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Album Review

Madeline Bell's many years of experience vocalizing in a wide variety of musical genre come together wonderfully on Blessed, her fourth album for the Dutch label Challenge. Bell grew up with gospel and soul, sang with a U.K. rock group, worked in popularized versions of classics by Beethoven, Verdi, and Handel in The Netherlands, and sang and recorded jazz. Kicking matters off with "The Look of Love," a tune made popular by top pop/soul singer Dionne Warwick, she moves easily to other forms of vocal stylings. There's a poignant classical-like rendition of George Gershwin's "Home." Rhythm and blues is represented by "Before I Open My Mouth," replete with squawking sax of Allard Buwalda, dancing vibes of Frits Landesbergen, and honky tonk piano of long time playing partner, Cor Bakker. Motown influences, especially of Diana Ross, are obvious on "The Last Laugh," which comes 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 "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 she is able to apply without any stain to the type of song being performed. While her voice isn't necessarily 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 her vocals or otherwise generally clutter up the session as they are wont to do. Strongly backed by top European jazz musicians, Bell's album is recommended.


Born: 23 July 1942 in Newark, NJ

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Madeline Bell was born July 23, 1942, in Newark, NJ, and was strongly influenced by her grandmother, who had been a singer. Bell was raised by her grandmother after her parents divorced. Showing a bent toward creative arts, Bell first took piano lessons at 50 cents a pop, but couldn't master the complexities of the keyboard. Next, her grandmother paid for dancing lessons and discovered Madeline would never be confused with Ginger Rogers or Josephine Baker, so the lessons stopped. By the fifth grade,...
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Blessed, Madeline Bell
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