A top session bass player and vocalist best known for touring in David Bowie’s band for many years, Gail Ann Dorsey hadn’t released a solo album since 1992. Now comes “I Used to Be…”, a collection of unreleased tracks which in spite of their stylistic variety hang together as a nice pop-soul package.
Mixing some 70s-style pop-rock a la Carly Simon into a soul sensibility resembling Dionne Warwick’s, Dorsey delivers her mostly uplifting songs in a shimmery, understated alto. The intense “Nether Land” slides into the groove-ballad “This Time (Barely Alive),” which drapes silky vocals, old-style analog synth lines and some Knopfler-inspired guitar fills over a keyboard-bass continuo. Though under-written, the song manages to charm the ear for six full minutes.
Sung like Bacharach-Warwick collaborations filtered through the Stylistics, “Magical” and “Take Me To Your Love” go down like tea with honey. The latter in particular shows the artist’s acknowledged debt to Philly soul; it and “Always True” are the standout ballads.
But the CD’s liveliest and best track is the funked-up “The Fool,” where Dorsey’s vocals, while still restrained, are at their most soulful. It makes one wish she’d cut loose more often. But I’ll take her modest neo-soul over most of today’s songless R&B.