I would put This Is Niecy from Deniece Williams in my top 100 albums of all time, every song is brilliant and the production on this is some of the finest work Maurice White has ever put out. Maurice White not only produced the record, but he and (nearly all) the rest of Earth, Wind & Fire also played on the album too. Deniece Williams has an incredible vocal range on this album, one that challenges the likes of Minnie Ripperton and Mariah Carey. This Is Niecy has a great intro to the album with the first track ‘It’s Important To Me’, the mixture of a lead female vocalist with male backing vocalists is a format we do not see enough of because it sounds great. The song has a really catchy hook, the horns are on point, the pianist sounds marvellous, and the bass is damn nice. With this first song, the album sets a high standard that it continues to top throughout the album.
The horn sections, and some instrumentations, are similar in style to Earth, Wind & Fire, but Deniece Williams manages to make this record her own, it’s a somewhat forgotten classic. In ‘How’d I Know That Love Would Slip Away’ you can hear the Earth, Wind & Fire style seeping in, particularly their jazz-funk style. The guitar work on this is damn fiiiiine, the cracking guitarist here is Al Mckay of Earth, Wind & Fire (I got to see and meet the legend at Rewind Festival, and he is still killing it on stage). Deniece Williams manages to balance upbeat and slower tempo numbers perfectly whilst keeping them all interesting and strong tracks, with songs like ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ which has beautiful harmonies and really nice percussion. Another track titled ‘Cause You Love Me Baby’ is a funk and soul number and one of the best on the album, this is romantic music that isn’t cringey, the backing vocals here are on point and the horns are excellent once again.
The most famous track from this album is the song ‘Free’ and it is the reason I discovered the album, not because I stumbled across the song but because I heard some guy playing it in the tents next to us at Rewind Festival (the man had taste). ‘Free’ begins in a similar style to Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’, including that twinkle sound which is hard not to love, however this is not a disco track but a soul song with nice guitar and drums (the keyboard solo is pretty jazzy too). Deniece Williams shows off her vocal range on this track as well as her ability to perform with emotion, her singing is impressive and she can sing crazy high! The album flows seamlessly from one song into the next, despite the mixture of tempos, ‘Watching Over’ (think a B-side from Sister Sledge or The Emotions) has an ace drummer and a bass that is ridiculously funkaaay, but it precedes the much jazzier and gentler track ‘If You Don’t Believe’.
This final song has some great horn solos with a beautiful trumpet to open the track and a killer trombone to close it. This is a great finisher for a magnificent album, it gives Deniece Williams a chance to show that her voice is still incredible when she is singing in a softer and more sensual tone; some of the notes that Williams hits are just unfathomable. Whilst there are only seven tracks on This Is Niecy the quality of every track is so high that you do not feel short-changed after listening to it the whole way through, proving that sometimes less is more. This is a masterpiece in both songwriting and arranging, as well as a glorious showcase of Williams’ unbeatable and emotionally charged vocal talents. This Is Niecy is the album you never realised you needed in your collection, so check it out and rediscover a record created with true craftsmanship and astonishing talent.