Gwen McCrae – Rockin' Chair (1975) & Something So Right (1976)

This one goes out to Agnieszka in Atlanta, may this record steam your windows up babe.


Gwen McCrae

Rockin’ Chair
1975 Cat Records (CAT-2605)

1 Rockin’ Chair (Reid, Clarke) 3:25
2 Move Me, Baby (Alaimo, Casey) 4:55
3 He Keeps Something Groovy Going On (Reid, Kitts) 3:02
4 Let Them Talk (Thompson) 2:55
5 For Your Love (Townsend) 2:58
6 It’s Worth the Hurt (Reid) 2:21
7 90% of Me Is You (Reid) 2:52
8 It Keeps on Raining (Reid) 3:09
9 He Doesn’t Ever Lose His Groove (Hale) 2:59
10 Your Love Is Worse Than a Cold Love (Reid) 2:44 [single, CD bonus cut]


Something So Right
1976 CAT Records (CAT-2608)

1 Something So Right (Simon) 5:24
2 Tears on My Pillow (Lewis, Bradford) 4:00
3 Love Without Sex (Reid) 4:50
4 Mr. Everything (Reid) 3:42
5 Iron Woman (Reid) 4:12
6 Damn Right It’s Good (Reid) 4:00
7 Let Nature Take Its Course (Reid) 3:30
8 I’ve Got Nothing to Lose But the Blues (Reid) 4:42

Florida-native Gwen McCrae is best known for disco club rug-burners from the early 80s, but her first few long-players were cut for the southern soul label CAT records (subsidiary of TK Productions). And Southern Soul doesn’t get much better than this. It was hard for me to believe that the first of these, ‘Rockin’ Chair’, was not conceived as a cohesive record but as a collection of previously-released sides and some new material hurriedly assembled to follow up on the enormous success of that boisterous single. Let me be your rocking chair, indeed. There is not a dull moment on this record but by anyone’s reckoning “90% of Me is You” stands out in jaw-dropping soul-dripping sonic viscerality. An earlier 1973 single that did not appear on the album, “Your Love Is Worse Than a Cold Love” is a blistering anthem for anyone who has found themselves loving somebody who doesn’t know what or who they want, perhaps dividing them with someone else, and all the ambiguity, frustration, and tension that ensues. Just a beautifully perfect soul cut.

‘Something So Right’ is a much more downbeat, mellow affair that was put together in a more traditional way as an album. Two cover songs — the Paul Simon title cut, and Little Anthony & The Imperials “Tears on My Pillow” – open the album. Following that is the revolutionary “Love Without Sex” which, while written by a man and not nearly as flamboyant as Betty Davis’s work, is still a pioneering cut as far as articulating an assertive female sexuality in an industry and society dominated by men. It’s also a bad-ass song. The track “Mr. Everything” may have been written by producer Clarence Reid but it owes a flute chart to Isaac Hayes “Rock Me Easy Baby” released the same year (it could perhaps have flowed the other direction, I am not sure of the exact release dates..). The fine liner notes from Tony Rouse in this CD reissue argue that “Something So Right” is Gwen at her best, yet I still find the hodge-podge of the “Rocking Chair” LP to be a more exciting listen, especially when the non-LP singles are included with it as on this collection. Both albums are stunning and phenomenal, so much so that they testify to the injustice embedded in the politics of the record industry and its dependence on sexual and economic inequality that would keep an artist like Gwen McCrae from having – without one exceptional exception – much chart success and being lauded as the soul sensation she should have been in the 1970s. Don’t miss this one, most of the world did the first time around.

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