Prince – Around The World In A Day (1985) (Paisley Park ~ 9 25286-1 ~ SRC Pressing)

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Prince & The Revolution – Around The World In A Day
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC & mp3 | 300 dpi LP Artwork
904 MB (24/96) + 323 MB (16/44) + 113 MB (320) |  Direct Links | Genre: Prince | 1985
Warner Brothers / Paisley Park ~ 9 25286-1 ~ SRC Pressing

I bought this album the same week it was released with money I earned from my paper route as a ten year-old kid.  In a previous post, I described this album as a “the gateway drug” to a universe of unheard sounds that would shape my musical tastes in unexpected ways for years to come.  It may not have have been Prince’s most consistent record from start to finish, but it was a bold and unpredictable artistic statement from somebody who could have just released Purple Rain II and made everybody happy.  The critics loved to hate this album.  His fans have always known better. Continue reading

Orlandivo – Orlandivo (1977) (2003 Japan)

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Orlandivo
Orlandivo
1977 Continental
2003 Japan / Odeon TOCP 67178

1     Tudo Jóia
2     Um Abraço No Bengil
3     Gueri Gueri
4     Tamanco No Samba
5     Juazeiro
6     Onde Anda O Meu Amor
7     Disse-Me-Disse
8     Palladium
9     Bolinha De Sabão
10     A Felicidade

Producer – Orlandivo
Mixed By – Dan Martim, Elinho
Lacquer Cut By [Engenheiro de Corte] – Jorge Emilio     Isaac

Accordion – Sivuca
Acoustic Guitar [Violão] – Durval Ferreira
Arranged By, Clavinet, Electric Piano, Organ, Piano –     João Donato
Backing Vocals [Coro] – Luna (68), Suzana
Bassoon [Fagote] – Airton
Cuica –
Double Bass [Contra Baixo] – Alexandre
Drums [Bateria] – Mamão, Papão (tracks: B2, B3)
Edited By – Yedo Golveia
Engineer – Celinho, Deraldo, Luiz Paulo
Flute  – Copinha, Geraldo
Guitar  – Jose Menezes (tracks: A1, A2, A3)
Percussion – Ariovaldo, Chico Batera, Geraldo Bongo, Hermes , Helcio Milito
Surdo – Antenor

Coordinator – J. F. Blumenschein Filho
Creative Director – Paulo Rocco
Layout, Design – Luiz Tadeu Da Silva
Liner Notes – Chico Anísio
Art Direction – A. Lopes Machado

OBITUARY by Marcelo Pinheiro

“In the early hours of this Wednesday (8th of February), singer and composer Orlandivo passed away at 79 years old. Family members made the announcement, but did not communicate any further details, such as cause of death or the locations where the wake and burial of the artist would occur. Author of more than 200 songs, for enthusiasts of his work Orlandivo had interpreters of such caliber as Jorge Ben Jor, Dóris Monteiro, Wilson Simonal, Claudette Soares, João Donato, Elza Soares, and Ângela Maria. Among these several hundred songs, full of swing and irreverence, are classics like Tamanco no Samba, Bolinha de Sabão, Samba Toff, Onde Anda o Meu Amor, Vô Batê Pá Tu, and Palladium. In spite of such a strong resumé of hits, and for being considered by the bohemian carioca crowd as the King of Sambalanço – a highly successfully musical sub-genre of the 1960s with roots in bossa nova, jazz, and Latin rhythms – Orlandivo remained practically unknown by the great majority of the country. A Catarinense native of Itajaí, after a brief period in São Paulo, he went to live with family in Rio de Janeiro at 9 years of age. At 6, he had contact with this first musical instrument, a harmonica given to him by his father, who traveled the country and Europe on ships in the Merchant Marines – according to him, his uncommon name must have come from this, probably a corruption of Orlandini, seen when his father would make frequent voyages to Italy. A great inspiration as a vocalist for Jorge Ben Jor at the beginning of his career, Orlandivo made it big in the period 1961/62, a time when he reigned absolute as the crooner of the group led by organist Ed Lincoln. In 1962, he released his first LP, A Chave do Sucesso, on the Musicdisc label, a title that made an allusion to one of the composer’s characteristics, the use of a key-ring as a percussive instrument.  In 2013, the cult-favorite self-titled album released by Orlandivo in 1977, with arrangements and collaborations with João Donato, was one of the 50 albums highlighted in the column Quintessência.


ORIGINAL ALBUM LINER NOTES:

After a few years only producing albums, Orlandivo  changed his path.  After all, who else in the country could make the “sound of Divo.”  He is back at it again, younger than when he was mere lad, more experienced, knowing much more about things, with that certain sauce and that swing that helped to create his style.  Orlandivo sings simply and easily, so simple that it seems easy to sing, so easy that it motivates us to also try.  But woe to whoever tries to imitate him.  No, my brother!  Orlandivo is Orlandivo , personal, particular, non-transferable, alive, malandro, sly, so in tune he’s uncool, rascal doing his own thing.  I don’t know if the locksmith is still in business, but I guarantee that the one in his hand is the key to success.  That’s it!   It was good luck for those people who, during this time, lived depending on his songs.  Now, I don’t know!  He’s making them himself, singing them himself.  Better for you, getting you back fresh as a daisy, this really cool guy who sings as well as we think we sing when we’re in the shower.  Thank you, Divo, for coming back  with your good vibes.   We were needing you.

20.11.76 Chico Anísio


A lot had happened in Brazilian music between the last time Orlandivo fronted a group back with Ed Lincoln, and this tremendous collaboration with João Donato, who blessed it with his Midas touch that was on quite a golden streak at the time.  All the musical movements between those years seem to be celebrated here with an easy joy, sounding contemporary (both then and now), but with no real concern with genres or trends, searching – as he might put it – for the Brazilian sound anywhere he finds it.   The overwhelming theme here, at least for me, seems to be  texture – and that is no small measure the work of João Donato.  Donato coaxes smooth and amicable aural shapes out of components that tend to have rough edges.  The keyboards are softer, the Farfisa tone on Tamanco No Samba sounds like a few resistors were removed to make the sustain sputter out a little early.  Sometimes when listening to this, my memories go back to the times I had to eat steak with a spork in the sanitarium, because we were not allowed to have any knives for safety concerns.  It was awkward at first, but ultimately some of the best steak I’d ever eaten.  From shout-outs to Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil (the ‘Bengil’ of the second track) to the groovy accordion of Sivuca on Gueri Gueri, everything here has a very digestible flow to it.  Another chance to point out Donato’s arranging genius is his instinct to resist the obvious – he uses Sivuca on the aforementioned Gueri Gueri, but not on the actual forró song here, Juazeiro, where you might expect him to be trotted out.  The album injects some of his classic hits in between new material, with many great contributions from his main writing partner Durval Ferreira.  Yes, Orlandivo does sort of sing “like nobody’s listening”, like we all do in the shower, or like when I am trying to impersonate João Gilberto and failing.  The record ends on an appropriately dreamy reading of the classic bossa nova anthem Felicidade.  I remember thinking to myself, “Why?”, the first time I heard it.  But the answer is more than a simple “why not?”.  It’s an appropriately subtle conclusion to what is an understated capstone in the discography of one of first great musical masters to leave us in 2017.

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Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971)

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“No amount of dancin’
Is going to make us free.”

The Left Reverend Eugene McDaniels

    Recorded at Regent Sound Studios and Atlantic Studios, New York City
1971 Atlantic SD 8281 (Original release)
This reissue 200_ by Scorpio/Rhino records

Acoustic Bass – Miroslav Vitous
Drums – Alphonse Mouzon
Electric Bass – Gary King
Featuring – Welfare City Choir
Guitar – Richie Resnikoff
Piano, Music Director – Harry Whitaker
Vocals – Eugene McDaniels, Carla Cargill

Producer – Joel Dorn
Recording and remix engineer – Lewis Hahn

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


Inauguration day special, y’all.

Dim the lights for this one.

I’ve heard different rumors about Eugene McDaniels and the Nixon administration – that the FBI was tapping his phone, that Spiro Agnew himself called Atlantic Records to complain about this album, which would seem to indicate that the reactionaries were much hipper to popular culture than I personally give them credit for.  But it’s not too far fetched – his most famous song, Compared To What?, which became a huge hit for Les McCann & Eddie Harris and then again for Roberta Flack – may be the boldest, most biting sociopolitical critique to ever top a record chart, and has apparently been covered by 270 different artists by today’s count.  So I can believe that, for the forces of Empire, Eugene McDaniels was a man who had to be stopped.  Atlantic Records dropped him after Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse.  The record is a profound and mercurial work of art that is revolutionary, less in some kind of militant way than in its general refusal to fit into any preconceived framework.  Instead, it carves out its own space and leaves the listener transformed and looking at the world differently than before they put it on.  This album, and Eugene himself, were their own gestalt.

I’m still thinking that, someday, I will file a Freedom of Information Act on Eugene McDaniels to see what, if anything, the Deep State was thinking about him.  This is what how I imagine a summary of his file might read:

  “McDaniels, Eugene Booker.  Born February 2, 1935 in Kansas City.  Black communist singer with known jazz associates.  Calls himself a Reverend, may be planning to form a religious cult or commune – field reports are inconclusive.  Believes rock singer Mick Jagger to be the Antichrist.”

I have been wanting to post about this album at various moments throughout the last couple of years.  It’s become a relevant soundtrack again and a source of solace for me.  The enigmatic  McDaniels is truly one of the great unsung songwriters of the twentieth century, because I think he wanted it that way.   This record gets name-checked a lot because it’s been sampled by prominent artists. The grooves are undoubtedly deep, and the musicians first rate – in fact the notes to the 2005 reissue of this on Water Records, with the limited space they have, talk more about arranger and keyboardist Harry Whitaker than they do Eugene.  Granted, Whitaker is the special secret sauce that makes this album stand out from its 1970 predecessor “Outlaw.”  That album is also really great, but this one is explosive and astounding,  unquestionably a masterpiece.  It was made with almost no budget, with Whitaker doing the arrangements, and with minimal overdubs (mostly just vocals, except for the first track which has a second guitar and some percussion added).   H.W. deserves tons of credit for the sound and cohesiveness of the final product, but for me it is McDaniels’ voice, lyrics, melodies and above all his completely unique vision that make this an album about which I can say “There’s really nothing else quite like it.”   It was a boundary-defying fusion of funk, jazz, rock, and soul; a record that is utterly psychedelic without a single wah peddle or production gimmick, hell there isn’t even a solo anywhere here in spite of the fact that every one of the musicians were utter virtuosos.  Apparently Whitaker wanted to bring horns in on the record but they had no money for it.  I’m so glad they didn’t, because its sound of lean restraint became an essential characteristic of its sound.  It’s intense, but also relaxed.

When I say he is enigmatic I guess I just mean enigmatic to me, because he left a big musical footprint with an incredible career arc, but chose to spend most of his life rather quietly away from the spotlight.   We’ll have a look at his YouTube channel that he started sometime around 2010 in a minute, but first let’s recap the basic facts first. McDaniels was a huge cross-over hit-maker in the early 60’s with “100 Pounds of Clay,” a song so popular that my parents remember it from their high school days, and “Tower of Strength,” both when he went by Gene rather than Eugene.  In the middle of the decade he wrote the song that would end up being recorded innumerable times, Compared To What?, the royalties from which presumably left him set for life.  At the end of the decade, McDaniels features prominently on one of my favorite Bobby Hutcherson albums, the adventurous and politically-charged Now!   He never lost the pop instincts he honed early in his career, but chose to make uncompromising, uncommercial music.  Like one of the only other people I would put in his category, Andy Bey, he also had a classic jazz singers voice (check out Freedom Death Dance…), and a four octave range, and he apparently preserved both up to the very end, in spite of  – or is it because of? – disengaging from the crazy world of the music industry.  The guy was too deep for the machine to process, and he didn’t need the money, so he went and lived his life privately, and took very good care of himself.  Listen to this man speak for a few minutes about Compared To What.  He looks so great here, with no indication that he would pass away within the year

 

Now is the place where normally I might indulge in a track by track breakdown of this record.  I could do that, and maybe someday I will, but it should really be heard first, and I bet some of you haven’t played it yet.  So let’s all listen to it and meet back here in a month to discuss it?  Really, it does speak for itself, and has to be absorbed with all of its quirks.  It should be left to the listener to follow his labyrinthine thread that ties together end-times religious imagery; invective against war and calls for justice that are clever, funky, and tuneful; a story of how everyday life as a black man going about everyday capitalist acts (trying to exchange an item at a grocery store) can lead to a near race riot; and a narrative of the colonial “settling” of the United States, decrying the indignities visited on First Nations peoples.   This last track is the climactic closer to the album, The Parasite (For Buffy), which in spite of just having guitar-bass-drums and vocals, comes off almost orchestral in its sweep (which is definitely a testament to Whitaker, who I imagine standing in front conducting them all with a baton).  It’s a breathtaking unity of words, music, execution.  McDaniels vocal control here is worth a study of its own: the verses have a sweetness that becomes a snarl in schizophrenic increments, with the anger slowly being peeled back in single accents and intonations, replaced again by sweetness almost like he is trying to hold back the demon.  Until, by the end, his voice becomes a raw exposed nerve, with the final minute collapsing into literal screaming and the group attacking their instruments in a free-form festival of noise, an avant-garde blast, like the sound of the universe diving into its own navel.

You have to hear it to believe it.


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The Brothers Johnson – Right On Time (1977)

01-frontThe Brothers Johnson
Right On Time
1977 A&M Records SP-4644

Runnin’ For Your Lovin’     5:05
Free Yourself, Be Yourself     4:26
“Q”     3:25
Right On Time     3:50
Strawberry Letter 23     4:58
Brother Man     3:10
Never Leave You Lonely     3:02
Love Is     4:20

A1     Runnin’ For Your Lovin’  5:05 (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Mortonette Jenkins Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A2     Free Yourself, Be Yourself      4:26  (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath* Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Ian Underwood  Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker   Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A3     “Q”     3:25  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson)

Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A4     Right On Time      3:50  (Quincy Jones, George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath Drums – Harvey MasonHorns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Lead Vocals – George Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

B1     Strawberry Letter 23     4:58  (Shuggie Otis)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Soloist – Lee Ritenour Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin, Ian Underwood Percussion – Ralph MacDonald

B2     Brother Man   3:10  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Dave Grusin)

Drums – Harvey Mason Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

  
B3     Never Leave You Lonely    3:02  (Louis JohnsonValerie Johnson, Peggy Jones)

Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Bass – George Johnson Lead Vocals – Louis Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – Louis Johnson

B4     Love Is   (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Quincy Jones, Peggy Jones)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Keyboards – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar – George Johnson Guitar, bass – Louis Johnson

Horns arranged by Greg Adams

Alto Saxophone – Lenny Pickett
Tenor Saxophone – Emilio Castillo
Trumpet  – Greg Adams
Trumpet – Mick Gillette
Baritone Saxophone  – Stephen Kupka

Produced and arranged by Quincy Jones
Synthesizers programmed by – Ian Underwood, Michael Boddicker

Art Direction – Roland Young
Creative director – Ed Eckstine
Engineer – Norm Kinney
Assistant Engineer  – Chuck Trammell
Engineer, Remix – Don Hahn
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Book photography by  – Andy Kent, Dennis Callahan, Neil Preston, Randy Alpert,
Ron Phillips, Jim McCrary, Patricia Reynolds, James Fee
Design – Phil Shima

Produced for Quincy Jones Productions
Recorded from February 1st to March 21st, 1977 at A&M Recording Studio “B” Hollywood, California


This post is right on time to break the silence of nearly two months without a blog post. Flabbergasted Vibes (the blog) is on life support and the plug could be pulled any day, if not by me than by a Higher Power.  There’s been enough dying in 2016 without adding this place to the list, but my enthusiasm is definitely at low tide in the grand ebb and flow of things.

Sure, it seems like the world has come unstuck – personally, professionally, politically – but none of it is really a surprise.  I don’t have much to say about this particular album at this particular moment.    Spinning a well-worn dusty classic is about all I’ve got left, and I’m finding even that doesn’t cut it on most days.  But if you  are pressed for time on your way to the fallout shelter and unable to deliberate at length, you could do worse than randomly grabbing this off the shelf with a few other long-players.  I hope you had the foresight to equip your survivalist shelter with a working turntable and speakers.  And a bicycle, for generating electricity off the grid, obviously.

The instrumental reliability of The Brothers Johnson is beyond dispute, and here they have some big cheeses in their pantry to help serve up the funk – Harvey Mason on drums, the Tower of Power horns, Ralph McDonald on percussion, David Grusin and Ian Underwood on keyboards.  And, of course, the whole thing is greased with Quincy Jones’ aural butter to keep the smooth proceedings from ever getting so hot that they scorch.  Burnt, crispy funk was not Quincy’s thing.   The title-track, which strives a little too hard for silliness, is maybe a little boring and could use a little extra grit.  It’s hard to fault anything else though.  The highlight is naturally their cover of the Shuggie Otis’ song Strawberry Letter 23 .   Shuggie has always been “a musician’s musician,” and it’s not as if he was an unknown when he recorded this song for his second LP in the early 70’s.  But the fact that it wasn’t the huge hit it could have been the first time around just meant that the world got to enjoy it twice.  The Brothers Johnson version, which came out a full six years later, is remarkably faithful to the psychedelic spirit of the original.  Maybe it is less cryptic and more mysteriously happy.  Quincy’s production pushes it into heavenly and exciting places, and it sports an epic  layered guitar solo by Lee Ritenour too.  Has Tarantino ruined this song yet by making it the background for some ultraviolence?  I think he has but I can’t remember where.   There are some fine original songs here too in a similarly breezy, windows-rolled-down summer spirit.  In fact the opening and closing tracks of the LP could have been written as bookends to accommodate Strawberry Letter, which is sequenced squarely in the middle of the album (first song on Side 2).  There are a couple of tight instrumentals too.  But yeah, no doubt, Strawberry Letter 23 is the showcase piece here.

Is this the last post of 2016?


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MFSB – Summertime (1976)

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MFSB – Summertime
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96 kHz | FLAC | m3u|  Artwork
800 MB (24/96) + 330MB (16/44) + 105 MB (320 kbs)| Funk, Disco, Soul| 1976
Philadelphia International Records ~ PZ 34238


Picnic in the Park (Gamble & Huff) 4:10
    Summertime (George Gershwin) 4:53
   Plenty Good Lovin’ 4:33 (Gamble & Huff)
    Sunnin’ and Funnin’ (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:14
    Summertime and I’m Feelin’ Mellow (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:00
   I’m on Your Side 3:30 (Gamble & Huff)
   Hot Summer Nights 4:25 (Gamble & Huff)
    We Got the Time (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen) 4:41

Bobby Eli, Norman Harris, Reggie Lucas, Roland Chambers, T.J. Tindall – guitar
Anthony Jackson, Ron Baker – bass
Leon Huff, Lenny Pakula, Eddie Green, Harold Ivory Williams – keyboards
Earl Young, Karl Chambers, Norman Farrington – drums
Larry Washington – percussion
Vincent Montana, Jr. – vibraphone
Zach Zachary, Tony Williams – saxophone
Don Renaldo and his Strings and Horns
Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Evette Benton, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, Victor Carstarphen – backing vocals


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


02 - Back

Even when I attempt a timely, topical post, it’s still kind of late.  I mean, I could be posting a Bobby Hutcherson album recorded by Rudy Van Gelder (two birds with one stone), or something from my stash of calypso and soca in solidarity with Notting Hill carnival (happening right now).  But instead I am bringing a soundtrack for the summer, which in the 24/7 stress culture of over-planning and anxiety in the United States is unofficially drawing to a close, even though there’s nearly another month of it.   But then again, we have a pretty strong South American readership at this blog, and quite a few friends in Australia, and they’re summer hasn’t even BEGUN yet, so really I’m just trying to cover all the bases here.

M.F.S.B. is most famous for having given us the immortal theme song to the show Soul Train (whose title was another acronym, T.S.O.P, for The Sound of Philadelphia), but you’ve also no doubt heard them on dozens of hits since they were the studio house band for Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label.  Sharing members with the Trampps and the Salsoul Orchestra, the ensemble has had as many as forty people pass through its ranks.  Aside from the Latin disco-tinged spin on the Gershwin tune that gives the album its name, the songwriting and production credits are nearly evenly split, with Gamble & Huff taking half and Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, and Victor Carstarphen providing the rest.  Of the latter, McFadden and Whitehead had given us the O’Jay’s ‘Backstabbers‘ and would deliver their own ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now‘  a few years later, while Carstarphen gave us “Wake Up Everybody” from Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, among others.  The first cut, Picnic In The Park, was a minor chart hit off this record.  To me it seems like a strange choice for a single, but that’s because I find the song better suited for the impending doom of a tense movie scene, setting up a child abduction or drive-by shooting, rather than a soundtrack for a relaxing summer day.  I guess I’ve always been one of those glass-half-empty types?  It’s a cool tune though, and the guitar riff engages in some accidental ska rhythms. (Incidentally, the name of my band in high school was Accidental Ska…)

While not as memorable as, say, their Music Is The Message album, it’s a fun spin of summer-themed tracks.  And you can populate them with your specific memories and meanings, as their almost-instrumental format – featuring choruses with vocals, but no verses – lends itself to daydreaming.  In fact, as with some of their other LPs, I can’t help feeling like some of these were half-finished tunes intended for singers on the Philadelphia International label which never came to fruition.  In an parallel universe, then, some of these songs were massive smash hits that everyone knows, and you are using this record for your next karaoke party (because it is a known fact that karoake is popular all throughout the multiverse).


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Bettye Crutcher – Long As You Love Me (1974)

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Bettye Crutcher
Long As You Love Me
Original release 1974 Enterprise / Stax
Reissue 2013 Ace Records
Remastered by Duncan Cowell at Sound Mastering



01 – As Long As You Love Me
02 – When We’re Together
03 – Passion
04 – A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt
05 – Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us In Love
06 – Sugar Daddy
07 – Call Me When All Else Fails
08 – Up For A Let Down
09 – So Lonely Without You
10 – Sleepy People

BONUS TRACKS

11 – So Glad To Have You
12 – Don’t You Think It’s About Time?
13 – Make A Joyful Noise
14 – We’ve Got Love On Our Side
15 – Walk On To Your New Love
16 – I Forgive You

Rhythm by Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section
Horns and strings by The Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Produced by Bettye Crutcher and Mack Rice
Arranged by Johnny Allen
Engineers – Pete Bishop, Jerry Masters, Steve Melton
Cover design and creative direction – The Stax Organization
Mastering – Larry Nix
A Very Special Thanks to: Bobby Womack
Photography – Frederic Torna
———————————————————

Unless you are the type who habitually reads the credits on album jackets, you’ve probably never heard of Bettye Crutcher.  A victim of both a chauvinistic industry and a mismanaged label at the end of its lifespan, as a recording artist her one and only album fell between the cracks of Stax and has been relegated to a cult object for the last few decades.  It was finally issued on CD last year, together with a smattering of bonus tracks that include a few demos – this is, as far as we know at present, the entire recorded legacy of Bettye as a performer.

As a writer, however, she left a much larger body of work.  She penned a ton of hits for the likes of Johnny Taylor, Carla Thomas, Soul Children, William Bell, The Staple Singers and others.  She formed part of a triad of writing partners, We Three, that was a bit like the Stax version of The Corporation, cranking out great tunes for their roster of artists.  For this album she worked with Mack Rice as a writing and producing partner, and the material is more low key, with even the funkier tunes coming out mellow.

Fabulous production and arrangements, filled with just enough patches of strings and horns and Isaac Hazey flute riffs, would make this a joy to listen to even if the songs were mediocre.  But the songs are excellent and Bettye has an alluring personality as a singer.  Like a sort of southern soul Carole King, her voice isn’t quite ideal for the funkier tunes on the album but she approaches them with enough charm to make them work.  You might notice that a lot of her vocals are double-tracked to give her voice a thicker sound (this is a studio technique that I like quite a bit, so mind you I am not bashing it).  The opening track is probably the strongest thing here and sets the bar really high, meaning that what follows may take a few listens for its goodness to fully reach you.  There are no throw-away tunes on it, and a lot going on to keep your ears busy and happy.  Swinging effortlessly between deep southern funk, delicate ballads, and AM-radio pop-soul bliss, it is baffling that this album received no attention at the time.  It may not qualify for breathless declarations of “lost genius soul classic” but it is easily as good as dozens of other albums released in 1974 that received critical and financial compensation, and a lot of it really is brilliant.

Unlike Carole King, there are no re-recordings of her famous compositions recorded by other artists, and the liner notes shed no light as to why not (artistic choice of Bettye’s, or contractual stuff with other Stax artists?).  In fact Stax shamefully did not even release a single off this album in the US (they did release “Sugar Daddy,” a track I do not feel is representative of Bettye as a performer, a year later in the UK).  Just as puzzling is the existence of four completed recordings of very high quality that never saw the light of day until this reissue, where they are included as bonus tracks.  “So Glad To Have You” and “Don’t You Think It’s About Time” are exhilarating songs that would have been ideal singles.  Four tracks, two A and B sides – these aren’t even rough mixes, but rather polished, finished product.  Liner note author Tony Rounce muses that it might have been Bettye’s life situation as a single mother, unable or unwilling to go out on the road, that made Stax reluctant to promote her.  But Stax was so close to bankruptcy at this point that it is almost a pointless exercise to try and guess the logic behind anything going on in their disorganized offices.  Two demos tacked on to the end of the disc are solid, but we know nothing about them – when and where and with who they were recorded.  But as I said at the outset, this disc represents the entire legacy of Bettye as a recording artist unless someone finds some tape reels hidden away under their bed, so you’d better enjoy every last second of it.

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Bettye sitting in between We Three partners Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson and a stack of what look like Universal Audio compressors.