She’s been crowned The Empress of Soul and acclaimed as an R&B icon, but Gladys Knight had a mighty bumpy ride en route to that “Midnight Train to Georgia.” It’s hard to believe now, but Gladys Knight & the Pips never found a tight fit in the Motown stable. Rawer and gutsier than her label mates, Knight was tagged a second string soul siren by label boss Berry Gordy, even as she and the Pips scored a string of R&B hits, including a blistering version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” that leaves Marvin Gaye’s rendition in the dust. After getting kicked off a tour by Diana Ross for upstaging The Supremes, Knight & the Pips moved on to greener commercial pastures at other labels, and finally called it quits in 1989. Solo, Knight has veered away from urban grit toward a smooth adult contemporary sound, but she still summons the blues when she hears the call. Live, the seven-time Grammy winner mixes candid storytelling with a musical journey through doo-wop, R&B, soul, MOR and jazz standards. Knight can get schmaltzy when she praises past colleagues and the masters of song who preceded her, but her sincerity, passion and power cannot be denied.