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The boy from Bakersfield, California, grew up with gospel, came from jazz, and mixes those sturdy roots with soul and blues to peerless effect.
This wonderful 34-track collection packs in five new songs, two fresh arrangements and nine of his best-loved numbers, as well as impressive duets.
Tracks range from the late-night jazz ballad Illusion, with just piano accompaniment, to the upbeat Dry Bones – about resurrection – with its Baptist call-and-response feel and call-back to the Delta Rhythm Boys.
The pulsating 1960 What, from 2012, captures the spirit of the Temptations when they took a political turn at the end of that decade, as Gregory takes in the murder of Martin Luther King Jr and the subsequent Holy Week Uprising ‘the motor city is burning,’ he sings of Detroit.
Opening ballad Hey Laura finds the big man pleading with a cheating girlfriend to ‘Go ahead and lie… make me believe you’re not in love with him’.
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On Real Good Hands, a soothing, intimate, jazz-tinged beauty of a song, he’s a nervous suitor asking his future in-laws for their permission to marry their daughter.
Elsewhere we find his jazzy take on timeless classic L.O.V.E., 2020’s soaring single Concorde and the glorious clap-along gospel swinger Liquid Spirit.
Choice duets include Paloma Faith (Christmas Prayer), Moby (Natural Blues), and Ella Fitzgerald (a posthumous People Will Say We’re In Love). Sheer class is the defining quality.
Gregory insists this a celebration of his career to date, rather than a greatest hits package. The title, Still Rising, is a throwback to last year’s All Rise.
It’s an upward trajectory, heading further into the stratosphere of global fame.
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