The history of Soul Music over the past 40 years is full of stories of talented artists like Ralph Graham having brief moments of popularity, but never reaching the level of success to make a lifelong career of music. Fortunately, there are stories of second chances where talent ultimately found an audience, and that is the developing story of Ralph Graham.
Known more as a songwriter than as a singer, Graham had three moderately successful albums on RCA in the early 70s. However, other artists, from Thelma Houston to Patti LaBelle found meaning in the subtle melodies and deep, introspective lyrics of Graham's work, with a half dozen artists covering his biggest song, "Differently." Unfortunately, tragedy struck Graham's family, as the death of his wife led him to give up the music business to raise his children. That appeared to be the last we'd hear of Ralph Graham.
Buoyed by friends and fans, after a 15 year absence, Graham returned to music. He began again playing various nightclubs in New England over the course of the last few years, and has since started to write and record again. The initial result of this work is the limited release of Differently... still. Differently...still is a mixed bag of 10 tunes, ranging from remixes of two of Graham's 70s songs ("Differently" and "Song About Nothin"), covers of a number of standard pop ballads (such as "You Are So Beautiful" and "Long And Winding Road"), some jazz vocal standards ("Fly Me To The Moon" and "All The Way") and two new Graham compositions ("If I Should Lose You" and "Life In The Game of Love").
The first impression left by Differently...still is that Graham's voice is clearer and fuller than ever. The jazz cuts sound wonderful and he does the best he can with the less than steller arrangements of the pop ballads (the canned background music gives them a karaoke feel). But the highlights are his new tunes, especially "If I Should Lose You," an emotional love song that has become one of my favorite songs of 2003. It makes me long to hear an entire album of Graham originals, which I hope is on its way in the future. It also leads me to want to hear him in concert (come to Detroit, Ralph!. Here's hoping that Differently...still is the beginning of a second recording career for Ralph Graham. (Chris Rizik)