Natasha Miller: I Had A Feelin' (2004)
For her third album, Bay Area singer Natasha Miller devotes the eleven tracks to the songs of Bobby Sharp. The songwriter achieved his most notable success with "Unchain My Heart," popularized by Ray Charles in 1961 and later by Joe Cocker. Sharp was a New York songwriter who composed from 1946 through 1978. After having recovered from a drug addiction problem, Sharp relocated to San Francisco where he spent eight years as a drug counselor. Upon hearing Miller sing, Sharp contacted the vocalist, and I Had A Feelin' is the result of their labors.
The album is structured to showcase ballad performances on the first six tracks and provides the remainding songs as mid- and up-tempo compositions. Miller's delivery on the first five tunes is that of a smoky jazz cafe in an afterhours performance reminiscent of the cool 1950s jazz vocal genre. Included in this section is the aforementioned "Unchain My Heart," which is forever associated with the rhythmic Ray Charles version. Natasha Miller proves that the melody and lyrics are perfectly adaptable to the change in tempo. In other words, if you suspend any preconceived notions about how you feel the song should sound, you can discover a new love ballad. These other opening tracks, "My Magic Tower," "Everlastin' Blues" (featuring a funky Hammond accompanyment), and "I Return to the Sea," plus the title tune, are all well written. Songwriter Sharp makes a vocal appearance on "Monica."
The pace picks up with the humorous "Things Are Breakin' Like Rocks," followed by "Big Storyteller" and "A Real Swingin' Affair," which insert an eleven minute swinging segment. Miller closes with two more ballads that feature a string quartet on "Madame Heartache" and the poignant lyrics of "What Diff'rence Does It Make." In fact, the label (Poignant) strikes me as being an aptly named vehicle for this singer.
Track Listing: I Had A Feelin', My Magic Tower, Unchain My Heart, Everlastin' Blues, I Return to the Sea, Monica, Things are Breakin' Like Rocks, Big Storyteller, A Real Swingin' Affair, Madame Heartache, What Diff'rence Does it Make.
Personnel: Natasha Miller,vocals,violin; Michael Bluestone, piano,Hammond organ; Bill Bell,piano on "Madame Heartache"; Jon Evans,bass; Tim Bulkley,drums; Jeff Lewis,flugelhorn/trumpet; Rob Roth, sax; Liz Prior Runnicles,viola; Emil Miland,cello; Bobby Sharp,vocal on "Monica".