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What Love Will Do

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Album Review

After over a decade of hard labor in the blues trenches, Janiva Magness finally gets a shot at the brass ring with her debut Alligator release. Six increasingly accomplished albums provided the studio experience in crafting her music for maximum dynamics, and the results show on this rollicking set of blues and R&B that kicks off with the Little Milton penned title track. As usual Magness finds terrific, generally obscure material, digging deep to unearth gems such as Teresa James' "I Want a Love" and even Annie Lennox's "Bitter Pill," an unusual choice on the surface but one that perfectly captures Magness' tougher edge. With more time and a larger budget, these songs are fleshed out with horns, organ, and background vocals. While that makes for a bigger production and a more immediate sound, Magness' magnificent voice occasionally gets lost in the mix. That's the case on upbeat tracks such as her version of an Ike Turner rarity "Get It, Get It," which features three guitars and brass. Ditto for a seemingly rushed version of Marvin Gaye's "Don't Do It" that might have sounded like a good idea on paper, but never catches fire because her vocals fight for attention in a somewhat cluttered mix. That's about the only downside for an album that delivers what anyone who has seen Magness live will love. She rips into ballads such as Gary Nicholson's Memphis-styled "Fool Me Again" with tenacity, and the stripped down arrangement allows her to bring a gritty emotional edge that Delbert McClinton, who could be considered the male counterpart to Magness, creates so effectively. Husband/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Jeff Turmes' material, including "Sometimes You Got to Gamble," a ballad sung against his gospel piano and sparse bass, is moving and riveting. Another Turmes original "You Sound Pretty Good" brings a peppy New Orleans-styled horn arrangement and banjo to one of this disc's highlights. Bill Withers' "I Don't Want You on My Mind" gets down to its swampy soul in a cool, crawling arrangement featuring a slicing Turmes guitar solo. Earl Thomas' "I Won't Be Around" frames Magness' voice in a stark, near musical silence that allows her to tear into its emotional center. Although she's no newcomer, many might be exposed to Janiva Magness through this album due to Alligator's marketing and distribution muscle. It's a great place to start enjoying a veteran performer who burns through these songs like she's got everything to prove.

Customer Reviews

New to Janiva - get it!

Saw her live for the first time last night at the Cellar in Long Beach, CA and she sang all these songs from the new album. After seeing her live, this album, though terrific, feels tame by comparison to Janiva live. Alligator should put out a live album of Janiva and the band - with her energy and the belting pipes, plus a ROCKIN horn section and a tight, tight band, we felt like we were part of something amazing. The house blew apart! The fact that she proudly admitted she is 51 endeared her to everyone, because like she said, WHO CARES? Her voice and persona make her an unparraleled, brilliant blues performer. She was HOT.

A mighty fine modern female blues album

I just discovered Janiva Magness on myspace dot com and I am very impressed with her vocals and her choice of material! Alligator Records must be very proud to have her on the roster! If you love modern female blues singers like Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, Etta James, and Marcia Ball, then you will love this new album from Janiva Magness. Worth checking out for all blues fans!!

She's got her voodoo mojo & hot legs working...

Man of man where has this lady been? Working the chit'lin circuit in not where she needs to be! Get her up there on stage with MS. turner or Etta. Once again the elders prove age is just a number and experience counts for everything. This is a good old fashioned rocking album that has the raw gritty sound of Stax records. Mmm, mmm, mmm And she covers Annie Lennox for crying out loud! Saw her live and this album does capture some of that live spirit pretty well. I say go see her live and it will sell you on her album. The woman is sassy, classy, funny, you how those matrons like to tell you how it was, how it is, and like it is... Absafantabulistical!


Born: Detroit, MI

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Blues and soul singer Janiva Magness was no stranger to trouble and hard times growing up, and at her best, she pours that lifetime of emotion into her passionate phrasing and vocal delivery. Born in Detroit, Magness grew up with her father's blues and country record collection, as well as the city's wonderfully Motown pop-soul sound, all of which shaped her style and approach as a musician. She lost both of her parents to suicide while in her early teens, and she ended up living on the streets,...
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What Love Will Do, Janiva Magness
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Customer Ratings