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Archive for the ‘Bettye Swann’ Category

Reviews: Real Gone Goes R&B with Bettye Swann and Samuel Jonathan Johnson

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Bettye Swann - AtlanticShreveport, Louisiana-born Bettye Swann never liked her birth name of Betty Jean Champion, yet when it came to soul music, Swann was certainly a champion.  Her debut single for Money Records, 1965’s “Don’t Wait Too Long,” became a Top 30 R&B hit, and two years later, “Make Me Yours” went all the way to the No. 1 spot on that chart.  It was inevitable that bigger labels than Money would come calling, and sure enough, Swann recorded two country-flavored LPs in 1969 and 1970 for Capitol.  Rick Hall of the FAME label and studios was among Bettye’s fans, and with a distribution deal through Capitol, signed Swann to his production company.  But by the time he was ready to release any recordings by Bettye, the deal with Capitol was up.  Following one 45 issued directly on FAME, Hall brokered a deal to sign Swann to one of the cornerstones of American soul music: Atlantic Records.  Real Gone has teamed up with SoulMusic Records for The Complete Atlantic Recordings.  This new compilation rounds up all 23 sides recorded by Swann for the New York giant between 1972 and 1975, five of which are making their very first appearance anywhere.

Unlike some of her earthier counterparts, Swann possessed a smooth, girlish and frankly pretty voice.  Hall, in charge of Swann’s first seven Muscle Shoals-recorded Atlantic sides, deployed that voice to great effect on this collection’s opening single, the ironically-upbeat “Victim of a Foolish Heart,” in which Swann implores her man not to fall prey to the charms of an old paramour.  Though Swann’s message is clear, it’s delivered in such a sweet way that one can’t see how the weak-willed guy could possibly turn Bettye down!  Hall and Swann took a more traditionally torrid southern-soul approach on a revival of “I’d Rather Go Blind” with its tight guitar licks, organ and stabs of brass, but Swann’s coquettish lead allows the gritty lyric to be heard anew.  Swann and Hall also recut Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” which she had recorded at Capitol, and took a stab at the oft-recorded Carole King/Gerry Goffin copyright “Yours Until Tomorrow.”  Swann’s recordings lacks the fervor of Dee Dee Warwick’s or the drama of Gene Pitney’s, but compensates with the mature, intelligent delivery of Goffin’s pleading lyric.

Despite the strength of the Muscle Shoals recordings including an irresistible makeover of Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer’s Supremes cut “I’m Not That Easy to Lose,” none of Swann’s singles got any higher on the Hot 100 than “Today I Started Loving You Again” with its No. 46 placement.  So Atlantic set Swann up at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios in 1973, teaming her with The Young Professionals, a.k.a. LeBaron Taylor, Phil Hurtt and Tony Bell, younger brother of Philadelphia soul architect Thom Bell.  Though Philly soul could be as sweet as it comes, Taylor, Hurtt and Bell’s first recording with Swann made the Muscle Shoals tracks sound positively sugary in comparison.  “The Boy Next Door” is swaggering Philadelphia-style funk, with burbling guitar licks, slashing strings and an insistent groove.  Arranger Tony Bell’s second track for Swann, B-side “Kiss My Love Goodbye,” should have been the A-side.  It’s a quintessential, up-tempo Spinners-style track, and for Swann’s next single, Tony Bell turned to his older brother Thom to provide the charts.  You can hear Bell’s influence in the soft horns, strings and ethereal male backing vocals of the gorgeously melancholy “Time to Say Goodbye,” providing a cushion as soft as Swann’s velvety voice.  Thom also arranged the A-side of “Time,” the darker, funk-infused “When the Game is Played on You” in which Swann once again serves up a tasty dish of vengeance to the one who’s done her wrong: “How does it feel, baby, when the game is played on you?”

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Written by Joe Marchese

March 31, 2014 at 12:37

Release Round-Up: Week of January 7

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Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours

Peter Gabriel, Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours (Real World)

In 2010, Peter Gabriel released Scratch My Back, a new set of cover songs. The plan was to pair them up with covers of his own work by the artists he covered; some of them were released as B-sides but others never materialized. (Radiohead, David Bowie and Neil Young declined to contribute.) This version combines the original album with those covers (also separately released today), including cuts by Arcade Fire, Paul Simon, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Bon Iver and the late Lou Reed.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Blood Sweat and Tears - Singles

Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Complete Columbia Singles / Bettye Swann, The Complete Atlantic Recordings / Samuel Jonathan Johnson, My Music /Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 10 – Winterland Arena December 29, 1977 (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone’s first batch of 2014 features a double-disc singles anthology from Blood, Sweat & Tears with original single mixes (and the first eight tracks in mono), obscure ’70s soul from Bettye Swann and Samuel Jonathan Johnson and a vintage Dead set from 1977.

BS&T: Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K.
Bettye: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Samuel Jonathan Johnson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Grateful Dead: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

January 7, 2014 at 12:22

Happy New Year: Real Gone Ushers In 2014 With Blood, Sweat & Tears, Grateful Dead, More

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Blood Sweat and Tears - SinglesReal Gone Music is hoping to make you so very happy with its first release slate of 2014!  On January 7, the Real Goners compile for the very first time The Complete Columbia Singles of jazz-rock pioneers Blood Sweat & Tears, offer up The Complete Atlantic Recordings of the soul great Bettye Swann (“Make Me Yours”), unearth another vintage Grateful Dead show, and recover the lone long-player of R&B singer-songwriter Samuel Jonathan Johnson.

Despite 1968’s strong debut Child is Father of the Man, with Al Kooper as chief songwriter, Blood, Sweat & Tears quickly parted ways with founding members Kooper, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss. Just months later, the group re-emerged with a new, self-titled album, adding Lew Soloff, Jerry Hyman, Chuck Winfield and Canadian lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas to the mix. (Bobby Colomby, Steve Katz, Jim Fielder, Dick Halligan and Fred Lipsius all remained in the band.) Blood, Sweat & Tears, produced by James William Guercio (The Buckinghams, Chicago), rocketed the band to superstardom with the hit singles “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel,” and “And When I Die.” And Clayton-Thomas quickly established himself as a contender for the title of best blue-eyed soul vocalist out there.  Real Gone’s 2-CD set The Complete Columbia Singles offers all three of those smashes in their original mono mixes, plus 29 more single sides (five of which are making their CD debuts) all in original 45 RPM versions.  The first eight tracks are in mono; the remaining cuts are in stereo.

Blood, Sweat & Tears was a platinum-selling, Grammy-winning Album of the Year. But inner turmoil still plagued the band. 1970’s follow-up Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 also reached No. 1, but following 1971’s fourth album, Clayton-Thomas, Halligan and Lipsius all departed for greener pastures. Clayton-Thomas was back in the fold by 1975, but the time for Blood, Sweat & Tears had passed. The band continued to record, with diminishing returns, despite the presence of well-known producers including Steve Tyrell, Bob James, Henry Cosby and Jimmy Ienner. BS&T’s final studio album for Columbia was released in 1976.  Producer Ed Osborne’s new liner notes include recollections from founding member Steve Katz, and the entire set has been remastered by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in NYC.  The Complete Columbia Singles looks to be a definitive anthology from one of the most underrated bands of the era.

After the jump: a look at the rest of the Real Gone line-up, plus pre-order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 22, 2013 at 11:03