ESTHER PHILLIPS / Here's Esther...Are You Ready? (1979)

For Here's Esther...Are You Ready?, her last album with Mercury Records, Esther Phillips took charge as executive producer. After several good years with CTI/Kudu Records, Esther made the switch to Mercury and faced diminishing returns despite turning in decent material. She'd been recast as a disco diva due to the success of her uptempo remake of "What A Diffrence A Day Makes" so much of her Mercury Records output was disco-ish. Phillips found musical inspiration across genres, one of her first big hits was "Release Me", a popular country & western tune. Through the years Phillips has done jazz, R&B, blues, pop and soul so the mid-70s move into disco was probably not as jarring for her as it was for some of her fans. For Here's Esther she selected a program of familiar tunes and gave them the Esther Phillips treatment. Vocally, Phillips was in good shape but the arrangments here are nothing special so the final product is sometimes good but never great. "Mr. Melody" is a cute song but her version is even more sing-songy than Natalie Cole's original. Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" is very listenable though not as grand as one would expect given that the original was so good. There are also decent disco versions of 60s pop hit "Our Day Will Come" and Barbara Acklin's R&B hit "Love Makes A Woman." "I Hope You'll Be Very Unhappy Without Me" has the kind of salty sentiment that nobody does like Phillips but the musical arrangement is too loud and upbeat. "Bedtime Stories" has a slick, radio-ready sheen that made it the best bet for a single release. The standout for me is the lovely "I'll Close My Eyes." The arrangement is a little too busy for my ears but nothing can detract from Phillips' wrenching vocal performance.

Side One
Mr. Melody
Philadelphia Freedom
I Hope You'll Be Very Unhappy Without Me
Love Makes A Woman

Side Two
Our Day Will Come
Bedtime Stories
Oo Oop Oo Oop
I'll Close My Eyes

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