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Ring Their Bells: Anita Ward, Stephanie Mills, Fern Kinney, Donna Washington Reissued

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Anita Ward - Songs of LoveIn recent days, we’ve turned the spotlight on a quartet of classic soul reissues, two each from Big Break Records (Arthur Prysock’s All My Life and Caston and Majors’ self-titled Motown album) and SoulMusic Records (Nancy Wilson’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman and Jerry Butler’s Love’s on the Menu/Suite for the Single Girl).  But those are hardly the only recent releases from these two imprints of the Cherry Red Group.

Big Break has offered two titles, both from 1979 and both with ties to legendary southern soul incubator Malaco Records and Florida’s TK Records.  Anita Ward became an overnight sensation thanks to the success of her debut LP, Songs of Love.  The No. 8 Pop/No. 2 R&B smash yielded the all-time disco classic “Ring My Bell,” written by Frederick Knight (“I’ve Been Lonely for So Long”).  Cut at Jackson, Mississippi’s Malaco Studios and released on Knight’s Juana label – part of Henry Stone’s T.K. Records family – “Ring My Bell” ascended Ward to the pantheon of so-called “one hit wonders.” But Songs of Love offers so much more, with an emphasis not on disco floor-fillers but rather on the beguiling ballads that make the title so apropos.  Ward’s Deniece Williams-like vocal instrument shines on this set produced by Knight and with songwriting contributions from the great Sam Dees.  Single versions of “Ring My Bell” and “Make Believe Lovers” have been appended.

Fern Kinney’s Groove Me wasn’t only recorded at Malaco, but was also first issued on the Malaco label.  Jackson native Kinney scored a No. 54 Pop/No. 26 R&B/No. 6 Disco hit with the title track, a disco update of King Floyd’s 1971 funky admonition.  Like Anita Ward, Fern Kinney was an unfortunate victim of the disco backlash as the 1970s made way for the 1980s, but Groove Me has aged well.  “Together We Are Beautiful,” the U.S. B-side to another King Floyd cover (“Baby Let Me Kiss You”) was a U.K. A-Side, and even hit pole position there.  The diverse album sequence also includes a revival of the smoldering Sylvia Robinson hit “Pillow Talk” and the nearly-country style “Sun, Moon and Rain.”  (Kinney had actually worked with Nashville’s legendary producer Billy Sherrill while a member of The Poppies.)  A generous seven bonus tracks have been added to BBR’s reissue, including duets with Frederick Knight on Paul Davis’ “Sweet Life” and Knight’s own “Tonight’s the Night.”

Both BBR titles have been remastered by Nick Robbins and include new liner notes from J. Matthew Cobb.  Hit the jump to check out two more vintage releases from the SoulMusic label! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 22, 2013 at 12:58