Madeline Bell was born in New Jersey where she was influenced early on by Sam Cooke, sang on street corners, in talent shows and at local clubs. She became part of one of the more popular gospel groups in the country, the Alex Bradford Singers. But it wasn't until she moved to England in 1962 that her career really started to take off. A background singer with Dusty Springfield, she eventually joined a popular English Rock group, the Blue Minks, and staying for four years. Later, branching out as a solist, she achieved special popularity in The Netherlands. In addition to concert tours, she worked with Tom Parker in presenting popularized versions of classical music by Handel, Beethoven and Verdi. All this singing experience, gospel, pop, soul, Motown and Rock, classical, mixed in with Latin beats, comes together on her fourth album Blessed.
Kicking off with "The Look of Love ", made popular by top pop/soul singer Dionne Warwick, Bell turns to a poignant classical like rendition of "Home" from Porgy and Bess. Rhythm and Blues is here via "Before I Open My Mouth" replete with the squawking sax of Allard Buwalda, dancing vibes of Frits Landesbergen and honky tonk piano of long time playing partner, Cor Bakker. Motown influence, especially Diana Ross, is apparent on "The Last Laugh", complete with background singers. The Latin comes in with "To Dance the Samba". As far as gospel goes, her exposure in her adolescent years to this music is apparent on almost every track. Even the" Beach Boys Medley" wouldn't seem out of place in a Sunday morning church service.
As befitting a vocalist with broad experience and success, Bell has an extraordinarily versatile singing style which is adapted to the kind of song she is performing. While her voice isn't necessarily all that strong, it is clear and pristine in its earthiness. Her phrasing is impeccable and she articulates the lyrics with the right level of emotion and always with clarity. Fortunately the electronic gimmicks (synthesizers, etc.) on the album are handled with discretion and don't overwhelm Bell's vocals or otherwise generally clutter up the session as they are wont to do.
Bell doesn't return to the US all that often. It's our country's loss that we let her get away. This album is recommended.
Track Listing: The Look of Love; I Hate Cold Weather; Seasons of Love; Dreams; To Dance the Samba; The Last Laugh; Beach Boys Medley: And Your Dreams Come True, God only Knows, Wouldn't It Be Nice; Good Morning Freedom; Home; Before I Open My Mouth; For Once in My Life; Sail on Sailor
Personnel: Madeline Bell - Vocals; Cor Bakker - Piano/Synthesizer; Frits Landesbergen - Vibraphone/Synthesizer; Allard Buwalda - Saxes/Flute; Edwin Corzilius - Acoustic & Electric Bass; Hans Dekker - Drums; Jeroen de Rijk - Percussion; Ed Verhoef - Guitars; Deborah J. Carter, Julia Purimahuwa, Orlando Milan - Background Vocals