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

 

 

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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/

The Breaks (1983) S/T (LP) RCA 4675

The Breaks

The Breaks

1983

RCA 4675

produced by Vini Poncia

***

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This one’s only for fans with a huge penchant for 80s pop-rock fronted by female vocalists, but if that’s your bag, this set is worth a listen, features an LA new-wave sound with the band’s Tennessee roots showing–especially in Susanne’s vocals. This Memphis outfit was fronted by the Taylor siblings, Susanne Jerome the cutie on vocals (and made into a new wave southern belle sexpot on the “She Wants You” video.)

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While she has her right hand firmly planted in the pocket of her cute 80s skirt on the album sleeve, she appears to be flipping the bird. That about says it all, LA trying to make her into a 80s pop tart, but this Memphis girl showing her roots with that twang and attitude in her voice, that grin on her face and that middle finger firmly planted in her pocket.

 

 

Most of the songs are written by the Taylor siblings, the set produced by Vini Poncia (Ringo’s songwriting partner through most of the 70s).  Apparently the rest of the band is made up of siblings, Rob and Russ Caudill providing the rhythm section, and keyboardist Tom Ward showing up on song credits with a D. Ward.  The first side stays upbeat and fairly cute and enjoyable with an 80s power-pop sound, and then after the opener “Wishy Washy,” Side Two–for better or worse depending on the listener–sticks with the ballads and sounds like the party’s over.  And likely the party was over because this is apparently the only album by this outfit.

— winch (author of

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Bleached (2013) Ride Your Heart (LP) Dead Oceans Records (DOC082)

Bleached

Ride Your Heart 

Dead Oceans Records (DOC082)

Produced by Rob Barbato

**** recommended

Debut long player from this LA outfit, the band described at this point as sisters Jennifer and Jessica Calvin, all songs and most of the playing credited to the pair.

The sound clearly has a California feel, mixing many styles from the past: the garage, surf, and dreamy girl group of the sixties, the power pop and lots of Blondie of the 70s, the sonic of punk and the 90s mixed with a bit of the girl-group revival and pop rock of the 80s, even a bit of exotica (and maybe the hillbilly) of the 50s–for example Jessica adding lap steel to the Bo Diddley beat on “Guy Like You.”

For fans of sonic pop music, this debut set is worth a listen.

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— winch (author of

Huggy Bear (early 1990s) Taking the Rough with the Smooch (10″ LP) Kill Rock Stars (1993)

Huggy Bear

Taking the Rough with the Smooch 

Kill Rock Stars (1993)

Classic U.K. riot grrrl/boy punk…pissed off and raw stomp and spit, focused like a pistol, snatching up some of the pieces where folks like Crass  left off…this 10″ housing cuts from singles and EPs from the previous year or so.


Essential stuff for fans of girl punk.

— winch

La Misma (2016) Kanizadi (LP) estado tóx’co 023

Kickboxing with a pack of girls, endless rumpus stomp and jarring jabs, tons of fun and more than a little bit menacing, snapping at you in language you can’t understand (unless you’re maybe from Brazil or Portugal then maybe if they let you you can wrap your fingers around the fists and get some inside grin) snapping at the heels of some demons in a language any punk in the world is bound to understand.


It’s amazing to me that it’s the future now and people are still making kickass punk statements like this.

— winch

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