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Teraesa Vinson: Opportunity Please Knock (2004)

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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Opportunity is the debut recording by vocalist Teraesa Vinson (perhaps "Dr. Vinson" is more appropriate, as she earned a Ph.D in psychology at the University of Florida before pursuing a career in music), and she seems to have a lot going for her. For example, she has a good set of pipes, adequate range, sings on-key, knows how to swing, and is blessed with a keen ear for a lovely but overlooked melody (hence the inclusion of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," "While We're Young," "Moon Ray" and "Young and Foolish").

Perhaps those positives are enough to outweigh the one glaring negative on Vinson's resumé, namely her tendency to swallow consonants and distort vowels to such an extent that the lyrics are at times garbled if not downright unintelligible. This may sound hip but subverts the cardinal purpose of any singer (rockers excluded), which is to deliver as clearly as possible one's message and thus establish an emotional bond with the listener. If I'm busy straining to understand what is being sung, it's hard to elicit such a response. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Vinson, but I'm an old-fashioned purist who grew up listening to the masters (Frank, Bing, Mel, Sarah, Ella, Carmen) who poured heart and soul into every song but never at the expense of crystal-clear enunciation. It can be done but takes an abundance of hard work and commitment.

Almost every other facet of the album is commendable, including Vinson's supporting cast, which is first-class. The "almost" is necessary because pianist Carlton Holmes, an able accompanist and soloist, is too prominent in the mix and tends to overshadow everyone else including Vinson, especially on the faster numbers. Guitarist Tom Dempsey sits in for Holmes on "What a Difference a Day Made," "I've Got the World on a String" and "The Way You Look Tonight," and his mellow presence is most welcome.

On balance, a solid IPO on which the pluses handily surpass the minuses. As for the diction, that's not an insurmountable obstacle but one that Vinson (or any singer) can overcome simply by working harder to improve it. If she can—and there's no reason to believe it is beyond her means— Opporunity may indeed come knocking.

Track Listing: What a Difference a Day Made; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; Moon Ray; I Can't Make You Love Me; While We're Young; I've Got the World on a String; The Song Is You; Young and Foolish; A Beautiful Friendship; The Way You Look Tonight; Opportunity Please Knock (51:19).

Personnel: Teraesa Vinson, vocals; Ron Blake, tenor saxophone; Tom Dempsey, guitar; Carlton Holmes, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; Dion Parson, drums.

Record Label: Amplified Records

Style: Vocal


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