Prestige 1961 / Explore 2014
Future “Star Wars” star shines in an out-of-stage setting.
Famous for portraying Lando Calrissian in George Lucas’ saga, Billy Dee Williams started his acting career at the tender age on Broadway, so he was no stranger to singing. The more surprising, then, that this is his only record, if we don’t count the artist’s whispering appearance on Rick James’ “Tell Me (What You Want)” in 1983. The reason for that might be Williams’ voice: rather average if not devoid of charm, his rough-cut vocals perfectly carry the emotion of “A Taste Of Honey” – instrumental originally, here’s the first crooner performance of it, preceding Lenny Welch’s version which THE BEATLES covered – and of “Red Sun Blues,” but they more often feel rather labored.
That’s the case for the quite insipid premiere of “I Like It Here,” yet Williams is theatrically playful on “Nothin’ For Nothin'” and the title track, spurred by arrangements courtesy of George Cory, who presented Billy Dee with a couple of pieces, including the swinging “Life’s A Holiday” that he wrote for Billie Holiday, although she never cut it. Later on, “House Of Flowers” highlights the artist’s musical abilities in the best way, as it sways from softly delicate to raspy cynical, and it’s a pity there was no records from him in the rock era. As it is, this one is a nice curio, nothing more.