Thursday 25 July 2013

[Duelling Divas] Deniece Williams "Free" Featuring Chante Moore, Debelah Morgan And Corrine Bailey Rae

A blast from the past today with a "Duelling Divas" that features Deniece Williams' 1976 hit Free as its focus. This was initially going to be just a post about the song, because for some reason unbeknownst to me it popped into my head. However, once I read it had been covered by other Diva's I thought I'd switch the post up a bit!

Like a time machine, Free will transport you right back to the1970's with its easy, laid-back groove and gorgeous, sweet and loved up vocals. (Actually, now that I think about it, I'm sure I'm talking about the 60's. Oh well. I'm not changing it. Call it "wilful ignorance" on my part.)

Like her contemporary and colleague , the great Minnie Ripperton, Williams is credited as having a 5 octaves vocal range. However, though this song contains some soaring vocals, there isn't actually any whistle notes in her own version. The other Divas, however, weren't so restrained.

Take a listen to the original before moving on to the Divas who covered it.

Unsurprisingly, with a song that features such a climb, two whistle register capable singers chose to cover the song. First up we have Chanté Moore who, instead of covering the song as it is, decided to make her version a medley with The Commodores' Sail on. It's a combination that works surprisingly well, with the additional song lyrics being effectively incorporated into the melody of Free- thus creating minimum contrast or bother.

Debelah Morgan's version is bathed in 90's new jack swing; I suppose it's the 90's equivalent to the 70's soul-inspired original. The four minute mark sees our first whistle run (which is really odd for a "whistler" as prolific as Deb), but there is more to come at the closing of the song.

This version is like outer space for me: too much emptiness with nothing going on for the most part. With the ease that this Diva's voice switches between registers I was hoping for some insane acrobatics, but alas, it was not to be.

Corrine Bailey Rae takes a totally different approach with her rendition, bringing the song into her own world of jazzy/indie Rnb. There isn't any octave jumping to be found here. Instead the song is pretty much about the groove- created as much by the instrumentation as it is by Corrine's voice. Perhaps the most unique take out of the three.

And finally, do you wanna hear how a man would cover the song? Well let Seal assuage your curiosity with his version. (If you hadn't guessed, this video is total filler for an anaemic post.)

Honestly, this turned out to be less fun than I was hoping. As much as I love Chanté Moore's version (which I remember jamming to back in the day), the covers really weren't up to much. Still, I'm not going to toss out a perfectly acceptable (if slightly dull) post. So vote and comment- if you haven't fallen asleep



  1. In terms of the song itself I'd say Chante but vocally Debelah and although I like Corrine's tone, I thought it was a bit boring. Seal was good though, love his voice. And Deniece apparently has a 4 octave range which she states herself in this Youtube video: /watch?v=-B0lPDb7pOk

  2. chante moore's octave range surpasses 2 octaves.