Best female vocal recording on CD?

i am a sucker for great warm rich smooth female vocalists, especially on tube gear and speakers that image well. but i am almost always faced with a great voice/song but a sonically inferior recording (examples too numerous to list) or a great recording of a mediocre voice.  rickie lee jones (pop pop) comes to mind- fab recording, but come on lets be honest about her voice. however, i will almost always pick great recordings and leave the bad recordings for the car.

 so i am asking for what you use as a reference female vocal recording/track. right now i come back tp bonnie raitt "you cant make me love you" from luck of the draw.  big, warm, strong voice. not a perfect recording. but hmmmm that voice.

my only requirement is it has to be on CD. and we all know of great vinyl that did not translate into great CDs.  so help me out here, what should be my next music purchase 
Joni Mitchell, Patricia Barber, Diana Krall and Norah Jones are the "evident suspects" here... Well overdone at each hi-end show...
I go with Mme Butterfly or Lisa Gerrard/Dead Can Dance or my fav Cocteau Twins (Elizabeth Frazer) to nurture my deeply disturbed ego ;-( 
try Head Over Heels, if you won't get disturbed I will refund your purchase!... :-)
Been enjoying Katie Melua lately, especially the Piece by Piece CD.

Holy Cole too.


Emmylou Harris: Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems (4CD)

4 cds for under $30. If there isn’t something in this set that reaches deep inside, you have no soul. Start with disc 2 if you’re not familiar with Emmylou.

Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent, is very good

The Burns Sisters - Wild Bouquet, folk/rock with beautiful voices and harmonies. Start with this one of their cds for sound quality.

I would also highly recommend the late Shirley Horn as well as Melody Gardot.

The Burn Sisters recommendation made me think of the Roaches an  Irish sister trio from NJ. Great harmonies with some really quirky lyrics.
There are plenty of 'audiophile oriented' boring artists:
Diana Krall
Patricia Barber
Norah Jones,

But there others you might not know with excellent recording and performing qualities:

LHasa De Sela
Melody Gardot
Don't pass on 4AD titles such as This Mortal Coil and Cockteau Twins

Old favorites of mine are Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, the two singers of Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks in the 1970’s. They’re great on the studio-recorded Striking It Rich and the recorded-live-at-The Troubadour Where’s The Money? As a bonus, both are unusually good sounding recordings.

And then there are all the Iris Dement albums. I would love them no matter the sound quality, but fortunately they’re pretty good. I used her My Life album as a demo source at CES in the late 90’s.

Another vote for Holly Cole. Have a few of her albums, favorite is, "Temptation". All tracks are covers of Tom Waits songs.

Beg to differ with you Czarivey, I don't consider Patricia a boring audiophile artist. She has some quite formidable jazz arrangements that put her into the class of unique IMHO. She's pretty good, try her live in France album and enjoy, if this is possible :), I used to feel the same but she has really grown on me the more I listen.
Some suggestions from the folk genre (as you might expect)
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter -- maybe start with "Between Here and Gone" or "Stones in the Road"
  • Nanci Griffith -- "Other Voices, Other Rooms: her covers CD is a great mix, or try "Flyer" if you want a more pop mastering
  • Sandy Denny -- invest in the "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" 3CD box on Hannibal or the more recent 19CD (!) complete box set
  • Mandy Morton -- we're now getting more obscure, first came to fame with Spriguns but well worth looking for the "Sea of Storms/Valley of Light" combo CD
  • June Tabor -- a classic folk voice -- start with "Airs and Graces" then maybe jump forward to "Against the Streams" (I love "Apples and Potatoes")
  • And finally to bring you bang up to date invest in a copy of "The Elizabethan Session" and get into Bella Hardy and Nancy Kerr in some impeccably well recorded new songs inspired by the Elizabethan age

Thanks - lots of artists to explore. As I look over the suggestions, some people just gave artists. With multiple album possibilities, how about specific albums from some of these artists?  (which disc should I buy first?)  And as we all know, even on very good recordings, some tracks are better than others.  Are their specific tracks that are just plain superior recordings?  You know, the track you go to when you first put the disc in. 

As an aside and going back to my original thoughts, I put rickie lee jones pop pop album - "dat dere" track on this morning.  While my comment on her voice still stands, I had forgotten just how great  the recording is: the instruments, percussion other voices, precise imaging, size of soundstage.  Still wows me.  Now I just need to find that recording quality with one of these new artists that people are suggesting.

Folk freak- I put my post up before I read yours.  I have the older MCC  - shooting straight.. and come on come on.  With some of the tracks on the later being pretty good recordings.  What is the recording quality on stones... and between...  I do like Nanci Griffith - but have mostly listened to old stuff- late night grand hotel, poet in window, with storms being the best recording.  What is the recording quality of the new NG.  Which NG and MCC are the best recordings?
A few in frequent rotation on my turntable are:

Melody Gardot - Worrisome Heart and Currency of Man
Joni Michell - I like almost everything but the two getting the most current play are Blue and Hejira
Vanessa Fernandez - Use Me
Rumer - This Girl's in Love
Shelby Lynne - The Look Of Love
Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis

They are probably all available on CD as well

Folkfreak, thanks for the recommendations

I like Loreena McKennitt - "The Visit". Beautiful music well recorded.
Also, Mary Fahl on the self-titled "October Project" album.

I think you're obsessing about recording quality a bit too much -- the true measure of a system should be how well it presents the musical event irrespective of the recording (i.e. it finds all that can be found even in a mediocre recording)

Having said that to address your specific questions
  • "Stones in the Road" is an OK recording, nothing special -- personally I actually prefer the live versions of many of these tracks on "Party Doll and Other Favorites" -- this is an honest live recording
  • "Between Here and Gone" is an impeccable pop record, highly produced but very well done
  • Regarding Nanci -- I agree on Storms (you need to get the Alto Analog LP btw) -- of her more recent stuff I picked out "Other Voices" as it is a very intimate and real sounding recording, if again you prefer a pop production then chose "Flyer"
  • "Airs and Graces" is a true vocal master disc, but recognize that this is acapella solo british folk voicing, so may not be to your taste - I never owned a CD of this so cannot goide you to which to choose
  • "Against the Streams" is again very nice, realistic recording
  • "The Elizabethan Sessions" is a stellar recording throughout -- beware it has men singing on it as well!
  • Finally Sandy and Mandy -- the recordings are of their time (early 70s though 80s) -- personally things like "Fotheringay" are my all out reference and the 3CD Hannibal set is as nice a CD as you can hope to find, only bettered by paying through the nose for an Island pink label -- but this is all in the context of your liking Joe Boyd's production style

ps Speaking of Joe Boyd go and dig this out - you'll like it (Songhai 2) -- And frankly you won't go much wrong by buying everything on this list of his work, especially this (The Hank Dogs, Half Smile, which has some more lovely female vocal)

pps Thanks for making me look that last one up, I never even knew the video existed!

Surprised btw that no-one has mentioned Janis Ian "Breaking Silence" yet -- I know it’s an audiofool chestnut but it really is a superb recording

And finally here’s one to mess with your head

Finally I must give a shout out for Judith Owen, all her recordings are first rate, maybe start with this ("Train out of Hollywood")
Looking at the responses and it amazes me how many I have never heard of and when I check them out then I wonder why.  Really enjoying Cassandra Wilson a lot here lately, just love her haunting vocal and everything I have of hers is very well done across the board. Don't agree with Nora Jones, Patrica Barber and Diana Krall all are boring.
Rosanne Cash's "10 Song Demo" is not a demo and it is a collection of eleven beautifully written, performed, and recorded songs on CD. I regularly use it for auditioning new or changes to equipment and have listened to it as many as three times in a row because I enjoy it that much. Spare acoustic guitar and piano accompany Rosanne's clear and often haunting vocals. Very highly recommended.

Linda Ronstadt from one of the latest remastered CD's of "Simple Dreams".

Listen to Blue Bayou...

+1 for Carrie Newcomer. She has a warm alto voice.  The music is acoustic/folk, band not solo. It’s not challenging but it is good. I think "Before & After" is a good place to start sound and music-wise.
Great suggestions here - I can't recall the album name(s) at the moment, but I would add Hallie Loren to the list.  Have heard some really great recordings of hers.
Rickie Lee has an amazing voice. Very surprised to read your comment? Other voices may be more common sounding, but few have her unique talent. 
Sarah Jarosz - Build Me Up From Bones.
The entire album is a classic.
I especially like the title track followed by "Dark Road".

BDP24: I thought I was the only one who listened to Dan Hicks' "Striking it Rich" album.  A true gem if you like those kind of tunes.  The Hot Licks vocals make it one of my all time favorite albums.
I have long considered Joan Baez's medley of "I Dream of Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair" and "Danny Boy" to be a good measure of the worthiness of a pair of stereo speakers.  The track is on the "Diamonds and Rust" CD.

I found recently a newish female singer playing on Mark Knopflers new album Tracker her names Ruth Moody she has a couple of her own albums out as well she is quite lovely.

Anita Baker CD My Everything

Sade CD The Best Of

Joe Sample featuring Lalah Hathaway CD The Song Lives On

Joss Stone CD The Soul Sessions

Aretha Franklin CD So Damn Happy

Randy Crawford & Joe Sample CD Feeling Good

These CD's are all well recorded. Vocals are superb!

@glennewdick -- good pick with Ruth Moody

Check out her work with the Wailin' Jennys (this is "Arlington" from "40 days")

And while your at it try Heather Masse (another member of the Jennys) with Dick Hyman

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Madeleine Peyroux, "Half the Perfect World" cd
Lizz Wright, "Dreaming Wide Awake" cd
For a single cut from "Lost On The River, The New Basement Tapes", Rhiannon Giddens singing "Lost On The River #20". Hauntingly beautiful to my ears!

Wow, some great suggestions. I am once again reminded that I’m amongst kindred spirits here on AudiogoN! The mention of Joe Boyd (who does really quality work, starting the great label Hannibal Records) has reminded me of an album produced by Boyd containing a female vocalist in reference quality sound---Shoot Out The Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson. Not only stunning sound, but great songs (chronicling the break-up of their marriage), Richard’s incredible guitar playing, and Linda’s (and Richard’s) fabulous singing. An absolute must-own album!
Many good suggestions including Eva Cassidy, Melody Gardot, and Holly Cole. I would also suggest Youn Sun Nah - Voyage
Mary Stallings. Widely underrated and superb, in my view.

Live At The Village Vanguard would be an excellent start.

I took your advice and bought the Emmylou Harris Songbird box set. I'm listening to it now, and can tell I won't be disappointed. This really is MY kind of music. While it may not be for everyone, it just suits me. Amazing job of mixing! Thanks.

Glad you’re enjoying Emmylou, tonykay. There’s lots more to discover. She's been recording since the mid 70s. She is an artist who really reaches me on an emotional level and she’s a class act.

Warning for others, most of her music is classified as country. So if you hate country, skip it, but she just may change your mind.

How about  Julie London, Doris Day, and Judy Garland ?  Man, those girls were fantastic in the day.  Oh yes, there are more.
Wailin' Jenny's.   3 gals in one brilliant band. Look for the Live album, then play the last track: One Voice. Wonderful!

A "new" Hybrid  SACD of Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Sessions.  Fabulous female voice