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[Off The Record]
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Gladys Knight
AT LAST
(Universal)

For those who have ears still to hear ó and the patience to give close attention to ó one of the giants of the 1960s soul-music era, Gladys Knightís umpteenth CD offers unforgettable intimacies. Knight has always specialized in advice songs and dramatic pleas, and thatís what she does here. " Grandmaís Hands, " about the things she recalls hers giving and telling her; " Better Love Next Time, " a loversí goodbye song; " Just Take Me, " with its fervent romanticism; and " Love Hurts, " a monologue with a message one word at a time ó these do not shout or stomp or raise any roofs, as her big hits with the Pips often did. Instead, their careful quiet comforts you even as it confronts.

Knightís voice was always husky, and so it remains, a big bear-hug presence, but the fierceness of " I Heard It Through the Grapevine " and " If I Were Your Woman " has softened. All the better for her to slow-walk her way through every lyrical nook and emotional cranny of the country tune " Please Help Me Iím Falling " ; of " I Said You Lied, " with its gentle rebukes and hurts; and of " Do You Really Want To Know (What Makes Me Fall in Love), " a be-a-man song in which Knightís vocal shapes every caress and desire that moves her. The lucky suitor whom she addresses canít possibly not get her meaning.

BY MICHAEL FREEDBERG





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