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This Time They’ll Be Sweeter: SoulMusic Label Reissues Marlena Shaw, Angela Bofill Gems

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Marlena Shaw - Just a Matter of TimeFor two of its most recent releases, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint has turned its attention to two soulful divas who have already called the label home.  SoulMusic’s reissue series for Marlena Shaw and Angela Bofill have continued with Just a Matter of Time and Intuition, respectively.

Whether singing jazz, funk, blues, pop, or some combination thereof, Marlena Shaw has always sounded right at home.  Signed to Chess Records in 1967 on the strength of a successful stint performing at Chicago’s Playboy Club, Shaw established herself with the albums Out of Different Bags and The Spice of Life.  Variety really was Shaw’s spice of life as she demonstrated with repertoire ranging from Brill Building pop (“Go Away Little Boy,” “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”) to harder-edged funk (“Woman of the Ghetto”).  Coming off a stint singing with the Count Basie band, Shaw signed to Blue Note Records in 1971.  She would remain at Blue Note for five albums including two already reissued by SoulMusic: 1973’s From the Depths of My Soul and 1975’s unforgettably-titled Who is This Bitch Anyway?.  Just a Matter of Time (1976) was her swansong for Blue Note and like its predecessors touched on a variety of styles save pure jazz.  As Shaw reveals in A. Scott Galloway’s new liner notes, “I was so excited about being on the [Blue Note] label thinking I was going to be singing standards but everybody was looking for a hit…they would talk about all the wonderfulness of jazz and ‘oh, you’re such a dynamic scatter,’ but they didn’t want me scattin’ on no records!”

So while Shaw didn’t scat, she did deliver scorching vocals on the album’s ten tracks, most of which were infused with various strains of R&B from Philly-style soul to disco.  Producers Bert DeCoteaux and Tony Silvester crafted the LP around a varied group of songs with differing histories.  Opening track “It’s Better Than Walking Out” was in a disco-flavored bag, and has the distinction of being the first track remixed for a 12-inch single by Blue Note.  Gwen Guthrie, no slouch as a singer herself, and Patrick Grant contributed “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” and “Think About Me.”  The former has become a soulful staple, also recorded by Linda Lewis, Roberta Flack, Martha Reeves, Angela Bofill and Deniece Williams, among others.  Southern soul greats Bettye Crutcher and Frederick Knight wrote “Take My Body” and “Be for Real,” respectively.  Benard Ighner, producer of Who is This Bitch Anyway and a prime contributor to Carmen McRae’s 1975 Blue Note outing I Am Music, crafted “Sing to Me” expressly for Shaw.  Joe Jefferson and Charles Simmons’ “Love Has Gone Away” was first recorded by The Spinners and gets an earthy makeover here.  (Interestingly, Frederick Knight’s “Be for Real” has more of a Philly feel due to its electric sitar part.)

The extended 12-inch mix of “It’s Better Than Walking Out” has been added to It’s Just a Matter of Time, and the album has been remastered by Alan Wilson.  Marlena Shaw continued working with Bert DeCoteaux throughout the next chapter of her great career, at Columbia Records.  Her three albums there have also been reissued on CD by Big Break Records (Sweet Beginnings, Acting Up) and SoulMusic (Take a Bite).

After the jump, check out Angela Bofill’s Intuition!  Plus: order links and track listings for both CDs!

Angela Bofill - IntuitionBronx-born Angela Bofill’s recording of “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” appeared on her debut album, Angie, also recorded for a jazz label (GRP) and previously reissued by SoulMusic Records.  Now, SoulMusic has just given the expanded treatment to Bofill’s sole Capitol album, 1988’s Intuition.  Like Shaw, Bofill successfully tapped into both the jazz and R&B markets with her sophisticated vocals and smooth productions, and for Intuition, the intention was to reconnect with the audience who first discovered her via the Dave Grusin/Larry Rosen-helmed albums Angie and Angel of the Night.  The album’s executive producer Wayne Edwards reveals in this reissue’s detailed new liner notes by Darnell Meyers-Johnson that “the goal was to…keep the Angie sound but update it in a way that could get her contemporary radio airplay without sacrificing her artistry.”  He adds, “Easier said than done, but I think we accomplished it fairly well.”

To that end, Bofill and Edwards enlisted producer Norman Connors, another veteran of jazz and soul.  Connors was also newly signed to Capitol when he signed on for Intuition; he ended up producing four songs including a slickly rearranged version of the 1978 Gino Vannelli hit “I Just Wanna Stop” and a duet with Peabo Bryson, “For You and I.”  The reinvention of “I Just Wanna Stop” scored Bofill and Connors a No. 11 R&B single.  Vincent Brantley, then an up-and-comer with hits by New Edition under his belt, was brought on board to produce another five songs.  Brantley co-produced the title track with Jeff Carruthers who also teamed with him to co-write and co-produce “Festival/Down the Line.”  One of Brantley’s productions, “Special Lover,” was written by the team of Ken Hirsch and Phil Cody.  Cody, of course, was Neil Sedaka’s lyricist of choice following his amicable professional break-up with Howard Greenfield, and penned lyrics to Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain” and “Solitaire.”  Two songs were written and produced by Bofill herself, “Fragile, Handle with Care” and “Love Overtime.”

Intuition reached a respectable No. 38 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart, but it was destined to remain Bofill’s only Capitol LP.  Following her departure from Capitol, she’s recorded for labels including Jive, Shanachie and Black Angel.  Bofill suffered debilitating strokes in 2006 and 2007, but she has contributed to Meyers-Johnson’s liner notes here and has even valiantly returned to the stage in a concert revue.  Alan Wilson has again remastered, and two bonus tracks have been added: the single A-sides “I Just Wanna Stop” and “Love is in Your Eyes.”

Both Just a Matter of Time and Intuition are available now, and can be ordered below!

Marlena Shaw, Just a Matter of Time: Expanded Edition (Blue Note LP LA606G, 1976 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5103, 2013) (Amazon U.S./ Amazon U.K.)

  1. It’s Better Than Walkin’ Out
  2. Brass Band
  3. This Time I’ll Be Sweeter
  4. Think About Me
  5. You and Me
  6. Love Has Gone Away
  7. Sing to Me
  8. Take My Body
  9. Be For Real
  10. No Hiding Place
  11. It’s Better Than Walkin’ Out (12-Inch Single Version) (Blue Note single SP-130, 1976)

Angela Bofill, Intuition (Capitol LP C1-48335, 1988 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5099, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Love is in Your Eyes
  2. Intuition
  3. I Just Wanna Stop
  4. Long Gone
  5. For You and I (with Peabo Bryson)
  6. Fragile, Handle with Care
  7. In Your Lover’s Eyes
  8. Love Overtime
  9. Festival/Down the Line
  10. Special Love
  11. Everlasting Love
  12. I Just Wanna Stop (Single Version) (Capitol single B-44169, 1988)
  13. Love is In Your Eyes (Stereo Single Edit) (Capitol single B-44298, 1988)

Written by Joe Marchese

October 8, 2013 at 10:30

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