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Archive for December 13th, 2013

Always Something There: Cherry Pop Reissues Viola Wills’ “If You Could Read My Mind”

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Viola Wills - If You Could Read My MindReleased during the last days of disco, Viola Wills’ 1980 album If You Could Read My Mind blended then-current dance styles with deliciously soulful vocals and a genre-bending repertoire of songs.  Cherry Pop has recently reissued this LP from the onetime Barry White protégé and Joe Cocker backing vocalist in an expanded and remastered edition that reveals it to be a hidden gem with appeal to fans of disco, Hi-NRG and MOR pop/soft rock.

Los Angeles-born Viola Wills (1939-2009) was joined by members of Joe Cocker’s band for her 1974 album debut Soft Centres, but had to wait until 1979 to score a major hit single.  That success came with Wills’ reworked version of “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” Milton Kellem’s 1951 song introduced by Teresa Brewer but best-known in its 1956 recording by young sister act Patience and Prudence.  Whereas the fourteen year-olds’ version was sweetness and light, Wills’ driving rendition made it clear that you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end!  Her mature, lightly Latin disco recording, with electronic flourishes, announced that Wills was in the business of musical reinvention.  It’s included on If You Could Read My Mind among a group of similarly interesting cover versions and a couple of originals from Wills’ own pen.

For the album’s opening track, Wills transformed Gordon Lightfoot’s moody ballad “If You Could Read My Mind” into a toe-tapping, Hi-NRG floor-filler, with mariachi horns adding a quirky touch.  Wills and producer Jerry McCabe expertly made over ballads like “Read My Mind” (a No. 2 U.S. Hot Dance Club Play entry) and Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Up on the Roof” in disco style without sacrificing the integrity of the original song.  A contemporary sheen and a dance beat were also added to Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” roughly three years before Naked Eyes thought of modernizing the vintage tune.  Wills’ rendition hews much closer to Bacharach’s original melody than Naked Eyes’ however.  Did her recording influence the duo?  The new liner notes in Cherry Pop’s reissue by Stephen “SPAZ” Schnee speculate on it, pointing out that drummer Phil Towner and bassist Tony Hibbert, one half of British electropop quartet New Musik, played on Wills’ album.  That group was led by Tony Mansfield…who went on to produce Naked Eyes’ version of the song.

We have more after the jump, including the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 13, 2013 at 11:09

Posted in News, Reissues, Viola Wills