Saturday, July 16, 2016

Donna Renee: Keep On Believing [JP Retail] (Amber Records, 1998)

Originally from Cleveland, OH, Donna Renee is yet another U.S. singer who found success in Europe and Japan in the 90s. Signed to German label Amber Records, she released one single Follow which reached no 9 in the dance charts there before doing a short stint on UK label Dome Records with Somewhere. Despite the high praises in the article bellow, her album was only ever picked up for release in Japan where she was compared to fellow expat Elisha La 'Verne. The producer of the work is Berlin-based producer George Brasch who remixed quite a few popular tracks during the 90s under his two alias' "Redbone" and "Amber." Although quite polished, a few tracks are slightly poppy-sounding but others such as Somewhere and Sad To Say draw definite parallels to the 90s hip hop soul sound of Mary J. Blige and others like her.

Cool and soulful vocals, tight tracks and melody lines that warm the heart. An amazing, new songstress has made her debut on the R&B scene! Her name is Donna Renee. Growing up in the mecca of funk music - Cleveland, Ohio - she spent her time as a young girl singing gospel in her father's church. As a teenager, she studied in New York while dreaming of being a musical playwright and held a strong interest in not only song, but the writing of poetry as well. In order to develop a broad world view, while undertaking such writing activities, she grew an interest in Europe, visited London and eventually migrated to Berlin.It's unknown what exactly drove this woman, blessed with a greater creative mind than most and a deep sensibility, to go as far as leaving New York and migrating to Berlin, but at any rate, Donna Renee's real debut as a singer started in Berlin.Starting as a backing vocalist in popular Berlin groups, she was mainly active in chorus work. However, the Amber label, struck by her remarkable vocal sense, noticed Donna Renee's appeal as a solo artist.Subsequently, a first single called "Follow" was released. This single garnered a lot of fans, mostly by promptly being aired by radio stations. It would eventually rise to 9th place in the German dance charts. A remix version spread to every European country in the blink of an eye as well, marking a promising debut as a newcomer. This success made the recording of her current first album a reality. Now, Donna Renee's anticipated first album is definitely a recommendation for R&B fans in general, especially females. As she spent her younger years singing gospel, there are no problems at all regarding her singing. She has a very polished, young-adult singing voice, with the upper-range vocals definitely not being too prominent. It's a natural voice quality that is easy on the ears no matter when one listens to it, be it early in the morning, at noon or late at night. Furthermore, the sound production perfectly captures the current R&B trends. Melody lines that make us feel the dual nature of both pain and warmth adorn the entire album. In Japan, the second single "Somewhere" is already in the process of being a big hit in import music stores. The analogue record has become popular amongst club DJ's to the point where a scarcity has occurred. Aside from that, the album's filled with songs that are likely hits, such as "Time", "Sad to Say", "I Believe" and even the slow jam "Could It Be". Any of these songs is bound to be played often by radio stations or in clubs.Lately, an R&B album containing this amount of tracks with high hit characteristics is rare. This is the appearance of a high-calibre singer, which brings in remembrance the debut of Elisha La'Verne, who has lately stood out as the leading R&B singer in the UK. - Many thanks again to pudpuddle for the excellent Japanese translation (August 2017.) 
Somewhere 5:32
Time 4:46
Sad To Say 3:42
Tell Me 4:43
D.A.N.C.E. 4:03
Keep On Believing 5:04
Follow 5:26
I Believe 4:36
More 5:00
Could It Be 4:27
Sad To Say (Far East Tokyo Mix) 5:04
I Believe (Frisbee Mix) 4:58
Follow (Young Soul Mix) 5:09