Somewhere in a Small, Funky Club
Jay Murphy | Landover Hills, Maryland United States | 04/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That's the impression I get from this amazing album. The atmosphere is intimate, like Ms. Flack is performing just for me. The sound is minimalist but stately and assured. Though there are bass, drums and other instruments accompanying her, Roberta's piano and unique voice are at the forefront of the mix. "First Take" is quite simply an essential CD for any music lover to have. From the political to the personal songs, it's the real deal. The songs that literally bring tears to my eyes are the slower ones such as the incomparably beautiful and moving "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", the powerfully spiritual "I Told Jesus" and the profoundly touching "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men". Roberta gets political with tracks such as the angry "Compared To What" and the frustrated "Tryin' Times". These songs resonate strongly in the current political climate. Before she went into a more pop direction with her massive hit "Killing Me Softly", her sound was jazzy and soulful as heard here. If that sounds appealing then by all means check out "First Take"."
'First Take' the second time around.
Stanley Hassell | 10/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THIS CD REMASTER BY JOE GASTWERT DOES SOUND BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL. TOO MUCH UPPER MIDRANGE IS THE FAULT CORRECTED. A NOTICEABLE LOSS OF 'AIR' OR 'BREATH' WITHIN THE SONGS HOWEVER HAS OCCURRED. SHORT OF A MOBILE FIDELITY SOUND LABS CD REMASTER,WHICH BEGINS WITHIN THE ANALOG DOMAIN FROM THE ORIGINAL TAPES,First TakeTHIS MIGHT BE AS GOOD AS IT GETS FOR A WHILE CD-WISE."
Gregor von Kallahann | 11/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you've ever thought that Roberta Flack's famous "quiet fire" was just about the smooth stylings of most of her hit singles, this album should expand your understanding of the term. That kind of gorgeous, leisurely phrasing is well represented by the hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," as well as her elegant take on Leonard Cohen's "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye."
But if those tracks place the emphasis on the "quiet," other smokier, more smoldering numbers let you know where the "fire" comes in. The opening cut, "Compared to What" is politically charged soul that captures the spirit of hurt, hope and rage of the era perfectly. She approaches the conviction and the cold fire of Nina Simone at her sharpest.
And while she may seem "supper club elegant" a good deal of the time, she can get downright churchy on a number like "I Told Jesus."
I'm sure there are those who would take issue with me for daring to compare her Spanish number "Angelitos Negros" to Grace Slick's half-Spanish (or half-"Pig-Spanish") "Manhole," but there is something about the timbre of their voices when singing in that language that is startlingly similar. Flack's song is,of course, purer both musically AND linguistically, than the pastiche that Slick comes up with, but both singers are indeed both "cool" and "fiery" simultaneously. And there's something about their singing en espanol that seems to emphasize that similarity. (If only Grace had put as much care into the language as she had put into the elaborate orchestration.) My Spanish is extremely limited, but Flack's command of the language as it's SUNG seems pretty darn impressive and authoritative.
Roberta Flack's critics sometimes suggest that she sometimes confuses "languor" with "torpor." A reasonably valid opinion, I suppose, but one that probably reveals more about the listener than the perormer. I'll admit that there are been times when I'm not as up for some of her lengthy mood pieces as I am at others. A song like "Our Ages or Our Hearts" (which seems to bemoan a--gasp!--thirteen year age difference between two adult lovers!)can try my patience. And my first reaction to "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men" was that it was a bit on the mawkish side. But that's just me. And y'know, there are times--late at night--when these songs take on a certain undeniable luster. The same can be said for the entire album."