Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx have reunited as Labelle for the first time in three decades and returned to the studio, resulting with their new album, Back To Now. While they cover no new ground, they do cover the old ground very well.
Back To Now is ten tracks of old time, gospel-influenced rhythm & blues. Patti LaBelle is in fine vocal form and her voice remains a formidable instrument. Dash and Hendryx provide more than just background vocals as their sound shares center stage with LaBelle while providing a foundation for the group’s harmonies. Equally important and impressive is the that Nona Hendryx wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tracks.
The first track, “Candlelight,” quickly establishes that Labelle has lost none of their energy and overall ability. The song begins with a sensitive guitar and piano, building into almost an anthemic track. They quickly follow with a classic Motown-type ballad, “Superlover,” a smooth, flowing song that relaxes and entertains.
“System” and “Truth Will Set You Free” both feature a thumping bass with brass on top to move the grooves along. LaBelle's voice strains and ultimately soars above the mix to create a powerful sound.
Two tracks push the group in a social commentary direction. The great writing and producing team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff shine with their offering, “Tears For The World,” the song touching upon such topics as starvation in Africa, global warming and hurricane Katrina. “Dear Rosa,” in turn, makes for a fitting tribute to Rosa Parks and racial issues.
The album’s final track is the old Cole Porter song, “Miss Otis Regrets,” which Labelle takes in a whole new direction.
In final analysis, Back To Now offers some excellent rhythm & blues presented by true masters of the form. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the next installment of their career.