Review: "Black Butterfly: The Essential Nicey" - Deniece Williams

by Jeremy Williams-Chalmers,

Having debuted in 1976 with This Is Niecy some 8 years after her debut single Love Is Tears, Deniece Williams has always been an artist that focuses her attention on the here and now. Therefore it is somewhat unsurprising that for an artist that has released 17 studio albums, the retrospective releases celebrating the wealth of her back catalog have been somewhat minimal. With the first collection, From The Beginning, appearing in 1990, the last (and fourth), Love Songs, emerged a decade later. After a break of a decade and a half, it seems apt that Big Break Records has finally followed up with a fifth, Black Butterfly: The Essential Niecy. A two-disc anthology containing 35 singles documenting 1976-1989, this is the career retrospective that has been long overdue.

As an artist, Deniece Williams has worked with a veritable who's who of the music industry. From her collaborations with Johnny Mathis to Maurice White and Ray Parker, Jr., she was never lost in the mix or overlooked as a performer. As one of the most soulful and uplifting recording artists to have laid their vocal to record, her work is as heralded today as it ever has been.

Naturally some listeners will prefer her deep, enchanting balladry while others enjoy to shake their feet to her stompers, but the beauty of this collection is that is encompasses every aspect of her artistry. Not just focusing on the years of peak fame, this collection is all encompassing, and is all the stronger for that.

The collection inevitably opens with Williams' signature hit Free, which starts the set as it means to go on - with the supreme soprano knocking you off your feet with her emotional delivery. Equally notable are Do What You Feel, Silly and Wiser and Weaker, which show the versatility in her flawless artistry.

However it is perhaps the collections title track, Black Butterfly, which is most poignant 30 years after it's release. In a time where the world has extreme political uncertainty, the theme of hope in Black Butterfly resonates the world over.

If the collection demonstrates one thing, it is that music and it's messages are timeless. Whether a dedicated Niecy fan, or a newcomer to her artistry, this is a collection that will stay with you forever.

4 out 5.

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