Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Cookies is a well known girl groups to many, but a lot of people don't know there was an earlier line-up of that group. When you think of The Cookies you think of the sixties edition, with Earl-Jean McCrea in it, but in the fifties the group consisted of three other girls fronted by Earl-Jeans big sister, Darlene.

They had a top ten R&B hit in 1956 with In Paradise, but they recorded four other singles which are equally fine in my book. In this collection you can find five sides with The Cookies, four solo songs by Darlene and three songs on which they sing back up for Varetta Dillard.

The Cookies
- Don't Let Go
- Hippy Hippy Daddy
- In Paradise
- King Of Hearts
- Later Later

Darlene McCrea
- Don't Worry Baby
- My Heart's Not In It
- You Made A Fool Out Of Me
- You

Varetta Dillard & The Cookies
- Old Fashioned
- Star Of Fortune
- The Rules Of Love

The Early Cookies


I don't believe there are many girl group aficionados that doesn't count The Toys as one of the all time best! Sadly remembered as a One Hit Wonder with A Lover's Concerto, they actually released some of the best girl group songs ever!

AMG Review:
'The influence of the Toys is evident when one sees the group listed as the first "tribute" on page 49 of the Supremes four-CD box set on Motown. The Supremes' own "I Hear a Symphony," released October 6, 1965, was a tribute to the tribute, if you will. It says a lot about the competition as the Toys hit number two on the charts that very week, pushing the Supremes, Diana Ross, and the production team of Holland/Dozier/Holland to one of their greatest heights. The re-write of Bach, with its boss production, is a sweeping pop sensation. And the album's 14 tracks play like the Ronettes' first and only official release, a magnificent statement of vocal harmony and pretty melodies. The songwriter/production team of Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell for Bob Crewe Productions add that remarkable Four Seasons punch to the music. A little of the boy group sound, classical music, and a refreshing collection of melodies that the airwaves were, somehow, denied. "This Night," "Back Street," solid dance hall/radio hits that never got to reign the way "Lover's Concerto" and, to a lesser degree, "Attack" climbed the Top 40. "Attack" is a brilliant song that sounds like a tribute to Frankie Valli. The Dyno Voice album, re-relased on Sundazed, is augmented by singles "Baby Toys" and "May My Heart Be Cast Into Stone," songs that lead soprano Barbara Harris said were recorded for the second, unreleased Toys disc slated for Dyno Voice. The musical camaraderie on "Baby Toys" is amazing. These voices carry. Both singles are a welcome addition to this album, and they should've been huge. June Montiero's vocal on The Beatles' "Yesterday" bridges the gap between the Vegas and new wave arrangement. Perhaps that marriage of underground rock with middle of the road pop is what makes the girl group genre so perpetually inviting. The first track on the disc, "Can't Get Enough of You Baby," is reminiscent of the Cake, a band that couldn't crack the Billboard Top 40 as the Toys did, but deserved to. "Hallelujah," not the fun Sweathog tune from 1971, but a wonderful song that should've hit, with a delicious lead vocal by Barbara Parritt. The Toys were formidable beyond their two Top 20 hits; "This Night" is a fine example.'

Here I also included five bonus tracks: Let Me Down Easy, Sealed With A Kiss, Silver Spoon, Try To Get You Out Of My Heart and You Got It Baby.

Please let me know what you think!

THE BLOSSOMS 1954-1969

The Blossoms is one of the most famous vocal groups ever, despite constantly changing line-ups and unstable record contracts. Despite a few minor hits and years of exposure as the back up singers of Shindig there has never been a Blossoms compilation for some reason, so here I have collected 33 tracks covering the period between 1954 to 1969. Included are the pre-Darlene Love years as The Dreamers Coeds, Rollettes and Echoes. Loads of rarities here!

I haven't included their sole LP from 1972 as it is readily available elsewhere (can't remeber where exactly, but I think it's the Classic & Rare Soul Sisters blog you can find in the links to the right)

The Chronological Blossoms, 54-69

Monday, October 12, 2009


Another one of the classic blues divas takes on the empress, Bessie Smith. This time it's LaVern Baker turn to interpret some classic blues. Released the same years as Dinah Washington's outing as well... and to be honest, while I usually hold Dinah in higher esteem, LaVern wins this battle!

AMG Review:
'This is an album that should not have worked. LaVern Baker (a fine R&B singer) was joined by all-stars from mainstream jazz (including trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist Vic Dickenson, tenor-saxophonist Paul Quinichette and pianist Nat Pierce) for twelve songs associated with the great '20s blues singer Bessie Smith. Despite the potentially conflicting styles, this project is quite successful and often exciting. The arrangements by Phil Moore, Nat Pierce, and Ernie Wilkins do not attempt to re-create the original recordings; Baker sings in her own style (rather than trying to emulate Bessie Smith), and the hot solos work well with her vocals. '


Frankie Gearing is one of the unheralded greats of soul. Maybe best known, if at all, for her years in the group Quiet Elegance (with Mildred Scott and Lois Reeves) in the seventies, she actually began recording in 1966 with The Steinways, releasing two singles. She then moved on to The Glories and recorder a number of records, before going on to Quiet Elegance. After the group disbanded she released a solo album which is much sought after today and seemingly impossible to find.

While the complete output of Quiet Elegance is available elsewhere, I thought I could gather a few of her other releases. Included in this post is two Steinways tracks, eight with The Glories and one track from her solo album. Enjoy, and please comment!

Frankie Gearing minipost


AMG Review:
'The original notes to the Seven Letters album indicate that it is the most diverse album of material that Ben E. King had ever recorded, and they're right. The range of material here, cut over a period of more than two years, included some impassioned soul music — "River of Tears," "I'm Standing By," "It's All Over," "In the Middle of the Night," and the title track — as well as some very personal pop ("Jamaica") and novelty ("Si Senor") tunes, and towering performances throughout. The requisite string-laden orchestral backings are present, courtesy of producers Leiber & Stoller, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegun, and the various arrangers, but there are also some nicely stripped down, more basic soul numbers. Interestingly, "Jamaica" was written by King in the wake of his 1961 tour of the island (soon to be island-nation), an event that helped spark a boom in local ska and reggae performers who were inspired by the presence of American soul stars like King on tour — the song practically chronicles the spawning of the seed that led to the ska and reggae booms (which Atlantic would grab a piece of, not only by signing Byron Lee and securing a distribution agreement with him for the Cayman Islands, but also through Eric Clapton's efforts on Bob Marley's behalf less than a decade later). The album has not a single weak spot, and boasts some strong contributions by several outside songwriters including Carole King and Gerry Goffin, whose gorgeous "Down Home" provided the vehicle for King's best singing on the entire record. Not that it did much for him at the time of its release — it had no weak spots, but also no major hits (even "I'm Standing By" was a failed follow-up to "Stand By Me," and this was the last of four Ben E. King albums issued by Atlantic in the United States. Like two of its predecessors, it disappeared without reaching any but King's hardcore audience, thus making it a choice collector's item. It lacked the hook of a massive hit single like a "Stand By Me" or a "Spanish Harlem" for a wider audience to grab onto. '


AMG Review:
'After parting ways with the Drifters in 1960, Ben E. King wasted no time establishing himself as a solo star with chart-toppers like "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me," in which he made the most of his strong and expressive vocal style. Having scored on the R&B and pop charts, King's third album for Atco, Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers, plays like a bid to cross over to more mature listeners after scoring big with the teens, much in the manner of Sam Cooke; the album is dominated by songs already made famous by other artists, featuring a blend of soulful chestnuts and classic standards, and the production and arrangements are polished and classy while still retaining the influence of the "rhythm & blues with strings" style that had become his hallmark. While "He Will Break Your Heart," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," and "It's All in the Game" seem tailor-made for King, some of the other cuts are a bit of a creative stretch, especially "Moon River" and "On the Street Where You Live," both of which sound rather clumsy in this context despite the struggle to make them swing. But King never gives less than his level best on these sessions, no matter what the material happens to be, and he effortlessly walks a line between supper-club polish and passionate sweet soul. If Ben E. King didn't become a regular in Las Vegas or at the Copacabana like Sam Cooke or Lou Rawls, it's certainly not because he lacked the style or the chops, and if the song selection sometimes lets him down on Sings for Soulful Lovers, his voice and his phrasing are spot-on on all 12 tracks. '

Ben E. King - Sings For Soulful Lovers


AMG Review:
'Ben E. King's third album is a little short in running time but very high in quality, in terms of the dozen songs here. The title track was the selling point, but couldn't help but be seduced by the exquisite production of "Ecstasy" and "On the Horizon," the latter making about as fine use of harps and an ethereal chorus as one imagines possible — and when the strings come in, violins and cellos alternately, the sheer beauty of the track just overflows. "Show Me the Way to Your Heart" isn't too far behind, and then "Stand by Me" shores up the opening of the second side — not that anything here needed shoring up, but it's good that they got the single onto a long-player so it didn't go to waste. Even the lesser material, like "Here Comes the Night" and "First Taste of Love" (the latter a Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector song that bears an uncanny resemblance to Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On"), is interesting to hear for the lively production. This album, like its predecessors, dates from a period in which producers and engineers were figuring out what one could do with soul and R&B in terms of engineering, and the sound separation and textures are nothing if not vibrant and alluring in their own right, separate from the music. '


AMG Review:
'A close look at this album reveals just how ambitious Atlantic Records could be in the early 1960s, in generating LPs. Technically speaking, Ben E. King's debut long-player is a concept album — or, at least, a thematic album. Put together in the wake of his first solo hit, "Spanish Harlem," a Latin flavor and beat run all the way through this 12-song platter, which, at times, is really more of a pop record than a soul record. The dense, busy string section that characterized most of King's work of this era is present, and a lot of his singing may recall more the work of Sammy Davis, Jr. than that of any R&B artist one might think of from this period. And apart from the Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector co-authored title hit, most of what is here dates from a decade or more (sometimes several) earlier — "Frenesi," "Besame Mucho," and "Perfidia" were standards during the big-band era, and most of the rest is of similar or even older vintage. All of which doesn't mean that it is bad — King's version of "Besame Mucho" is a very successful reinterpretation in a Latin soul vein, and "Perfidia" never sounded better than it does in his hands, even if it and a lot of the rest is a long way from what most of us define as "soul." And for better or worse, the production is first-rate within the context of King's established sound, with a phenomenal string section and a percussion section to die for. '

Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem

Marie Knight & friends

While I'm trying to compile some of sister Marie Knight's solo material, here are the songs she recorded with Sisters Rosetta Tharpe (Up Above My Head and the definitive reading of Didn't It Rain amongst others), a few sides from the fifties recorded with The Millionaires and a 1959 single with Rex Marvin.


In August this year the world lost legend in soul, R&B and gospel music, madame/sister Marie Knight as she was variously known during her six decade long career in music. She became famous when recording with gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and since 1946 she never quit singing. Her career is a long and eclectic one, and not always spiritual, she hit the charts more than once with secular material. For some reason, there isn't yet a Best Of released and her solo recordings are poorly documented - but I'm gonna try to put together a homemade compilation after I've done my research. In the meanwhile, here is her last album made just two years ago and released to rave reviews!

AMG Review:
'Marie Knight began singing at the Oakwood Baptist Church in Newark, NJ and made some early gospel singles for Brunswick and Mercury. Starting in 1952 she gained international fame as the duet partner of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She continued recording gospel and secular music in the '60s, '70s and '80s. In 2003, MC Records recruited her to sing on A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Shout Sister Shout. Her performance was so powerful, the label offered her a contract, and this album, her first full-length in 20 years, is the happy result. Reverend Gary Davis was discovered by folkies in the '60s and celebrated as one of the last living links between ragtime, blues and gospel music. His syncopated picking style made him an acoustic guitar legend and several of his compositions, including "Samson and Delilah" and "I'll Fly Away," became folk "hits." Davis died in 1972 and is today largely unknown, even in folk circles. Hopefully, this album will bring his music back into the spotlight. Knight, not unexpectedly, concentrates on Davis' gospel tunes, and infuses them with a sanctified power. She's lost a bit of her high end over the years, but her fervent delivery remains undiminished, polished by the experience she brings to her renditions. Super picker Larry Campbell produces and backs Knight with a credible version of Davis' syncopated and highly rhythmic style of guitar picking. "When I Die," a celebration of eternal salvation, bounces brightly along with Campbell's chiming guitar and Lincoln Schleifer's bass adding to Knight's blazing rendition. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" gets a swampy blues drenched reading with Campbell playing Pops Staples-style electric guitar and Kim Wilson blowing some fine harp. Knight shines throughout, bringing the spirit of Davis to life with performances full of her ardent, funky, playful soul.'

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The Queen paying tribute to the Empress - the legendary Dinah Washington sings songs made famous by the equally legendary Bessie Smith.

AMG Review:
'Gifted with a strong, beautiful voice and very precise phrasing, Dinah Washington translated Bessie Smith's irrepressible spirit and flair even better than Billie Holiday, Smith's most famous devotee. For her tribute album, Washington avoided Smith's best-known songs ("'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"). Instead, she wisely concentrated on the more defiant standards from "The Empress of the Blues," including "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," "Jailhouse Blues," and "You've Been a Good Ole Wagon." Washington sounds simply glorious, focused on alternating Smith's phrasing to emphasize her own gospel roots. The accompaniment, by Eddie Chamblee and His Orchestra, emphasizes the vaudeville and Dixieland sound of early-century blues, heavy on the slide trombone, growling trumpet, and skeletal, rickety percussion. Reissued several times (occasionally under the title The Bessie Smith Songbook), Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith charts a perfect balance between tribute and genuine artistic statement.'

Just for fun, I threw in eight Bessie Smith originals for comparison. It's amazing how when Dinah sings the songs, they are immediately recognizable for every fan of Bessie, and you forget how Dinah actually makes the songs her own until you compare with Bessie. Their vocal styles could hardly be more different, but both sisters sure had soul! Enjoy!

...and please comment!

Dinah Washington - Sings Bessie Smith


Since it's sunday now, I thought this album would be a great way to start the day. A really inspirational album from the first lady of country! One of her forgotten gems is here, We Buried Her Beneath The Willows - it always brings a tear to my eye!

AMG Review:
'Dust on the Bible is a moving set of country gospel performed with affection and honest by Kitty Wells. The material on the album ranges from standards to contemporary classics like "The Great Speckled Bird," and not a single cut on the record fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. In the late '50s, country gospel albums didn't come much finer than Dust on the Bible. '


AMG Review:
'If this is blues, it's blues in the Billie Holiday sense, not the Muddy Waters one. This is one of Nina Simone's more subdued mid-'60s LPs, putting the emphasis on her piano rather than band arrangements. It's rather slanted toward torch-blues ballads like "Strange Fruit," "Trouble In Mind," Billie Holiday's own composition "Tell Me More and More and Then Some," and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Simone's then-husband, Andy Stroud, wrote "Be My Husband," an effective adaptation of a traditional blues chant. By far the most impressive track is her frantic ten-minute rendition of the traditional "Sinnerman," an explosive tour de force that dwarfs everything else on the album'

Nina Simone - Pastel Blues

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Now it's time for some world music, and again it's one of my absolute favs!

AMG Review:
'The glorious Café Atlantico finds Césaria Évora venturing into more Latin American musical landscapes, as opposed to Portuguese, which dominated her previous albums. Évora draws from traditional Cuban and Brazilian music to mesmerizing effect. The album is also a tribute to her home town of Mindelo, on the Cape Verdean island of Sao Vicente, which was once a busy port with sailors cruising between South America, the Caribbean, and Portugal. Therefore, the music is heartbreaking and nostalgic, warm and tragic all at once. The masterful "Carnaval de São Vicente" is one of the most joyous, bittersweet party songs ever put on wax (and was even issued as a maxi-single with fantastic remixes). "Roma Criola" is tragic, lonely, destitute, and always interesting, making for an undiscovered masterpiece of a ballad, and her rendition of the Spanish language standard "Maria Elena" is absolutely heartbreaking. The album evokes a moody elegance rarely found in modern music, from the sweeping opener "Flôr Di Nha Esperança" to the summery "Amor Di Mundo," and the picture she paints of this café at the end of the world is a gorgeous, multi-colored, and emotion-stirring palate. This album is nothing short of world class and will be enjoyed by generations to come. '


From 1971 Tandoori Chicken/Try Some, Buy Some (and unreleased Lovely La-De Day from the same sessions with George Harrison) to her duet with The Atomic Swings in 1995. Includes Say Goodbye To Hollywood, Take Me Home Tonight, It's A Heartache and more. Also included is her sister Estelle's optimistic In The Year 2000, very rare!

Ronnie Spector - 1971-1995

'Ronnie Spector, she of Ronettes/"Be My Baby" fame, is here again lookin' for a new "baby", baby. If all that sounds like another Hollywood summer remake, it's not too far off. Ronnie's done the 1971 reunion with all four broken-up Beatles, the 1976 Billy Joel/Bruce Springsteen treatment, something with Eddie Money, and even a Joey Ramone-guesting 1999 EP on Kill Rock Stars. It never gets even half as good as the great old days, depending of course on your feelings re: Eddie Money.
One cash-in celebritython leads to another. The Last of the Rock Stars carts in Keith Richards, Patti Smith and (again) the late Ramone, backing Spector on a reheated run-through of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Round a Memory", which was also on the 1999 EP. What's new includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner on jitter-by-numbers rocker "Hey Sah Lo Ney", the Raveonettes helping out on "Ode to L.A." (which, yeah, also appears-- with Ronnie-- on the Ravers' '05 Pretty in Black), and Ronnie and Keith do campy lover's chit-chat on Ike Turner's "Work Out Fine" ("You do the work, baby!" Keith hams). Just in case you were wondering what Spector has in mind, Loretta Lynn's career-resuscitating backers the Greenhornes are featured on a pair of tracks, one of which appeared with Holly Golightly in the Ronnie role on the 'Hornes' own 2005 Sewed Soles.
If The Last of the Rock Stars shows anything other than that the former Mrs. Spector has a laughably high opinion of herself, it's that she remains primarily a singles artist. The one you want is the Amy Rigby-penned "All I Want", a bouncy, believable grown-up teenage symphony about just wanting "something to show me that you care/ Whether I live or die". Opener "Never Gonna Be Your Baby" at least boasts a big, self-referential hook, even if the wannabe-tough-guy guitars and lifelong-smoker-voiced "wet thoughts of you" mature pr0n come-ons diminish what suits call "replay value".
Despite all the guests, The Last of the Rock Stars also suffers from a weird confusion about where ex-hubby Phil's "Wall of Sound" meets the here/now. Listeners who can't get past Morrissey's sessionmen should hear the stiff "Girl From the Ghetto", which also shares some of that miserabilist's caustic venom: "I hope your cell is filled with magazines/ And on every one is a picture of me," Spector expectorates. Any question who that gun is pointed at? '


Amazon user review:
'I've never submitted a review previously and seldom do I rave. So take a leap of faith and trust me when I say that this brief CD provides fifteen minutes (5 songs)of multiple, aural orgasms so intense as to be only comparable to the greatest sex. Musical magic is achieved here by matching perhaps the finest diva of the 60's girl-group with the most exhuberantly romantic songs of early Marshall Crenshaw, a modern master of Rock and Roll classical forms, with an uncanny ability to "channel" the spirit of the greatest mid-60's tunes without slipping into cheap pastiche. These recordings are so joyful, so transporting, as to achieve the very same heights as the Ronettes' best songs. The backing musicians consist of Crenshaw himself on guitar, his brother Robert on drums and the virtuosic bassist, Graham Maby (See early Joe Jackson) and they rock like hell. The explanation why these outstanding 1989 recordings were not released until 2001 is a complicated and tragic tale involving a record label bankruptcy and the seizing of the master tapes as assets of the various creditors. Not knowing this history when I bought this CD, I was cynical about whether it would be any good, however, my curiosity got the better of my common sense and so I set aside my skepticism. I'm now jubilant I did so. From the opening bars of the first track, "Something's Gonna Happen" I was simply overwhelmed with the sublime nature of this CD. Don't let the brevity of the CD deter you from purchasing it. What wouldn't you be willing to pay to hear five lost classics of the Beatles, Beach Boys or Who, if they existed? '

Ronnie Spector - Something's Gonna Happen


AMG Review:
'This EP was originally issued by Creation Records in the U.K. With that in mind, though it's a little weird to hear the original teenager singing her songs through a Jesus and Mary Chain-style wall of sound filter, it works like a charm. The Joey Ramone-penned "She Talks to Rainbows" and the "Be My Baby"-ish "Bye-Bye Baby," a duet with Ramone, is perfect for the pair. What a a thrill to hear Spector sing the Brian Wilson song she inspired, "Don't Worry Baby." This one might just be the version of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arm Around A Memory" that his fans have hoped would materialize. Daniel Rey uses the same heavy hand he used on the Ramones and White Zombie but original tough chick Spector can handle it. "I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine," recorded for English television tops-off this extraordinary "comeback." '

Ronnie Spector - She Talks To Rainbows


Here we go, the last of the true rockstars ;)

In this album, "Unfinished Business" she has a sexy duet with country singer Eddie Money, Desmond Child and Diane Warren wrote the haunting "Love On A Rooftop" for her; Desmond Child produced. There's also a very nice "When We Danced," on which Paul Shaffer collaborated. "Dangerous" is where the Go-Go's should've gone to reinvent themselves, and that Spector tips her hat to the new gals on the block is impressive, being backed by Bangle Susanna Hoffs.Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love" is put to a dance beat, and it works. What's important about this cover is that it takes Spector away from the elements producers and fans had locked her into.

UPCOMING: Ronnie Spector MEGAPOST ;)

Two full albums, two EPs and fourteen other tracks - singles, unreleased songs, duets, soundtracks + One side of her sister Estelle Bennetts only single!

Stay tuned!


Here's a homemade compilation of the incomparable Eartha Kitt. It features what I believe to be ALL her singles from the fifties, 46 tracks in all.

You will find some of her most famous songs here: Mink Schmink, I Want To Be Evil, Uska Dara and of course Santa Baby. A lot of gems to discover as well, like two songs she recorded in 1956 in my native swedish! Not a bad feat!


Pure swedish pop at its best! This was the debut of an extremely talented singer named Annika Norlin who have recorded under a few aliases as well as her own name for a few years, and have really left a mark on the swedish music scene. When this was released in 2006 I played it non-stop, it really was the soundtrack of my life that year. Give it a listen, I can guarantee you will like it!

1. The Quiz.
('Can you at all times wear socks because I'm still scared of feet' has got to be one of the greatest line in pop music ever!)
2. 2006
3. The Best Night Of Your Life
4. Last Bitter Song
5. Leaving You Behind

Hello Saferide - Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day


'Man, ain't it hard just to live?'

I thought I would start of my Nina Simone posts with my all time favourite album by her. This is a masterpiece all the way through, and the songs that bookend this album are her two songs ever!

AMG Review:
'After an uncharacteristic (for her) four-year hiatus from recording, Nina Simone returned to the fringes of the pop world with Baltimore, the only album she recorded for the CTI label. While it bears some of the musical stylings of the period — light reggae inflections that hint of Steely Dan's "Haitian Divorce" — the vocals are unmistakably Simone's. Like many of her albums, the content is wildly uneven; Simone simply covers too much ground and there's too little attention paid to how songs flow together. As a result, a robust torch piano ballad like "Music for Lovers" is followed immediately by one of Simone's more awkward moments, an attempt to keep up with a jaunty rhythm track on a cover of Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl." Still, one must give her credit for always being provocative in her cover song choices, as she clearly scores on the Randy Newman-penned title track and a dramatic reading of Judy Collins' "My Father." Her voice throughout is in fine form, even when she phones it in on the album-closing traditional gospel tunes, but arranger David Matthews is a mismatch for her: He blows the arrangements with excessive string overlays and needlessly blaring background vocals. Simone herself all but disavowed the album shortly after its release, testament to her eternally contrarian, iconic nature. Despite her misgivings, though, Baltimore is an occasionally spellbinding if erratic album, a challenging and worthwhile listen for people ready to dip into the lesser-known entries in Nina Simone's vast catalog.'


AMG Review:
'A fine dance and club album, Grace Jones was still essentially a disco act when she recorded this album at the end of the '70s. The campy tendencies and flat vocals were subordinated to the array of cross-rhythms, textures, and production devices buttressing the tracks. Jones did some outstanding numbers during this era, but seldom utilized her voice beyond either a decorative or supporting role. She wasn't (and still isn't) a soulful or great singer, but future albums would demonstrate that she could do more things than mouth lines and insert herself into rhythm tracks. '

I must say, In my opinion this is her greatest album except for Hurricane (2008).

Grace Jones - Muse

Tomorrow, her early eighties albums.


Amazon customer review:
'Grace's sophomore album hit the stores in 1978, and it was a hit on the club charts. Her debut album the year before presented her to legions of fans, and she even managed to pile of some songs that have become classics over the years, such as: I Need a Man, That's the Trouble and of course, La Vie en Rose. Her second album was also produced by Tom Moulton. Fame continues the tradition of a medley on Side A, and this time is no different. The nearly twenty-minute long medley on Fame starts with the lead single of the album Do or Die and ends with the second single Fame, with Pride stacked in between. Both Do or Die and Fame reached number #3 on the Dance charts. By this time, Grace ruled as the Queen of Gay Discos, and she was even the first performer to sing live at the prestigious Studio 54 in 1977. Fame is without a doubt an improvement of Portfolio, with stronger vocals and overall stronger songs, such as the dreamy: Am I Ever Going to Fall in Love in New York City? The hopelessly romantic All on a Summer's Night and the Rocky-influenced Below the Belt (you have to see a live performance of this song to understand what I'm saying, it's just awesome). Grace would further improve on her skills as a disco entertainer, and she would reach her disco peak in 1979 with the stunning album Muse. '


AMG Review:
'Disco mix king Tom Moulton produced these tracks at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia using the same musicians Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff held hostage for their sessions. The results are quite different: though polished, these tracks don't jump out at you. It's really a producer's album. Moulton probably had these tracks completed long before he knew who was going to sing them. Give Grace Jones credit though, she gives credence to old fuddies like "Send in the Clowns," "La Vie en Rose" is lilting, and "I Need a Man," displays a vulnerable Jones. '

Grace Jones - Portfolio

Friday, October 9, 2009

Saturday sweets

Coming up tomorrow:

1. Nina Simone, a few select albums.
2. Eartha Kitt - the 50's singles
3. The one, the only - Grace Jones! I'm planning to post her three 70's albums + a few bonus track. The rest will pop up some time next week.

And there will be a few miniposts with some decently rare tracks.

One of my harddrives is still in hizzy fit-mode, so some soul sisters I promised will have to wait.


MARY WELLS - The rest

Singles, non-album B-sides, unreleased tracks etc - here you have it all. 50 songs covering 20 years, from 1962's When Your Lover Comes Back to 1983's I'm A Lady. Enjoy and please comment!


An interesting album, in lack of other words. Only covers of songs from the 50's up to the 80's, and a few curious choices. Not one of her best albums is the nicest way I can put it.

Includes Fame, I've Never Been To Me, Boy From New York City etc.

Mary Wells - Easy Touch


AMG Review:
'What happened to Mary Wells was one of Motown's greatest disgraces. She was way past her prime on this early-'80s album, and was also hampered by poor material and unimaginative production. Someone who had made such marvelous music for Motown in its formative years shouldn't even have been working at that point, and certainly shouldn't have suffered the humiliation of churning out unrepresentative material to earn a living'
I must say that I disagree - Gigolo, Indian Giver and These Arms are some of the best songs she's ever cut, and the rest ain't that bad despite she had begun to lose some of her vocal prowess.

MARY WELLS - LOVE & TRANQUILITY (1969, unreleased)

Here is a planned follow up to her 1968 album, but that was eventually scraped. Some of the songs were released as singles, but the rest of the tracks didn't show up until 1993 on The Complete Jubilee Sessions. The albums sounds like a slicker continuation of Servin' Up Some Soul and is a strong album but without any standout tracks.


AMG Review:
'The success of "The Doctor" and its flip, "Two Lovers History," prompted Jubilee Records to rush-release Servin' Up Some Soul, an album consisting of six originals, written by Mary Wells-Womack and Cecil Womack, and some bland remakes. The bluesy, deep soul inspired "Woman in Love," is saddled with brazen Memphis horns that nearly overpower her lead. "Two Lovers History" is better, more mainstream R&B, Mary's vocal is self assuring and alluring, and the horns aren't intrusive. "Bye Bye Baby," her first Motown release, gets an appreciated update, but lacks the stark, rawness of the original. A rendition of Betty Swann's "Make Me Yours" is as creamy as whipped butter. but schlock versions of "Sunny," and "Stag-o-lee" are unimpressive. Womacks' soulful guitar introduces "The Doctor," a pleasant mid-tempo number that reached #65 on Billboards' Pop 100 Chart and #22 R&B — her biggest Jubilee single. Unfortunately, it was the last time a Mary Wells single would crack the Pop 100. Cecil, now known as Zekkariyas, plays guitar and supplies backing vocals. '

Mary Wells - Servin' Up Some Soul


AMG Review:
'Mary Wells will forever be known as a Motown artist, but after she left the label in 1964 she cut some very good singles for 20th Century and Atco. Her only album for Atco, The Two Sides of Mary Wells, was cut in 1966 and does indeed feature two sides of Mary Wells. Side one is covers of soul and rock hits of the day (plus the single "Dear Lover"); side two is made up of jazz standards and show tunes. On side one producer Carl Davis doesn't stray far from the Motown sound Wells was associated with; her cover of Deon Jackson's "Love Makes the World Go Round" and the Supremes' "My World Is Empty Without You Babe" hew the closest to that label's punchy and compressed style, but "Good Lovin'" and "Satisfaction" aren't far off. Only her raw take on "In the Midnight Hour" and the lovely ballad "Dear Lover," which is a very New York-sounding slice of sophisticated soul powered by Wells' best vocal on the album, stray very far. Fair enough, everyone involved had to know that the only hope Wells had of selling records was to capture some "My Guy" magic in a bottle, and the best way to catch it was to follow the formula. The standards side is semi-interesting; Wells can sing the songs chosen well enough, but ultimately the tunes are too slickly produced and she's no Carmen McRae or Dinah Washington. Not even Nancy Wilson. Better to let her stick to the sweet soul and leave the standards to the pros. The failure of this record to be satisfying falls directly on the head of whoever had the idea for Wells to sing standards. Better to track down Ichiban's Dear Lover: The Atco Sessions, which has all the soul sides from The Two Sides of Mary Wells, plus all four of her Atco singles and a couple of unreleased tracks, to boot. '


Mary's first album for 20th Century. It contains the minor hit Use Your Head, and one of the songs I love most by Mary, Never Never Leave Me.


This is exactly what it sounds like, a cover album of songs made famous by The Beatles. Since I don't very much care for The Beatles, this is my least favourite album by Mary... Eight Days A Week is a very good song though, suits Mary to a tee.

Mary Wells - Love Songs To The Beatles


AMG Review:
'On this album, Smokey Robinson demonstrated his ability to craft and hone great material for female acts, something he would later repeat with The Marvelettes. Besides the title track, which became Motown's first Top Ten and #1 pop hit, there were other strong tunes, such as "He's the One I Love" and "At Last," that weren't hits but certainly should have been. '


AMG Review:
'Motown mogul Berry Gordy Jr. decided to increase his chances for sales by recording his male and female stars together, and the public went for it too. Together trekked up the pop charts, finally stopping at #42, a good showing for an R&B album in 1964. A two-sided hit and the only single released, "Once Upon a Time" and "What's the Matter With You Baby," helped the cause by charting in the upper echelons of the R&B and pop charts. The former is a slow, floating ballad, while the latter is an accusing, jump-beat number. A rendition of Sam Cooke's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" doesn't measure up to their talents or the song involved, while "Deed I Do" fits the mold of songs done by male/female duos of the early '60s. For the most part, the material is different than what Mary or Marvin normally cut; Marvin probably felt more comfortable with these songs than Mary, since they were closer to the MOR tunes that he preferred doing — at the time — anyway. '


Notable tracks on this one includes the title track, Laughing Boy, Was It Worth It and Operator.


AMG Review:
'Fairly solid effort, with most of the songs penned by Motown mainstays like Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy, and Mickey Stevenson. Includes the Top 10 hits "The One Who Really Loves You" and "You Beat Me To The Punch," as well as one of the few Wells originals she recorded while at Motown, "Drifting Love." But considering that seven of the ten songs appear on Looking Back, only Wells collectors need to pick this up. '

Mary Wells - The One Who Really Wants You


AMG Review:
'Mary Wells wasn't yet a polished vocalist when she first signed with Motown in the early '60s, and she later became the first performer to score a Number One single and Top Ten pop hit for the label. But that didn't happen with these songs, although they have an edge, toughness, and spark, that wasn't always evident in the slicker hits that Wells made. '

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Verdelle Smith had one minor hit in 1966 with the english version of Il Ragazzo Della Via Glück, Tar & Cement. Before that she had released this very under rated album, Alone In My Room.
Verdelle sounds like a subdued Shirley Bassey, very dramatic voice but never over the top. The album as a whole also comes of as sounding very European and very sixties.

1. In My Room
Her first single, a very stiring ballad that sounds like something Dionne Warwick or Shirley Bassey could have recorded. For me, this is the best track.

2. You Only See Her
A soulful midtempo number, inspired vocals.

3. Oh How Much I Love You
A faithful english rendition of yet another italian classic, Dio Come Ti Amo.

4. Autumn Leaves
Verdelle's voice on one of the most beautiful melodies ever written, this is sheer perfection! She also sings a few words in the original french (Les Feuilles Mortes)

5. Over The Rainbow
This rendition rivals even Judy's! It starts very low key but builds up to a dramatic climax before settling down again.

6. Toot Toot Tootsie
Not sure how I feel about this one... It doesn't fit in, but other than that, a decent track.

7. A Piece Of The Sky
Grittier vocals on one of the prettier melodies, but somehow she pulls it off. Also a standout track!

8. Catch A Falling Star
Catchy filler, that's about it...

9. Don't Get Around Much More
A Northern Soul favourite in the makings.

10. Sexy
The title says it all - a sly, sexy song with sultry vocals.

11. Walk Tall
Very Reparata-esque. An excellent way to round of this album.

To the album I have added a few bonus tracks. First of are two version of Tar & Cement, one with additional lyrics than the version you often hear. Then are two latter days singles that are a little more pop than the album (Baby Baby - If You Can't Say Anything Nice). To complete the package is an interview with Verdelle, courtesy of Bald Brothers (

Verdelle Smith - (Alone) In My Room

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


If you're a girl group fan this is a MUST!

Eleanor Bodel is a Swedish one hit wonder who hit the charts big time with the title track of this album, a cover of Neil Sedaka's One Way Ticket. She released four albums but never managed another hit. She has a voice somewhat reminiscent of both Mary Weiss and Mary Aiese (of the Shangri-Las and Delrons respectively)

This is her second album, mixing both english and swedish songs with almost no weak tracks.
She opens with the infectious One Way Ticket which is absolutely irresistible. Then comes a somewhat annoying ditty which you can skip before listening to three absolutely gorgeous tracks! Just take a look at some of the lyrics:

From Now On:
'From now on there'll be music and dancing and moonlight romancing'

The Girls Want The Boys:
'The girls want the boys for the money, the boys want the girls just for fun' - I mean, how can you not love it?!

To Love Somebody:
'To love somebody is to hurt somebody, to tear someone's heart in two'

The rest of the album comes of as filler in comparison but there a few good tunes - though for some reason her pronounciation is markedly worse in the later songs...

Eleanor Bodel - One Way Ticket


Yet another Supreme gone solo. This time it is founding member (and original lead) Florence Ballard! Believe me, even though you may not hear her a lot on The Supremes recordings, this girl CAN sing!

I won't repeat her story here, instead I recommend you to go to youtube, and there you will find a special on her life.

This post consists of the album finally released in 2001, with her ABC recordings and a few Supremes songs with Flo on lead. I added seven (!) bonus tracks:
1. After All - an early recording with Barbara Martin on it. Each girl sings one verse, Flo does the first.
2. Buttered Popcorn - A longer version than the one found here. I got it of The Complete Motown Singles.
3. I Saw Him Standing There
4. Oh Holy Night
5. Silent Night
6. Save Me A Star
7. People - a live rendition of the Barbra Streisand standard that used to be Flo's moment in the spotlight in the Supremes live shows.

This is an absolutely MUST HAVE!


The first half of her 1980 album Gotta Keep Moving, I couldn't find the other tracks. If anyone out there has them please let me know!

Really Like Your Rap - Skating In The Streets - That's What I Want


Somewhat better than the previous, only because the opening track Free Again equals and even rivals anything she ever recorded with The Vandellas. The rest, well... I usually skip it. Some of you might like it though...

AMG Review:
"As post-Motown Martha Reeves albums go, this one's OK. The title signifies Martha's reunion with former Motown producer Henry Cosby (who, in reality, played an insignificant role in her Motown success). Fantasy gave Martha more creative control than she had enjoyed at Motown, allowing her to pen four of the eight songs here. But for some reason, ex-Motown producers, with few exceptions, lose their magic after leaving Berry-land. "Free Again" and "Love Don't Come No Stronger" are adequate dance numbers, but poor sisters to Martha's Motown stuff, and the three ballads are merely decent. Cosby failed to properly capture Martha's reedy soprano; at Motown it was full and vibrant, while at other companies it's thin and shrill. Maybe it's the studio, the musicians, the mastering, who knows? Whatever the reason, Martha Reeves' post-Motown recordings have been less than scintillating. "

Martha Reeves - We Meet Again


No introduction necessary. Her second solo album, not one I listen to often - you can clearly hear the start of the decline of her voice. Her vibrato just sounds shrill, not soulful. Solid vocal effort otherwise, and decent songs. I would rate it at 2.5/5.

AMG Review:
"Four producers — Tony Silvester, General Johnson, Tony Camillo, and Bert DeCoteaux — working independently resulted in the best post-Motown LP for Martha Reeves to date. The material and arrangements suit her voice and style more than Richard Perry's earlier extravaganza that flopped. While this didn't fare much better commercially, it's more of what you expect from the Detroit diva, and it cost less to produce. Included is Martha's original version of Gwen Guthrie and Pat Grant's "This Time I'll Be Sweeter," a song later popularized by Angela Bofill. Reeves' version of Gamble & Huff's "Now That We Found Love" is one of the better cuts; Martha sings it with as much conviction as the O'Jays, who first waxed it. "Thank You" is an uptempo romp produced by General Johnson, who has Reeves reaching for notes like her former producers at Motown did. Disappointing sales caused Reeves to leave Arista Records after this sole release to take a shot with Fantasy Records and the opportunity to work with ex-Motown producer Henry Cosby. "

Martha Reeves - The Rest Of My Life


Another solo Supreme outing, this time by founding member Mary Wilson, likewise the only constant member through all the line-ups.
Just as with Jean Terrell, this is late-seventies 'dancefloor soul'. It kicks off with the delicious Red Hot, but eventhough the rest of tracks are more than decent, the album kinda loses momentum. Warm Summer Night, Pick Up The Pieces and Midnight Dancer are the best tracks, and you can't go wrong with Red Hot at parties.
Well worth a listen!


Jean Terrell may not be a household name for most, but she once fronted THE girl group. When Diana Ross left The Supremes to pursue a solo carrier, Jean filled her place in the group. Despite releasing a few charting singles in the beginning, the hits soon dried up and Jean and fellow Supreme Lynda Laurence left the label in 1973. She then got a record deal with A&M Records and in 1978 she released I Had To Fall In Love. To my knowledge it didn't chart, but it does contain decent uptempo soul music, bordering on disco. Jean has a very good and distinct voice, and if you liked the post-Ross Supremes you're gonna like this. The second track on the album, No One Like My Baby, is the best track on here and it could have been a hit single had it been released.

(update: apparently fellow Supreme Lynda Laurence is on back-up)

Jean Terrell - I Had To Fall In Love


Ever heard of Darlene McCrea? Not likely, huh? But I'll bet you'll at least have heard of either The Raelettes or The Cookies, both of which she was a founding member. The Cookies had two distinct versions of the group, with Darlene in the first (and later in the second, after her little sister Earl-Jean left the group) which later become The Raelettes. She also released a few solo cuts, and here I have gathered four of them + the 1956 top ten R&B hit she had with The Cookies, In Paradise.

Darlene McCrea

Dont Worry Baby - My Heart's Not In It - You - You Made A Fool Of Me
+ The Cookies - In Paradise


'EEH EEH AAH!' - Can you guess what song that line is from? Yup, that's right, the incomparable Egyptian Shumba! Released in -63 it failed to chart, but has since become a cult favorite. The Tammys were three girls who by chance got to be Lou Christie's background singers for a while, but none of their singles lifted of the ground and the group decided to call it quits.
Here are all songs they recorded that was made avaible on CD for the first time on Lou Christie Egyptian Shumba: The Singles and Rare Recordings 1962-1964, which I believe now to be out of print.

Take Back Your Ring/Part Of Growing Up 1963 United Artists 632
Egyptian Shumba/What's So Sweet About Sweet Sixteen 1963 United artists 678
Hold Back The Light Of Dawn/Gypsy 1965 Veep 1210
Blue Sixteen/His Actions Speak Louder Than Words 1965 Veep 1220
+ Egyptian Shumba (alternate version)