would have to listen very hard to notice. Starting with the Duke Ellington-Bob Russell selection, "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," Knight pours her heart and soul into each song. Knight stands out over many predecessors who have tackled these songs, due to her light touch and nostalgia. For example, she whispers her way through George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" as well as gives a smoky performance of Billie Holiday's songs such as "Good Morning Heartache," "The Man I Love," and "God Bless the Child." "Come Sunday," which connected many fans to gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, displays Knight's shining star as she punches her way through with a newfound fervor.
If this project doesn't obtain a Grammy Award nomination, it will be unfortunate. Knight has made a comeback, and her project should warrant some notice.