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Archive for February 3rd, 2012

Gonna Take a Miracle: Deniece Williams Trio Coming From BBR and FTG

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Let’s hear it for Deniece Williams.

By the time of her debut album in 1976, the resilient singer with the remarkable range had already recorded a Northern Soul favorite (“I’m Walking Away” on the small Lock Records label), performed with Minnie Riperton and Roberta Flack, and been a member of Stevie Wonder’s versatile backing group Wonderlove.  This is Niecy, on Columbia Records, was produced by Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire and Charles Stepney of Chess Records fame, and their confidence in the vocalist paid off. 

Now, on the occasion of its 35th anniversary, This is Niecy is receiving an expanded reissue from the U.K.’s Big Break Records, one of the Cherry Red family of labels.  (BBR has previously released expanded editions of four of Williams’ albums: her sophomore effort Songbird, disco-flavored third solo album When Love Comes Calling, Thom Bell-produced soul masterpiece My Melody and pop classic Let’s Hear It For the Boy.  In addition, the label’s Facebook page recently confirmed exciting plans for an upcoming reissue of the 1982 Williams/Bell Niecy.)  Not wanting to be left out of the action, however, the Funky Town Grooves label has planned two more Williams reissues, both expanded: 1983’s I’m So Proud and 1986’s Hot on the Trail.  (Williams’ back catalogue has been mined by numerous labels in recent memory.  Both Reel Music and SPV Yellow Label have previously tackled Niecy for reissue, and the latter paired it with Let’s Hear It for the Boy.  We eagerly await Big Break’s plans for the much-loved album!)

The centerpiece of This is Niecy remains “Free,” still a signature song for Williams today.  Co-written by the Gary, Indiana native (as was each track on the album), “Free” scored chart victories both in the United States (No. 2 R&B, No. 25 Pop) and the United Kingdom (No. 1 Singles).  “That’s What Friends Are For” (not the Burt Bacharach song, or for that matter, the Paul Williams song, either!) and “Cause You Love Me Baby” both followed “Free” up the R&B charts, and the former even cracked the U.K. Top Ten.  The newly-remastered edtion of This is Niecy includes three bonus tracks:  the single versions of “Free” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” as well as an alternative single mix of “Free.”  Housed in a super jewel box, the 35th anniversary edition features copious liner notes, customary for BBR, based on new interviews with the album’s personnel!

The success of This is Niecy led to another success with 1977’s Song Bird, and an even bigger one in an unlikely place.  Columbia teamed its new star with a label mainstay, the velvet-voiced Johnny Mathis, for a one-off single arranged by Gene Page, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”  The song by Nat Kipner and John McIntyre Vallins took the triple crown, going all the way to No.1 on the pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts.  It was Mathis’ first chart-topper since 1957 and the first for Williams.  Its success led to an entire album of duets, 1978’s That’s What Friends Are For, which arrived in between Song Bird and When Love Comes Calling, her first LP for Maurice White’s Columbia-distributed ARC label.

Hit the jump for the scoop on Funky Town Grooves’ expanded editions of I’m So Proud and Hot on the Trail! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 3, 2012 at 10:20