I first heard of Leela James on VH1's "You Oughta Know" and being the cynical person that I am, I just brushed her off as another Jill Scott, earth-mama wannabe. I shouldn't be so quick to judge. It has been quite a while since someone truly decided to revisit the soul of the 70's and bring it to the present.
Leela James debut album, "A Change Is Gonna Come" pays homage to the early beginnings of R&B. Nowadays, studio singers have a lot of rhythm but not enough blues. James sings from the soul and it shows on her album. The CD's lead single "Music" has her complaining about the lack of creativity in new material through lyrics like "Where did music go?" and "All the soul is gone." Remarks that we all can agree and relate to.
"Rain" is the slow song you play when you are chilling on your porch on a hot summer day sipping lemonade, the song features a slow, smooth groove that can be enjoyed no matter the time. "When You Love Somebody," a song about heartache, has the intensity that can take you to a hurtful memory of the past. While "Mistreating Me." is the song that helps you get through that awful memory and reminds you to "love yourself."
The Raphael Saadiq produced "Soul Food" encompasses a nice soul clap but not enough for me to hit repeat. Another miss is the remake of No Doubt's "Don't Speak." The original was full of emotion through guitars and drums while James' version is watered down and just not as good as the original.
The album is a refreshing change of pace considering that all we have to listen are manufactured pop singers. Even though this is not what I was expecting, Leela James managed to take me back to a time where music was real. Just as her title says, with music like this, "A Change Is Gonna Come."