The Shirelles (1972) S/T (LP) RCA Victor (LSP-4698)

The Shirelles
Shirelles

RCA Victor (LSP-4698)
1972
*** noteworthy

The Shirelles played a huge part in creating the girl group genre and bringing black music to white audiences, but by the time the Beatles covered two of their songs, audiences are opting for new acts. Still, the Shirelles kept at it, releasing singles and albums into the 70s, as this 1972 album shows (which reportedly is better their previous RCA album from 1971).

Their classic songs from the late 50s and early 60s were as much R&B and doo-wop as pop, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this outfit were able to update their sound and fit in with the soul music of the early 70s. This set features Shirley and Micki (who were both there from the beginning) and focuses on soul numbers from 1971.

Not surprisingly, they start the set with a then-recent Carole King number, “Brother, Brother” (not surprising because their relationship with King goes back to the beginning). This version seems to be a mix of King’s 1971 version and The Isley Brother’s version from 1972. Shirelles’ version was also released as a single, with “Sunday Dreaming” as the B-side–the second cut on this album. The first side also includes “It’s Going to Take Some Time” (another number from Carole King’s 1971 Music album) with a solid reading of Bill Withers’ 1971 “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the Bee Gees’ 1971 “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. Al Green’s 1972 version of the Bee Gees’ song might have inspired the version on this album, especially considering this is followed by an Al Green number to conclude the first side.  (Of course, it’s that the Isley Brothers and/or Al Green were inspired by the versions on this album.)

When you cover classics by the great soul singers (Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Joe Simon’s 1971 Gamble/Huff-penned “Drowning in the Sea of Love, Mary Clayton’s 1971 Carole King-penned “Walk On In” and Marvin Gaye’s 1971 “Mercy Mercy/Inner City Blues/What’s Going On” the listener can’t help from recalling the sharp bite of the originals, but if one lets go of all that and enjoys all these girls had offer, this offers plenty to enjoy. The band is uncredited but backs them up well, sounding like different line ups were perhaps used on different cuts, some arrangements by bassist David Van De Pitte (who arranged many Motown classics, including the What’s Going On sessions for Marvin Gaye), others by Wade Marcus (who was just beginning to make a name for himself in the worlds of jazz and soul), the set produced by Randy Irwin.

— winch (author of

 

 

LINK TO SELLERS:

Kathi McDonald (1974) Insane Asylum (LP) Capitol ST-11224

Kathi McDonald

Insane Asylum

1974

Capitol ST-11224

produced by David Briggs

Arranged by Pete Sears

**** recommended

While many white female singers surfaced in the wake of Janis Joplin, this blue-eyed soul singer and blues belter was obviously a cut above much of the competition.

Coming from the far Northwest, McDonald made her way south as a youngster, performing in Seattle when she was 12 and eventually migrating to Frisco in her late teens (Seida). She became an Ikette in the late 1960s, and offered her vocals on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s final offerings and on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. She eventually recorded this solo album in 1974.


The set is produced by David Briggs and features a line up of American guitarists, Neil Schon, Ronnie Montrose, Nils Lofgren, and Jim Cipollina. While McDonald remains in the spotlight, these guitarists (and other musicians) play a big part of the recordings, especially as the set progresses into side two. A highlight includes Cipollina offering his trademark guitar sound to Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else.”


The first side will likely grab you, and the flipside will likely not let go, side one concluding with likely the first time Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire” had seen the light of day, the set concluding with the Willie Dixon-penned title track where Kathi shares the lead vocals with an uncredited Sly Stone (Gonzales).  While this can’t match the power of the 1968 original by Koko Taylor (with Willie Dixon himself sharing the vocals), it’s as good a cover of this song you’re likely to find.  It’s a fine conclusion to a solid album.


Perhaps because this focused on songs from years and decades of the past in an era when rock and roll was supposed to be progressive to be relevant, this album didn’t sell well,  It likely also didn’t help that Kathi not only focused on covers but also a rock sound in sharp contrast to the singer-songwriter folk rock so popular with white female singers in the post-60s early 70s.

 

After the lack of sales of this album, McDonald wouldn’t offer a follow-up until two decades later, but the quality of this album, along with her appearance on nearly 150 other albums (Seida) should be enough to provide her with a chapter in the history of singers from the Northwest.

 

— winch

Sources:

Gonzales, Michael A. Pitchfork. “The Pitch: Sly’s Stone-Cold Genius in 10 Best Late, Great Songs.” http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/1447-slys-stone-cold-genius-in-10-late-great-songs/

Seida, Linda. All Music. “Artists: Kathi McDonald.” http://www.allmusic.com/artist/kathi-mcdonald-mn0000365553/biography
http://kathimcdonald.com/discography/

Moments (1976) Moments with You (LP) Stang 1030

Moments

Moments with You 

1976

Stang 1030

**** recommended


While the second side of this album is filled with forgettable attempts at disco funk produced and written by the group (Ray, Goodman, Brown), Side One is produced by Sylvia Robinson and filled with endless Carol Sager-penned gems for fans of that slow and mellow soul that came out of various East Coast cities in the late 60s and early 70s.


If you think they stopped making mellow magic once disco hit town, check out the first side on this Bicentennial-year offering.  This side doesn’t have a weak moment and might have been the best side this group offered in the ten years of their existence (1968 – 1978).  It’s also another feather in Sylvia’s many-feathered hat.

— winch (author of

LINK TO SELLERS:

Cornell Dupree (1978) Shadow Dancing (LP) Versatile Records MSG 6004

Cornell Dupree

Shadow Dancing 

1978

Versatile Records MSG 6004

Produced by Vic Chiumbolo

*** noteworthy
Most listeners wouldn’t expect much from a session guitarist running through the then-current hits, but Dupree was no run-of-the-mill session artist, and he manages to keep this set tasteful and contemporary, interesting and enjoyable, not a small feat for 1978. While the contributions from Hank Crawford, Jimmy Smith, and others come through clearly, this is Cornell’s album.


Unlike many rock, jazz and blues musicians, Dupree understands that the contribution of all instruments–even guitar–should remain part of the song. And although these are all instrumentals, they all sound like songs, with Cornell’s playing not only helping move along the rhythm, but also providing voices delivered with the stabbing licks and understated harmonics.

Side one is a run through the hits, starting with a fusion of Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” and Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and then the third cut, “The Closer I Get To You,” effectively slows down the proceedings. The song had been an important part of the story of the friendship and duets of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, and Dupree’s instrumental version seems both a tribute to that story and a testimony to the power of Cornell’s playing. The harmonics are wonderfully placed and then punched home with slow but stabbing licks. (Sadly, the version would serve as memorial for Donny Hathaway and his struggles with mental illness, as Donny would suffer a fatal fall from his balcony about the time this album was released.) While a version of Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” might seem a bit silly after that heartfelt number, it’s actually great placement, Cornell and the band picking up the pace and using the tune as a launching pad, swinging the hit until the trail-off grooves.


Side two comes as no disappointment, opening with an extended version of Freddie Scott’s 1963 “Hey Girl” (Goffin-King), and while this cut concludes with a Cornell workout, like much of the second side, the song allows room for the contributions of other member of the band to come to the front. If the version of Steely Dan’s “Peg” seems unnecessary, the set ends with a grip on the groove, first with a surprisingly effective version of Dolly Parton’s “Two Doors Down” and finally with the workout conclusion of Dupree’s own “The Creeper.” On this final cut, Cornell gets to stretch his fingers but also pulls back to give Jimmy Smith and the horn players some room to fill in the groove. If the album had weaker moments, this last cut makes one forget all that.


This isn’t an essential listening, but after Cornell graced hundreds and hundreds of classic and noteworthy soul and jazz recordings with his guitar, it’s nice to hear him have a chance to put his licks in the spotlight. While many jazz enthusiasts won’t find this an especially interesting outing, fans of guitar playing or the slick funky stuff of the late 70s should definitely find something to enjoy in these grooves.

— winch (author of

links to sellers (LP, CD, downloads, streaming):

Dreams (1970) S/T (LP) Columbia 30225

Dreams

Dreams

1970

Columbia 30225

Produced by Fred Weinberg and Dreams

*** noteworthy


While most of the early fusion had a huge focus on Hendrix-influenced electric guitars, and this does feature some noteworthy contributions from John Abercrombie, this is clearly an extension of Miles Davis, especially Miles’ then-recent live explorations of chasing down the truth and the voodoo, as this set focuses on driving rhythms, horns and spontaneity, the forward movement often working up to a semi-controlled frenzy perhaps best showcased as the 14+ minute “Dream Suite” progresses into a funky drive.


While Miles is an obvious influence, the influences of other innovative jazz pioneers of the 60s clearly show, including the ones who–like this outfit–offered vocals. And as one would expect from a fusion outfit, the influences appear to go beyond the world of jazz. For example, the influence of Sly Stone might have gone unnoticed, but considering the first cut (“Devil Lady”) and the fact that this outfit was formed in the late 60s and released this album in 1970, it’s easy to make that Sly Stone connection. It’s not that most of this sounds like Sly, but the influence is clearly there.

It’s also easy to hear how this outfit likely both influenced and was influenced by many artists of this era, by the horn-heavy rock groups of the late 60s as well as Frank Zappa and Tower of Power. And while this group doesn’t match the innovations and accomplishments of Miles Davis and Weather Report, the music on this album does appears to bridge Miles to the innovative fusion work of Weather Report.

The music is grounded in the compositions provided by keyboardist Jeff Kent and bassist Doug Lubahn, with Lubahn’s bass and Cobham’s drumming helping to both ground it and move it along, but this is a whole-group effort and more about exploration and spontaneous combustion than control, to provide as the liner notes point out, “a sort of organized jam.” The live-in-the-studio recording strategy certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, but this outfit helped establish this as an option and an example for musicians in the decades that followed. The musical explorations certainly serve as a bridge between some of the more innovative music of 1960s and for better or worse, the times to come.

— winch (author of

Link to seller:

Redbone (1970) S/T (LP) Epic 501

Redbone

S/T (LP)

1970

Epic 501

produced by Lolly Vegas and Pete Welding

*** noteworthy

After making music throughout the 60s, the Vegas brothers decided to fly their Native American flag high with the arrival of this band.

The music is mostly a mix of swamp rock and New Orleans-influenced funk, with Lolly’s unique electric-guitar sounds (combined with some funky rhythms) helping give the music a sound all its own.  The influences appears to come out of Hendrix, Tony Joe White, and Frank Zappa, but the sounds of these brothers might have influenced those artists as well.  The music is arguably best showcased on the three extended instrumentals.

While Native Americans had a huge influence on American music prior to this (with trailblazers of the 50s and 60s such as Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and Link Wray as well as the fact that decades earlier, Native American music was part of the New Orleans sound that influenced nearly all American music ), this band announced their heritages loud and proud with the arrival of this double-LP debut, and this helps remind us of an important social aspect of the early 70s–the lesser remembered Civil Rights movement known at that time as AIM, a struggle that burns through American history to the world today.

— winch (author of…