It would be hard to find more soul on a current CD than you'll get on Mary Ann Redmond's Prisoner of the Heart. Maybe on Solomon Burke's latest, but that's about it. Redmond's voice is an awesome instrument; she can belt it out to shake the walls down ("Since I Fell for You") or caress a lyric like she's petting a cat (her original, "That is All"), on a set that sounds like something out of a late '60's Atlantic Records session, the rawer, more powerful end of the R&B spectrum. Early Aretha, Otis Redding, Wilson Picket come to mind when listening to Mary Ann.
And she writes a fine tune, too: the heartbreaker, "That is All", the slinky title track, "Prisoner of the Heart"; "Ain't it a Shame". Then there's the well-chosen classics: "Since I Fell for You"; a powerhouse version of McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed"; Sam Cooke's "You Send Me", with Mary Ann sounding very Aretha-ish.
The CD walks a line between singer/songwriter fare and out and out R&B, beautifully-produced with a clean, hard-driving sound. Ms. Redmond must be something to see in concert, with her powerful, forthright vocals that glow with a justifiable, look-you-in-the-eye confidence bordering on audacity. Hard to imagine her doing a lot of takes to get the cuts for the CD right. Sounds like she just comes in and blows them down, gets it right the first time through
Under a saner, more adventurous radio airplay situation (the late 60's come to mind again) this album would be culled for three or four hit singles that would pull the album itself right up toward the top of the charts.
Make it Last, Since I Fell for You, Maybe I'm Amazed, Blind to Love, That is All, Prisoner of the Heart, You Send Me, Many Rivers to Cross, Ain't It a Shame, Too Precious, I Can Let Go Now
Mary Ann Redmond, vocals; John Jennings, guitar, organ; Leonard Stevens, guitar; Chuck Underwood, guitar; John Ozment, keyboards; Benjie Porecki, keyboards; Al Williams, sax; Gary Grainger, bass; Steve Taylor, bass; Andy ahmburger, drums, percussion; Deren Blessman, drums, percussion; Al Johnson and Tommy Lepson, background vocals