domingo, 31 de mayo de 2009

Gladys Knight & the Pips: Silk N' Soul / The Nitty Gritty (1968 / 1969)

26-track digitally remastered 2-on-1 set comprised of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Silk N’ Soul album, plus their 4th LP The Nitty Gritty, showcasing how Gladys could take both soul and pop songs and make them her own. Silk N’ Soul was released in 1968 as an album of remakes and managed to chart (#136) on Billboard's Pop Album Chart. It contains their bold reinterpretations of 'I Wish It Would Rain' (the only single of the album), 'Baby I Need Your Loving', 'Every Little Bit Hurts' and 'The Tracks of My Tears' amongst others. The group's soulful renditions of pop hits like ‘The Look of Love’ and ‘Theme from Valley of the Dolls’ are also enjoyable. As for Nitty Gritty (1969), it spawned one of the group’s greatest moments with the funky title cut and their renditions of several Whitfield/Strong compositions also recorded by the Temptations, like ‘Cloud Nine,’ ‘It's Summer,’ and ‘(I Know) I'm Losing You’. There are two Ashford & Simpson songs, ‘Didn't You Know (You'd Have to Cry Sometime)’ and ‘Keep an Eye,’ also turned up on other Motown releases. The title track, a successful single, throws together a James Brown syncopated groove, Family Stone horns and gaga guitar distortion, with minimal melody or lyrics. There's also a cut repeated from an earlier Pips record, ‘Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone’ plus two bonus tracks, the hit single ‘Friendship Train’ and ‘Billy, Come on Back as Quick as You Can.’ All in all, there are no failed experiments here: every track succeeds and Knight's voice adds urgency throughout. Besides, the Ashford & Simpson numbers are marvelous, and Harvey Fuqua's ‘All I Could Do’ and Ivy Hunter's ‘The Stranger’ are fine mid-‘60s soul. Thanks to top-shelf production, Gladys gets a sound that's ultra-hip, a bit deeper soul at times, but also with some of the more righteous overtones that Whitfield was bringing to other Motown acts at the time - a more pronounced sense of rhythm that foreshadowed the raw soul which would become the common language of R&B in the '70s.,, Thanks again, Martin, for this one!
Gladys Knight & the Pips's funky 'Nitty Gritty':

Performing 'The Friendship Train' on BBC television, 1972:

sábado, 30 de mayo de 2009

Hands Off!: Modern Studio Recordings (1950-1956)

What to do with the output of several women singers who recorded for one of the foremost R&B labels of the early to mid-'50s, but didn't really record enough to merit a single-artist album of their work for the company? The logical solution is this Hands Off! compilation, which groups them all together on a 27-track set. Of earliest vintage are the cuts by Helen Humes, who stopped off at Modern in 1951 for one session. Among the five sides she cut for the label are versions of ‘The Laziest Gal in Town’ and ‘I Ain’t in the Mood’ (an answer-song to John Lee Hooker’s I’m in the Mood). Helen wrote the other three songs herself, including ‘Take My Love’. Donna Hightower also wrote much of her own material and, like Humes, possessed a vocal style younger than her age. She released four singles for Modern’s RPM subsidiary, starting with ‘Dog Gone It’ and ‘Bob-O-Link’, both in thrall of LaVern Baker. Donna’s third and final session for the label yielded 'He’s My Baby' and 'Cool Daddy Cool', two top notch examples of female rock’n’roll. The story goes that Linda Peters and Dolly Cooper are the same person. Her first Modern session, as Linda Peters, begat two excellent Little Esther-influenced singles plus ‘You Won’t Trouble Me No More’, a previously unissued track. Reverting to her previous moniker, her next single – ‘My Man’ b/w ‘Ay La Bah’ – was another corker, but then came a cover version of Gloria Mann’s ‘Teenage Prayer’, delivered by Dolly in a rather mannered voice. ‘Make Love to Me’ and ‘Oh, My Dear’, by Zola Taylor, might not be exactly in tune, but they have a lot of charm and heaps of historical value. She'd be the singer from this group to experience the greatest commercial success when she joined the Platters shortly afterward. Hardcore R&B collectors might be familiar with some of the tracks on Hands Off!, but there are plenty of cuts here making their digital debut, and numerous others that are hitherto unheard alternate takes, so completists are well catered for. Enjoy!,

viernes, 29 de mayo de 2009

Barbara Lynn: You'll Lose a Good Thing (1997) ... plus

Although Barbara Lynn was born and raised in Texas, she personified the lazy beats, greasy horns, and chiming piano that characterized early '60s New Orleans R&B. Back in the ‘90s Bear Family released two comps of Barbara Lynn’s Jamie sides. The first of them is this out of print 27-track set of her best early sides from 1962-65, including a half-dozen previously unreleased songs (there's also 4 extra cuts which I added at the end as bonus -see attached covers). The material is idiosyncratic stuff with a bluesier, swampier feel than most any other soul being made during the time, which captures the crack studio band (featuring a young, pre-Dr. John, Mac Rebennack) led by producer Huey P. Meaux. Only a few cuts, such as the classic ‘You'll Lose a Good Thing’ troubled the charts but, like many similar collections, the songs are uniformly well played and sung with plenty of obscure gems scattered throughout. Although she was barely out of her teens when cutting these sides, Lynn's husky voice, somewhat like that of her peer Irma Thomas, shows a confidence belying her young age. New Orleans-styled horns, bluesy organ, and some gutsy guitar licks usually decorate the arrangements, while Lynn puts the tunes across with an assured reserve. The prize obscurity here is the original version of ‘Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin')’ (which Lynn wrote), covered by the Rolling Stones in 1965. Overall, this is first rate Southern Soul, usually upbeat, sometimes with a downcast feel that verges on the morose, as on ‘Dedicate the Blues to Me’ and ‘Ring Telephone Ring.’ Another oddity is ‘You Can't Buy My Love,’ on which it sounds like Meaux was trying to replicate the organ-colored polka-rock he'd just crafted for the Sir Douglas Quintet. Barbara Lynn would have been a major star, but perhaps her formidable talents where ahead of her time. She played guitar, lefthanded no less, and she was also one of the few female singers of her time to write her own material, and some of this set's finest selections such as ‘Second Fiddle Girl’, ‘You'll Lose a Good Thing’, ‘Teenage Blues’, 'You Don't Sleep at Night' or ‘Lonely Heartache’ are Lynn originals.
Lynn's rendition of Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say', circa 1966. It's also a good chance to enjoy her guitar skills:

jueves, 28 de mayo de 2009

Nancy Wilson: Now I'm a Woman (1970)

Diva Nancy Wilson was among contemporary music's most stylish and sultry vocalists. While often crossing over into the pop and R&B markets she remained best known as a jazz performer, renowned for her work alongside figures including Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Wilson recorded regularly by the late '50s, eventually signing to Capitol and issuing classic albums, including 1959's Like in Love and Nancy Wilson with Billy May's Orchestra. Her dates with Shearing solidified her standing as a talent on the rise, and her subsequent work with Adderley further cemented her growing fame and reputation. In the late '60s, however, Nancy Wilson moved away from jazz, making a number of albums which could be properly categorized as pop and R&B outings. After an extended period of works with producer David Cavanaugh, Wilson did this 1970 album with Gamble-Huff productions, featuring producers/arrangers including Thom Bell, Bobby Martin, and arranger-conductor Lenny Pakula. Cavanaugh executive produced. Around this time the Philly production team was best known for their work with artists like Jerry Butler, Billy Paul, and the Delfonics, among many others. Wilson falls right into the production style. ‘Now I’m a Woman’ is a customary strong outing from Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The beautiful ‘Joe’ has the sound of a prime Thom Bell production and Wilson gives an amazing performance and a particularly emotional note that might go through a listener. Nancy shines on ‘Lonely, Lonely’ and ‘Let's Fall in Love All Over’; both benefit from Bobby Martin's patently brassy and sweeping Philly production. All in all, and despite a few missteps, Now I'm a Woman is an important album in Wilson's oeuvre and the Philly sound.

martes, 26 de mayo de 2009

Baby Washington: The Sue Singles (1962-1968)

Baby Washington possessed one of the most compelling and moving voices of the soul era. With her contralto to mezzo-soprano tones she combined down-to-earth gospel soulfulness with a stately uptown elegance. She may never have enjoyed the cross-over success of Dionne Warwick, but her haunting singing is one of the most singular sounds to have emerged from the New York soul scene of the early ‘60s. Washington was raised in Harlem, singing first in a vocal group, the Hearts, in 1956 and becoming a solo artist the following year. She built a career with 16 chart entries during a decade and a half, most of them during the 60s, recording in New York first for Donald Shaw's Neptune label and then for Juggy Murray's Sue label. She established herself as a major soul singer recording ‘The Time’ and ‘The Bells’, both in 1959, and ‘Nobody Cares’, in 1961. Moving to Sue Records in 1962, Washington hit the US national Top 40 in 1963 with the sublime ‘That's How Heartaches Are Made’ - a song which was heavily covered by the likes of Randy Crawford, Loleatta Holloway and Jerry Butler -, and the US R&B Top 10 with ‘Only Those In Love’, in 1965. Washington revived her career in the early ‘70s, recording in Philadelphia a duet with Don Gardner, a revival of the Marvelettes' ‘Forever’, a solo release ‘I've Got to Break Away’, and a well-received album. The coming of disco in the mid-‘70s effectively killed her career, as it did those of many soul artists. This excellent 28-track compilation of her work for the Sue label in the '60s has all of the significant R&B hits she recorded for the company, including 'That's How Heartaches are Made', ‘Handful of Memories,’ ‘Who's Gonna Take Care of Me,’ ‘It'll Never Be Over for Me,’ ‘Only Those in Love,’ and ‘No Time for Pity.’ It's also the best showcase for her versatility, going from near-gospel to string-laden uptown pop/soul, and even a bit of blues, straight pop, and jazz-inflected numbers. Her influence on Dusty Springfield, who cited Washington as her all-time favourite singer, can easily be detected on ‘I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face’ and ‘Doodlin',’ both of which Springfield covered in the '60s.,

lunes, 25 de mayo de 2009

Dusty Springfield: From Dusty with Love (1970) ... plus

In the fall of 1969, Dusty Springfield travelled to Philadelphia to record her second album with Atlantic Records. After the critical acclaim shown to Dusty in Memphis, the label decided to further Dusty Springfield's exploration of R&B stylings and suggested she worked with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. From the start, Dusty loved the trademark sound of the team - a sound she referred to as “melodic R&B” and which would later dominate the ‘70s known as “Philly Soul.” On her Philadelphia album, A Brand New Me (US)/From Dusty with Love (UK), Dusty makes the most of her startling versatility as a vocalist. Indeed, with all tracks co-written by Kenny Gamble and consequently sharing a similar, smooth pop-soul flavor, Dusty had to rely more than ever on her vocal and interpretive resources to give the album a sense of variety. ‘The Star of My Show’ for instance, elicits from her a fine funky performance, with an abrupt orchestrated rift punctuating each refrain. ‘Let Me in Your Way’ finds her muted and ironic, adding a languid shading and toning to the flutey soul girl backing chorus, while ‘Never Love Again’ is a reflective ballad that has the trademark plangent Gamble and Huff bassline and emotive crescendo. Dusty sounds positively liberated ranging through the gospel pop closer ‘Let's Talk It Over,’ an Aretha-inspired ‘Silly, Silly Fool,’ and the Bacharach-styled ballad ‘Joe.’ These get topped off by the upbeat Jackson 5 knockoff ‘Bad Case of the Blues’ and Jerry Butler's ‘Lost’. Released in January 1970, A Brand New Me was at best a moderate transatlantic success, though it is generally regarded as one of Springfield's top-notch albums. This edition features 9 bonus tracks originally issued as A and B-side singles in the US in the years following the album's release, among them recordings made with both Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Ellie Greenwich, as well as tracks from a shelved second album with Gamble & Huff and one track recorded for Philips Records, but never released by Atlantic. If for no other reason, this album is a must for Dusty's rendering of ‘A Brand New Me’, which reached #24 in the top 40 Billboard charts when released. Aretha Franklin later recorded the song after hearing Dusty's version. Hers did not chart. When a white woman outsings the Queen of Soul, it's time to sit up and listen. So, let's do it!,,
Dusty singing 'A Brand New Me' live:
... and 'I Wanna Be a Free Girl':

domingo, 24 de mayo de 2009

Labelle: Labelle (1971)

Released in 1971, this self-titled LP was the first album that Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash recorded under the name Labelle. Never again would they use the name Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, and that's just as well; since the group had a new sound and a new image, it made sense to have a new name. And make no mistake: Labelle was determined to forge ahead in 1971. While pop considerations were a high priority for Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, soul considerations define Labelle: a tough, gritty, gospel-drenched effort with Muscle Shoals-influenced arrangements. Produced by Vicki Wickham (the group's manager) and Kit Lambert, this LP includes outside material and self-penned songs by all three members. 'Morning Much Better' is a slow funk/rocker where Patti gives one of her gutsiest vocals with powerful refrains by Sarah & Nona. ‘Shades of Difference’, the only song co-written by Patti & Nona that the group ever did, tells of historic racial stereotypes. ‘Time’ was written by Patti and husband Armstead Edwards and has a funky bass line that just propels the song along in one of her most blues & rock oriented vocals ever. Wild stuff, not least of which is their version of The Rolling Stones' ‘Wild Horses’ or Laura Nyro's gospel-ish ‘Time And Love’, with vocal background assistance courtesy of The Sweet Inspirations and Judy Clay. And don't forget Sarah Dash's ‘Baby's Out of Sight’, a torrid performance from Patti, Sarah & Nona all about the blues a woman has when her man is gone. The closer, ‘When The Sun Comes Shining Through (The Ladder)’, written by Michael D'Abo from Manfred Mann, is a concise tight-knit arrangement of a beautiful socially aware message song that would have made a great single and possibly the most commercially sounding song on here. These are just some of the highlights on this amazing debut album. For Labelle combining R&B with white pop/rock was revolutionary, and this album has some of the best songs and performances that they ever created.,

Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles: Dreamer (1967) ... plus

Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles' stint with Atlantic in the '60s was not a great commercial success, yielding only a couple minor R&B hits, but that wasn't due to any shortcomings on the records themselves, either in performance or material. Patti and the group recorded fine sides in pop-soul, Motown, Aretha Franklin, and early Philly soul styles, making full use of their powerful gospel-derived lead vocals and harmonies. They were also fortunate to have the talents of some of the top songwriters of the day; in addition to Oldham and Penn, the Bluebelles performed material written by Carole Bayer, Pam Sawyer, Lori Burton, Bert Berns, Jeff Barry, Bacharach-David, Lorraine Ellison, and Curtis Mayfield, as well as songs written by both Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. Nevertheless, the group preferred more aggressive and assertive material and were never quite comfortable with most of these songs. Halfway through their Atlantic Records period (1965 to 1969), Cindy Birdsong left to join the Supremes (replacing Florence Ballard). The remaining trio toured the so-called "chitlin circuit" for the remainder of the decade before signing on with British manager Vicki Wickham in 1970. Wickham renamed the trio Labelle and began working to help the women reconfigure their sound for the '70s, pushing them in sexy, sweaty, gospel-drenched soul direction. But that is another story. One of Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles' best efforts before the quartet downsized into LaBelle is this heartfelt collection of soulful girl group singing titled Dreamer. The quality songs and singing, along with the slick arrangements and orchestrations, put this album over the top. Legendary Southern soul writers Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn wrote the title track, ‘Dreamer’; Curtis Mayfield composed the wet-eyed ‘I'm Still Waiting’; Trade Martin chipped in on ‘Take Me for a Little While’; and Hall-of-Famers Burt Bacharach and Hal David put together ‘Always Something There to Remind Me.’ Not a dog on the disc. Originally released in 1967, Dreamer also features unforgettable live versions of ‘That's How Heartaches Are Made,’ ‘One More Phone Call,’ and the forgotten wedding song ‘Down the Aisle.’ I added as bonus tracks two cuts from her previous LP for Atlantic, released a year before: the original version of 'Groovy Kind of Love' (a big hit for the Mindbenders) and their stirring rendition of 'Over the Rainbow', which is also the album's title.
The girls on a live performance of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow':

sábado, 23 de mayo de 2009

Darlene Love: The Best of Darlene Love (1992) ... plus

Amazingly, Darlene Love, a superb and prolific vocalist, hasn't had much of a track record as a solo singer, at least not in terms of hits. Love began her career in 1957 as a founder member of the Blossoms. This influential girl-group not only enjoyed an extensive recording career in its own right, but also appeared on scores of sessions and as the resident singers on US television's Shindig! She also enjoyed a fruitful association with producer Phil Spector, and sang lead vocals on the Crystals' ‘He's a Rebel’ and ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ by Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Love completed six singles in her own right for Spector's Philles label, including ‘Christmas (Baby Come Home)’, ‘(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry’ and ‘Wait Til' My Bobby Gets Home’, the latter reaching the US Top 30 in 1963. Darlene Love subsequently pursued her solo career on a variety of outlets before being reunited with Spector in 1977 for ‘Lord, If You're a Woman’. Darlene received long overdue recognition in 1993, when a show based on her career, Portrait of a Singer, opened in January at New York City's Bottom Line Club. In 1997 she was awarded considerable back royalties for singing on a number of Spector's records, claiming that she was not rewarded financially because she did not have any formal contract. Love also began an acting career in the ‘80s and ‘90s playing Danny Glover's wife in the four Lethal Weapon movies, and appeared on Broadway in Grease as well as in the short-lived musical adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie. She also starred as Motormouth Maybelle in Broadway's Hairspray until April, 2008. This anthology covers her greatest hits in routine fashion, but the music on The Best of Darlene Love, which is nearly all from a two-year stretch in the early '60s, is anything but routine. I added 11 bonus to the original 15-track release, including the B-sides 'Strange Love', 'Take It from Me' and 'Playing for Keeps', besides a bunch of her Xmas tunes (one of them with Ronnie Spector). I hope you like it!,,

Darlene Love on a performance of Dionne Warwick's classic 'You'll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart':

Here, with The Blossoms, singing 'A Lover's Concerto' (1965):

jueves, 21 de mayo de 2009

Erma Franklin: Golden Classics ... plus (1961-1968)

Erma Franklin's musical accomplishments will forever be overshadowed by those of her younger sister Aretha, especially since she recorded very sporadically through the '60s. As a singer in her own right, Franklin is best known for recording the original version of ‘Piece of My Heart’, a Bert Berns song which became Franklin's first Top Ten R&B hit in 1967. Though Aretha went on to great fame, Erma - like her youngest sister Carolyn - was a struggling musician. Her own solo recording career was hampered by misfortune and by contracts with recording companies (Epic, Shout & Brunswick) who did not find the most suitable material for her husky voice. Although she did secure a minor 1969 hit with ‘Gotta Find Me a Lover (24 Hours a Day)’, her later work failed to match that early promise. From the ‘70s much of her time was spent working for Boysville, a child care charity in Detroit. Franklin died of throat cancer in September 2002. This compilation contains all of Erma’s Shout singles, recorded between 1967 and 1968 (A’s & B’s), considered Erma’s most soulful and best output. Included here are the classic ‘Piece of My Heart’, the blues-soul ballad - written for Erma by her sister Carolyn - ‘Don't Catch the Dog's Bone’, the sizzlingly funky ‘I'm Just Not Ready for Love’ and 'Open Up Your Soul', a song that recalls the kind of material Aretha cut in 1967. The second part of the set consists on six tracks from her earlier Epic years (1961-1963), most of which appeared on her first album Her Name Is Erma, released in 1962. As a complement I have added eight extra tracks from the same period: some more cuts from that debut album; her first single from 1961 ‘Don’t Blame Me / What Kind of Girl’; plus ‘Hello Again’ and ‘Love Is Blind’, which are the flips of ‘It's Over’ and ‘Abracadabra’, both included on the original release. Finally there is the floorfillin' anthem, and almost pro-feminist R&B song 'I Don't Want No Mama's Boy', from 1963. All in all, no less than 22 tracks from Erma Franklin’s Epic & Shout catalogues, which have been inexcusably forgotten for too long (this compilation dates from 1993 !!!) and should be given a properly remastered treatment straightaway.,,,

miércoles, 20 de mayo de 2009

Vicki Anderson: Mother Popcorn - The Anthology (2004)

James Brown said in his autobiography that Vicki Anderson was the best singer he ever had in his revue, which should give you a hint as to her ability when you consider that JB's revue also employed the likes of Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney, who were amazing singers. This collection is the only release of Vicki Anderson's material that is currently available. The majority of the material contained here is from her work with the James Brown band, from the mid ‘60s to the early ‘70s, starting with a live version of ‘Message from the Soul Sisters', with its extremely catchy piano riff and a vampin' groove by the JB's. Several "answer" songs are included, such as ‘Super Good’ (her answer to JB's ‘Super Bad’), her answer to JB's ‘Mother Popcorn’ (subtitled ‘I Got a Mother for You’), and her answer to Jean Knight's ‘Mr. Big Stuff’ entitled ‘I'm Too Tough for Mr. Big Stuff’. Not only are these songs entertaining with her sassy answers to the originals and her irresistable attitude, but they are also horn driven jams that are funky as hell. Also enjoyable are some of the soul ballads included, such as ‘Wide Awake in a Dream’, which was later covered by Lyn Collins. It goes without saying that if you are a fan of James Brown this collection will not disappoint you. In fact, JB can be heard in the background of many of the tracks and is featured on his two duets with Vicki Anderson on ‘Think’ and ‘You've Got the Power’. (It’s interesting to hear the differences between Lyn Collins' version of ‘Think’ and the version on this disc.) Also included is a duet between Vicki Anderson and her husband, JB sideman Bobby Byrd, on the mellow ‘You're Welcome, Stop on By’. Her 1994 recording of the Gil Scott Heron classic ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ with Bossa Nostra shows that she hadn't lost any of her vocal power or ability in the years since her recordings from the ‘70s. Overall this disc is solid, and if you are looking for some rare vintage funk, you should definitely give it a try.
Vicki Anderson sings live 'Call Me', in 1969:
Vicki does the chicken to funky drummer:

martes, 19 de mayo de 2009

Ann Cole: In The Chapel - 30 of Her Greatest Hits! (2001)

Ann Cole was a genuinely great soul singer who had the misfortune to be too far ahead of her time. Born Cynthia Coleman, she had her first hits for Baton Records with ‘Are You Satisfied’ and ‘Easy, Easy Baby’, in 1956 and ‘In the Chapel’, in 1957. However, these songs are not the recordings for which she will be remembered. Though usually associated with Muddy Waters, it was Ann Cole who recorded the original version of ‘Got My Mojo Working’ on January 27, 1957. On a month-long tour through the South together, Ann sang with Muddy's band. ‘Mojo’ had not yet been released, but in spite of Sol Rabonowitz's warning not to sing unreleased material, Ann taught Muddy's band the song and performed it regularly during the tour. Muddy liked the song so much that he asked Leonard Chess to let him record it himself. Chess, who didn't know anything about the Ann Cole recording, gave the Waters record a rush release and both versions came out in the same week. The difference in the lyrics between the two versions resulted from Muddy's inability to remember the original words (written by Preston Foster). Waters claimed to have written the song. Eventually the matter went to court, where it was ruled that Foster was the composer. A year later Ann Cole appeared on the Fats Domino record ‘When I See You’ and soon after she left Baton. Through 1959 to 1960 Ann recorded for Sir Records, MGM and Roulette. Her sole single for the latter, ‘Have Fun’, peaked at # 21 on the R&B charts, while the flip ‘Don't Stop the Wedding’ (an answer to Etta James's ‘Stop the Wedding’) was a pop hit for one week. Not long thereafter, Cole had a serious car accident, which confined her to a wheelchair. That was the premature ending of the musical career of an enormous and incredibly underrated R&B vocalist who happens to be one of my favourites of that era. (Thanks once again, Daniele!!)

lunes, 18 de mayo de 2009

Patti Drew: Workin' on a Groovy Thing - The Best of (1963-69)

Patti Drew began her singing career as the lead singer of the Drew-vels, which included her sisters Lorraine and Erma and bass vocalist Carlton Black. Born December 29, 1944, in Charleston, NC, Drew grew up in Nashville, TN, and later moved with her family to the Chicago suburb of Evanston. Her mother was a domestic worker whose employer, Maury Lathowers, was the regional promoter for Los Angeles, CA-based Capitol Records. She invited Lathowers to come to her church to hear her daughters sing and, impressed, he invited them to his home for an audition and got the group a deal with Capitol. Their debut single , 'Tell Him' was a huge local hit around the Chicago area and charted #90 R&B in early 1964. The Drew-vels broke up later that year, and in 1966, Drew signed to Peter Wright's Quill label. The following year, Drew signed a solo deal with Capitol. Her first single, a re-recording of ‘Tell Him,’ hit #22 on the R&B charts in fall 1967. A Capitol LP of the same name was also issued and, in 1968, her recording of the Neil Sedaka/Roger Atkins song ‘Workin' on a Groovy Thing’ made it to #34 R&B. A Workin' on a Groovy Thing album was issued along with two more Capitol LPs, I've Been Here All the Time (1969) and Wild Is Love (January 1970). Drew's other singles were ‘Hundreds and Thousands of Guys,’ ‘Keep on Movin',’ and ‘My Lover's Prayer.’ In 1971, she left the music business, making a short comeback in 1975. This collection is a long-overdue look at the range of work she cut for Capitol. Tracks include all the aforementioned, plus ‘There'll Never Be Another’, ‘Fever’, ‘Just Can't Forget About You’, ‘Where Is Daddy’, ‘Stop & Listen’, ‘Can't Shake It Loose’, ‘Sufferer’, ‘I've Been Here All The Time’, ‘The Love That A Woman Should Give To A Man’, ‘He's The One’, ‘Wild Is Love’, and ‘It's Just A Dream’. The set also features 3 bonus tracks from Drew's previous years as a member of The Drew-Vels: ‘I've Known’, ‘It's My Time’, and an early version of ‘Tell Him’.,

The Emotions - Untouched ... plus (1969-1974)

The Stax roster was heavily male-oriented with guys like Isaac Hayes, William Bell, Eddie Floyd and Rufus Thomas. Soul sisters had a tough time at Stax, for whatever reason: aside from Carla, there was Mable John, Judy Clay, Shirley Brown and Ruby Johnson. Female groups fared even less well at the Memphis diskerie: while Motown had a truckload of female acts and a few male teams made an impact at Stax, no female groups achieved any kind of resounding success; with the exception of The Emotions. Sisters Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette were signed to Stax Records in 1967 and two years later, the trio released the sweet-yet-soulful ‘So I Can Love You’. This was not only the group’s first major hit with the label, but sister, Sheila Hutchinson, wrote it. After that, The Emotions on a hot streak and teamed up with producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter for their next big hit single at Stax, titled ‘Show Me How’, from the album Untouched, released in 1971. By this time, The Emotions were running up the charts consistently with hit records. Unfortunately, the label was beginning to experience some financial difficulties and a subsequent album was never released. Once the trio left Stax, they hit a new level of success after teaming up with Earth Wind & Fire founder Maurice White. Working with White at Columbia Records, the group scored its biggest hit with ‘Best of My Love’ in 1977, following it with the dance/pop/R&B smash ‘Boogie Wonderland’. However, soul music connoisseurs never forgot their Stax recordings, even though they didn’t create the same kind of response as the ladies’ work with White. You can hear this pioneering female trio offering their own distinctive sibling-fused harmonies on their second album for the label, ‘Untouched’. I added no less than 12 bonus tracks here, which make 23 tracks in all, consisting on many of the singles (and all of the hits) the trio recorded for Stax between 1969 and 1974. Included are ‘So I Can Love You’, ‘The Best Part of a Love Affair’, ‘Stealing Love’, ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ and ‘Heart Association’, among others.,

domingo, 17 de mayo de 2009

Freda Payne: Band of Gold (1970) ... plus

Schooled in jazz and classical music, urbane singer Freda Payne attended the Institute of Musical Arts and worked with Pearl Bailey before recording one jazz-oriented album for Impulse in 1963 and, three years later, another one for MGM. In 1969, her old friends back home in Detroit, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland, Jr., persuaded her to sign with their newly-formed record label Invictus. Her first single there, ‘The Unhooked Generation’, managed to be a minor R&B hit, but it was its magnificent follow-up that established Payne's reputation. The team, under the pen name 'Edith Wayne and Ron Dunbar' offered her a song entitled ‘Band of Gold’, an ambiguous wedding-night drama which became an instant pop smash in 1970. It reached #3 in the U.S. and #1 in the UK, giving Payne her first gold record. On the album of the same title that followed, Holland/Dozier/Holland took Payne's deep soulful voice further away from that sophisticated pop of earlier years, and hooked it up with a mix of fuzzy Detroit soul and sweeter southern styles. Besides the two aforementioned singles, the LP included loads of other great cuts, like ‘The Easiest Way to Fall’, ‘Deeper and Deeper’, and ‘This Girl Is a Woman Now’. This success prepared the way for several more excellent singles like ‘You Brought the Joy’, and the Vietnam War protest song ‘Bring the Boys Home’ (U.S. Billboard Hot 100 #12, 1971; her second gold record). A few more albums were released before she left Invictus in 1973. After that, she would record albums for ABC/Dunhill, Capitol and Sutra, but never found the commercial success that she had enjoyed with Invictus. I added to the original ‘Band of Gold’ album 5 bonus tracks, consisting on the three singles she released in 1971: ‘Cherish What Is Dear to You (While It Is Near to You)’, ‘Bring the Boys Home / I Shall Not Be Moved’ and You Brought the Joy / Suddenly It's Yesterday.,,
Freda Payne performs her biggest hit 'Band of Gold' on Soul Train:
Here, singing live 'Deeper and Deeper', a song that reached #24 on US charts and #9 on the R&B charts:

sábado, 16 de mayo de 2009

Merry Clayton: Merry Clayton (1971)

Best known for her background vocal work on the Rolling Stones' legendary single ‘Gimme Shelter,’ Merry Clayton had a long and successful career as backup singer, solo artist and actress. Born December 25, 1948 (hence the rather "holiday" feel of her first name), in New Orleans, LA, Clayton recorded tracks with Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Ray Charles, and Joe Cocker, as well as being a member of Ray Charles' Raelettes in the early '60s. Her solo debut, ‘The Doorbell Rings,’ was released in 1963, and she eventually found success as a session singer for the aforementioned artists. She followed up her best-known work – the appearance on ‘Gimme Shelter’– with a solo album of the same name, and during the '70s managed some minor R&B hits with tracks like ‘After All This Time’, in 1971, and ‘Oh No Not My Baby’, in 1973. After a brief hiatus from the music business, Clayton did minor acting work, appearing in the film Maid to Order and Cagney & Lacey. She returned to the music side of things in the ‘90s, albeit as a gospel singer. This album, released in 1971, is Clayton's fourth after Brewster McCloud, Gimme Shelter and Celebration. The set was done in LA with arrangements by insiders that include Jerry Peters, Carole King and Billy Preston. It features some tight and sometimes funky backing by the likes of David T Walker, Wilton Felder, Paul Humphrey, and Curtis Amy. There are a few tasty bits on here, including 'Southern Man' and a nice cover of Bill Withers' ‘Grandma's Hands’, and Jerry Peters ‘Love Me or Let Me Be Lonely’. Other tracks include ‘Same Old Story’, ‘Walk on In’ and ‘A Song for You’. Thanks to EliotW for this!!,

viernes, 15 de mayo de 2009

Carol Anderson: Sad Girl (2004)

Sad Girl is the legacy of Detroit's lost soul sister Carol Anderson, who passed away in 1984 unaware of the small but loyal following she has on the underground soul scene, particularly in the UK, where she is adored by Northern Soul fans. This great tribute album, compiled by David Welding, features every track Carol cut during her short career, including ‘Sad Girl’, ‘Taking My Mind off Love’, ‘I'll Get off at the Next Stop’, ‘We've Got Enough’ and ‘Tomorrow Is Not a Promise’, among others. Belated recognition at last for one of soul music's most underrated singers. Thanks to Daniele for passing me this!
1. Sad Girl
2. You Boy
3. We've Got Enough
4. I'm Not Worried
5. You've Got It Coming (What Goes Around, Comes Around)
6. One Man's Woman
7. I Found Love
8. Party People (Come to Life)
9. Holding On
10. Taking My Mind off Love
11. Master Plan (I Love You, I Do)
12. Come on Over Tonight
13. You Want It
14. Ain't Giving Up
15. I'll Get off at The Next Stop
16. It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog
17. Tomorrow Is Not a Promise

miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2009

Etta James Sings Funk (1970)

Etta James Sings Funk seems to be one of the least known of Miss James' records. Although recorded in Chicago, most of the LP breathes that Southern Soul vibe that graced 'Tell Mama'. ‘Tighten Up Your Own Thing’ has big-voiced Etta in a ferocious funk bag. A mildly political song, this horn riddled, busy “sock-it-to-me” workout is every bit the equal to James Brown's then current output. But despite the album's title, there are quite a few beautifully arranged, slow paced gems here as well. Case in point is the lamenting, heavenly cruising ‘Sweet Memories’. The funk returns with a vengeance on ‘Quick Reaction & Satisfaction’, a fatback vamp of Memphis-styled nitty gritty groove, layered in brass and propelled by an incessantly poppin' bass. Miss James heads South even deeper as she belts out the slow burnin' blues-drenched romp ‘Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing’, and really tears it up with ‘My Man Is Together’, a masterful slab of gutbucket, full-throttled Southern Soul. Closing side A is the exquisite ‘Are My Thoughts With You’, one of the most haunting tracks of the album. Greasy, well-oiled, brassy full-powered Soul opens the flipside, with Etta churning out another gospelfide vocal on ‘The Man I Love’, after which the more rock-oriented heavy tour de force, ‘Sound of Love’, follows. ‘When I Stop Dreaming’ is turned, through Etta’s raw vocals, into a gospelish Southern Soul belter that even the at times intrusive arrangements can't drown out. Things get far sweatier on the last two selections here: the bluesy, persistently slow grooving ‘What Fools We Mortals Be’ features a dazzling, horn heavy finale, while ‘Your Replacement’ closes the album in an apt Southern Soul-styled sermonizing vein. What's left to say: Etta James Sings Funk is an underrated, sadly forgotten masterpiece.

What More Can a Woman Do? Brunswick & Chi-Sound Sisters of Soul (1999)

The year 1960 found the Brunswick label on the threshold of its fifth decade. The venerable imprint had survived several changes of ownership during a lifespan which straddled the jazz, R&B and soul eras. On the distaff side the company had played host to jazz immortals like Mildred Bailey and the Boswell Sisters in the ‘30s, while R&B divas such as Edna McGriff, Zilla Mayes and a pubescent Gladys Knight enhanced its ‘50s roster. Equally, throughout the ‘60s and well into the ‘70s Brunswick was home to an unprecedented array of female talent – names both old and new – whose legacy is saluted here. Many of these artists never got the same attention as their male counterparts; the scenario usually consisted of one or two hits, then a slide into obscurity. Only Barbara Acklin hit the heights as far as pop success went. She sounds strong on ‘Fool, Fool Look in the Mirror,’ ‘Love, You Are Mine Today,’ and the scorching ‘Love Makes a Woman.’ Slotting in neatly between Barbara Acklin's freshman outing and her chart breakthrough, came a brace of releases from Jackie Ross. Jackie's Chess Records hits aren't featured, but her Brunswick offering ‘Love Is Easy to Lose’, the first of only two singles she cut for the company, is quite as good. Other highlights include sassy Sugar Pie De Santo's ‘The One Who Really Loves You,’ Della Reese's ‘Nothing But a True Love,’ September’s ‘Caution’ and Lynn Roman's ‘I Don't Need No Sympathy.’ Linda Hopkins, Erma Franklin, Inez Johnston (aka Inez Foxx), Big Maybelle, Margie Alexander, La Vern Baker, and others also contribute. The awesome variety of female talent represented on this anthology spanning the years 1960 to 1977, shows us why Brunswick, judged on its classy roster of women, deserves to be up there with Motown and Chess in the pantheon of classic soul labels. If you’re still unconvinced after spinning this treasure-chest of goodies then may I suggest that you double your daily dosage. A cure is guaranteed. Taken from the original liner notes.

martes, 12 de mayo de 2009

The Supremes Sing Motown (1967)

Anchored by two number-one hit singles, ‘You Keep Me Hanging On,’ and ‘Love Is Here and Now You're Gone,’ this LP features Holland, Dozier & Holland compositions and productions, and it ranks among The Supremes’ best. Most of the album was recorded during the spring and summer of 1966 and it features, alongside those two recordings, a handful of other originals, including ‘Remove This Doubt’ and ‘(You're Gone) But Always in My Heart’. Also present are covers of tunes popularized by label mates. Ross's soprano may not have the bite of Ron Isley's tenor, but she still does a better than average job on ‘I Guess I’ll Always Love You.’ Two Four Tops' remakes, ‘I'll Turn to Stone,’ and ‘It's the Same Old Song,’ are just as groovy as the originals. An update of Martha & Vandellas' ‘Love Is Like a Heat Wave’ fails to live up to the dynamics of the original. The Vandellas' version was special, while this one comes off like another song for the session. ‘Mother You, Smother You’ is too formulaic, but the singing and lyrics places it well above what other girl groups were releasing at the time. Ditto for ‘Going Down for the Third Time.’ Any Supremes' album track would be an A-side for most artists, but this album in particular exhibits some of the greatest pop song writing and studio instrumentation of all time. The prolific writers did an excellent job on which turned out to be the Supreme's final album fully overseen by the songwriting team. Within months of this release, the trio would stage a work slowdown in protest to Motown CEO's Berry Gordy's business decisions. By the end of 1967, HDH had departed Motown, but not before producing four final Supremes singles (‘The Happening’, 'Reflections’, ‘In and Out of Love’, and ‘Forever Came Today’). The Supremes sing Motown is very special to me as it was the album which introduced me to Motown music and turned me into a Supremes’ fanatic. I wanted to be a Spanish Diana Ross! Of course, that was many years ago... Anyway, I hope you enjoy it too.,
The Supremes (Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross) performing 'Love is Here and Now You're Gone' on the Andy Williams Show, Jan 22 1967:
The girls singing live their hit from 1966, 'You Keep Me Hanging On':

domingo, 10 de mayo de 2009

Carolyn Franklin: Sister Soul - The Best of the RCA Years (1969-1976)

The fates of the Franklin sisters comprise a classic American tragedy. One, Aretha, would go onto spectacular fame and worldwide acclaim, while her sisters, Erma and Carolyn, had brief careers as recording artists but never enjoyed anywhere near the same success. Far worse though, both succumbed to cancer. The youngest of the three, Carolyn may have been in her sisters' shadows but she also contributed to both their careers as a songwriter. Especially for Aretha, Carolyn helped co-write her enormously successful ‘Save Me’ and was also behind the mesmerizing torch song ‘Ain't No Way.’ Carolyn released a handful of singles in the mid-‘60s but it wasn't until 1968, when she signed with RCA, that she had her first major opportunity to make it on her own.What is readily obvious from any of her recordings in that era is that she was not trying to follow Aretha's footsteps in either singing or sound. She worked with production that was a bit looser, freer, and more open to righteous influences than some of her sister's hit-bound sessions. It is also true that Carolyn wasn't blessed with the singular voice that Aretha had, but she shows the influence of good training and natural ability to project herself with power and clarity. This package anthologizes virtually all of Carolyn's RCA singles as well as a hand-picked selection of the very best tracks from her four albums for RCA, including work arranged by Horace Ott, Wade Marcus, Bert De Coteaux, and other soul legends. There's a good deal of funk in the mix here: heavy bottoms on the tunes that really make them snap alongside the righteous vocals. The package is easily one of the hardest-hitting sets of female soul you could ever hope to find. 22 tracks in all, including ‘If You Want Me’, ‘There I Go’, ‘Ain't That Groovy’, ‘Boxer’, ‘Reality’, ‘Chain Reaction’, ‘Don't Wake Me Up in the Morning, Michael", ‘Not on the Outside’, ‘Boy I Love You’, ‘You Are Everything’, ‘Shattered Pride’, ‘I Can't Help My Feeling So Blue’, ‘As Long As You Are There’, and ‘You Can Have My Soul’.,

Paulette Reaves: Secret Lover (1976)

Let’s go for another great soul sister from Miami’s TK Records. R&B singer and mother of Atlanta Hawk's 2005 NBA Slam Dunk Champion, Josh Smith, Paulette Reaves was born and raised in Miami, being the eighth child of the late Bishop Norman and Geraldine Reaves. She recorded her first album for the Blue Candle label in 1976, entitled Secret Lover; but she made a further major impression with the Clarence Reid penned and produced 'Jazz Freak', released on the Blue Candle label (via TK) in 1977. It was taken from the album All About Love, issued later the same year. ‘You Are My Star’, another track taken from that album, was released on an Expansion Records compilation during the ‘90s. On the single front, Paulette achieved success on the rare groove scene with her single ‘Let Me Wrap You in My Love / Your Real Good’, recorded for the label in 1977. She also had another hit in the ‘70s with ‘Your Real Good Thing's Gonna Come to an End.’ Upon marrying Walter Smith and having four children, Paulette sadly gave up performing music. But like Al Green, Betty Wright, Joe Simon, Candy Staton, Howard Hewitt, Dave Hollister, Chante Moore, Kenny Lattimore and SWV's Coko, she has reinvented her career with a new focus and a new sound, reappearing a couple of years ago with a gospel album called My Time to Worship, released on her Kasola label. Anyhow, today we'll look back on her earlier career and, most specifically, on her very first album on Blue Candle, Secret Lover. This fine and rare LP was originally released in 1976, with production by Clarence Reid, and it has got a number of good songs, including the ballads ‘Take Back Those Things I Said’ and ‘There Is a Fire Down Below’. Once more I would like to thank Lohmax – one of my most cherished music suppliers! ;-) – for sharing this great lost album with me. Oh, by the way, I got the feeling scottdavida is going to like this one (in case he didn’t get it yet)!,,

sábado, 9 de mayo de 2009

Gwen McCrae: Rockin' Chair / Something So Right (1975-76)

The wife of George McCrae, Gwen made her mark in the mid-70s with a delightful series of southern-style soul numbers produced by Steve Alaimo and Clarence Reid for Henry Stone's Miami-based TK operation. She first found success with a astonishing remake of the old Bobby Bland gospel blues, ‘Lead Me On’ (R&B number 32, 1970). The record was recorded for TK Records, but leased to Columbia Records. The following year, now on TK's subsidiary label Cat, she followed with an equally remarkable remake of the Ed Townsend oldie, ‘For Your Love’ (R&B number 17). McCrae had her only pop hit with ‘Rockin' Chair’ in 1975, when the number 1 R&B hit crossed over to reach the US Top 10. ‘Love Insurance’ (R&B number 16) was a respectable follow-up in 1975. TK collapsed in 1980, but she still had a number of hits for Atlantic Records during that decade, eventually gaining cult status on the UK's Northern Soul scene. The sexy, danceable, early-‘70s Miami Sound, for which she is best remembered, is much in evidence on this release of two of her finest albums from that era. Rockin’ Chair's title track is undoubtedly the hightlight here, but the rest of the songs, from the raw, funky ‘Move Me Baby’ to the monster sample cut ‘90% of Me Is You’ live up to its high standard. Other nice ones are the wonderfully titled ‘Your Love Is Worse Than a Cold’, ‘He Don't Ever Lose His Groove’, ‘He Keeps Something Groovy Going On’, and ‘It's Worth The Hurt’. Something So Right is an oft-overlooked gem that was cut during the best part of her 70's career on the Cat label. The record's got a good mix of deep southern soul tracks and funkier modern soul numbers, and Gwen's voice is right on the money on just about every cut. Clarence Reid wrote most of the material, and great cuts include ‘Love Without Sex’, ‘Mr. Everything’, ‘Damn Right It's Good’, and ‘Iron Woman’.,
Gwen McCrae singing her big hit 'Rockin' Chair' on a clip from last year:

jueves, 7 de mayo de 2009

Tina Britt: Blue All the Way (1965-69)

Tina Britt is an obscure R&B singer with a rather peculiar vibrato voice, of whom very little is known, even when she had two memorable Top 40 R&B hits. Apparently, she was one of Sue Records founder Henry "Juggy Murray" Jones's favourite artists and, listening to this great selection of tracks, it is easy to understand why. Blue All The Way is her 1969 album for Minit records, which is bolstered here by 8 bonus tracks, three of them previously unreleased: ‘It's My Thing’, an answer to the Isley Bros., ‘He Put the Hurt on Me’, the finest of her three Otis Redding covers and a cool version of ‘Doctor Feel Good’. It also includes her biggest hit, the standout single penned by Ashford & Simpson and Jo Armstead ‘The Real Thing’, which climbed sure-footedly to #20 on Billboard's R&B chart. The song, like most of her early work, apes Motown arrangements and production and sounds like a thinly disguised knock-off of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' ‘Heatwave’. It was also recorded in 1965 by The Chiffons, British singer Kim D. and Betty Everett (who made the original version); but Tina’s rendition adds a lot more pep and dancefloor groove than those. Most of the twelve tracks on the original Blue All The Way album are covers, featuring the blues of Jimmy Reed (‘Bright Lights Big City’) and Big Bill Broonzy (‘Key to the Highway’), Memphis Soul from Otis Redding (‘My Lover's Prayer’) and Don Covay (‘Sookie Sookie’), jazz from Billie Holiday (‘God Bless The Child’) and the current rock hit, Credence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Born on a Bayou’. Under the guidance of Juggy Murray, Tina takes all these classics and beats the hell out of them. Listen how Juggy captures the sound of the Memphis brass on ‘Sookie Sookie’ and delivers a huge slab of punchy funky Northern Soul! The album might have been too much of a mixture to be a commercial success, but the world has been a poorer place without any further Tina Britt recordings. Look out for the unusual album cover of Tina seated on a chair: that must have been quite futuristic in 1969!,


miércoles, 6 de mayo de 2009

The Raelettes: Hits and Rarities (1993)

As the longtime backing singers behind Ray Charles, the Raelettes deftly navigated the tightrope separating the sacred and the profane, infusing their gospel-inspired call-and-response vocals with a powerful eroticism that vaulted Charles to new levels of commercial and creative triumph. The roots of the Raelettes lie in another girl group, the Cookies, formed in 1954 by vocalists Earl-Jean McCrea, Margie Hendrix, and Pat Lyles. Later on, Mary Ann Fisher would join the group and the new lineup would be rechristened the Raelettes. When Fisher and Hendrix opted to remain with Charles full-time, the remaining Cookies returned to their own recording career, creating an opening for Della Bea Robinson and Darlene McRae to join. The Raelettes' musical contributions are undeniable: it is impossible to imagine classics like ‘The Right Time,’ ‘What'd I Say,’ or ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ scaling such heights without their involvement. Although they never gained fame for their own singles, they actually had a number of pop and R&B hits, but the group's revolving-door lineup - famous alumni include Minnie Riperton, Clydie King, Merry Clayton, Edna Wright, latter-day Supreme Susaye Greene and Mable John - effectively crippled its momentum. This Italian compilation collects all of the Raelettes’ singles plus some rarities recorded for the Tangerine label between 1967 and 1972. ‘I'm Getting 'Long Alright’, featured here, was their only top 40 appearance; other cuts like ‘One Hurt Deserves Another’/ ‘Bad Water’ and ‘I Want To (Do Everything For You)’ all cracked the hot 100, but deserved better. Highlights would have to be the tough as nails version of Charles' ‘Leave My Man Alone’ and their heartbreaking take on Jimmy Cliff's ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, but honestly this set is just fantastic from start to finish, filled with many hard-to-find gems.,,

The Raelettes (Vernita Moss, Susaye Green, Mable John, Dorothy Berry & Estella Yarbrough) with Ray Charles singing 'Shake' on The Dick Cavett Show, 1972:

Ray Charles and the original Raelettes introducing 'Hit the Road Jack' to the American TV audience. This would later be one of the biggest hits for Charles:

martes, 5 de mayo de 2009

Big Maybelle: The Complete Okeh Sessions (1952-55)

Her mountainous stature matching the sheer soulful power of her massive vocal talent, Big Maybelle was one of the premier R&B chanteuses of the ‘50s. Her deep, gravelly voice was as singular as her recorded output for Okeh and Savoy, which ranged from down-in-the-alley blues to pop-slanted ballads. She appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, and acquired a large following among lovers of the blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and rock and roll. Near the end of her life she even covered hits by the Beatles, Donovan and ? & the Mysterians. Big Maybelle's career was hampered throughout and cut short by a severe drug addiction, but she packed a lot of living into her shortened lifespan. It's worth mentioning how, almost half a century later, the power in her Okeh sessions is still palpable. With her bold, gritty sound, she comes off like nothing so much as a female Howlin' Wolf, and one can't imagine her not being an influence on the full-throttle blues of Etta James, Aretha, Janis Joplin and countless others. ‘So Good to My Baby’ features typically microphone-distorting belting from the singer, and an appropriately blazing horn section. ‘Gabbin' Blues,’ her 1952 Okeh debut smash, is a humorous dialogue between Maybelle and gossiping rival Rose Marie McCoy, the tune's co-writer. One of the most stirring cuts here is ‘Ocean of Tears,’ a percolating, minor-key tune in which Maybelle bemoans her sorrowful state with an unforgettably cathartic angst. Also impressive, though, are ballads such as ‘You'll Never Know,’ ‘Ain't No Use,’ and ‘You'll Be Sorry,’ which show a pleasant, softer side to Maybelle's craft. ‘Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On,’ -a song that she took to the top of the R&B charts before Jerry Lee Lewis turned it into a rock & roll anthem-, her 1955 single 'One Monkey Don't Stop No Show' and 1954's 'I'm Getting 'Long Alright', are also standouts. New York session wizards such as tenor saxophonist Sam "The Man" Taylor and guitarist Mickey Baker provide great support throughout. The tracks contained on this album showcase one of the greatest blues singers of all time, at her prime.,

lunes, 4 de mayo de 2009

Cissy Houston: Midnight Train to Georgia - The Janus Years (1970-75)

A soul singer who is known primarily as Whitney Houston's mother rather than for her own considerable talents, Cissy Houston was born Emily Drinkard and began her career as a member of her family's gospel group, the Drinkards. In the early '60s, she joined forces with a floating group of singers known simply as the Group (including at various points Doris Troy and Dee Dee Warwick) to provide backup vocals on numerous soul, pop, and rock sessions. They contributed to many Atlantic sessions in particular, and Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler signed the act to the label in 1967. Named the Sweet Inspirations, they recorded some excellent gospel-flavored soul in the late '60s, managing a few hits before Houston left to go solo at the end of 1969. She recorded an impressive album for Commonwealth United in 1970, Presenting Cissy Houston, which yielded a couple of small R&B/pop hits: ‘I'll Be There’ and ‘Be My Baby.’ Much in the manner of the Sweet Inspirations, although the material consisted of fairly well-worn soul, rock, and pop tunes, the state-of-the-art arrangements and gospel-ish vocals made them sound fresh. Her contract was sold to Janus Records later in the year, and while she issued a few singles there until the middle of the '70s, she never received the support and promotion she deserved. A case in point was her little-known original version of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’ taken to the top of the charts about a year later by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Houston recorded several albums for Private Stock beginning in the late '70s, as well as continuing her regular work on sessions and commercial jingles. This superlative out-of-print compilation gathers almost everything Cissy recorded between 1970 and 1975, including most of her aforementioned 1970 album, ten songs that were previously available only on singles, and a couple that were previously unreleased in the U.S. Highlights include excellent interpretations of two Bacharach-David classics, 'I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself', ‘This Empty Place’ and Tim Hardin's ‘Hang On to a Dream.’ Needless to say, Cissy Houston is one of my all-time favourite singers. Listen to this and you’ll understand why!

Cissy Houston performs her killer disco track 'Think It Over' on Soul Alive, 1978:

Here's a rare gospel treat from Cissy, recorded on VHS tape via TV antenna in the late '80s:

domingo, 3 de mayo de 2009

Carla Whitney with Choker Campbell & the Super Sounds (1975)

Carla Whitney is an obscure soul singer from Canada who cut just one album, backed by Choker Campbell & the Super Sounds, for the Attic label. Arranged and produced by Campbell himself (a little known producer and artist who worked for Motown at one time), it is strung together beautifully throughout. The album was issued in 1975, a time when funk was no longer dominating and on the way out, and disco was wheedling its way onto the dance floors. What is heard on this album doesn't hint at that transition though, as what is to be found here is a no-nonsense, straight-ahead soul and funk record. The first song, ‘Questions’ starts off with an explosion of strings and then is kept chugging along with rich bass work, while ‘What Made You Change Your Mind’ is a wonderfully charming and melodic three-minute slice of soul. Another gem is the single ‘I've Been Hurt (So Many Times)’. Starting with a simple guitar melody, it slowly blooms into a full expression of itself with horns and strings adding to the mix. Complimenting the soul are the great funkin' tracks marching along side them. The cover of the Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ is just sublime and the same can be said of the underground classic ‘War’ and the igneous funk smasher 'It's You for Me'. The songs are mainly original compositions, with the lyrics penned by Carla and Mr. Campbell. Not enough kudos can be given to the singer, the producer and the unlisted session musicians: the whole package it's just magnificent. Even if the album is not given an official title, the songs do sound great side-by-side and that's what really counts. I am sure you are going to love this!,