The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for the ‘Cheryl Lynn’ Category

Got To Be Real: SoulMusic Reissues Cheryl Lynn, Labelle and Johnnie Taylor

leave a comment »

LabelleWith a trio of recent releases from Labelle, Cheryl Lynn and Johnnie Taylor, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint turns its attention once again to bona fide R&B royalty.

When Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles transformed into Labelle, the change was more than merely cosmetic.  The quartet was reduced to a threesome when Cindy Birdsong headed to Hitsville USA to replace Florence Ballard in The Supremes.  Moreover, under the direction of British manager, producer and songwriter Vicki Wickham, the girls ditched their traditional repertoire to pursue a gutsy new direction.  Their first album as Labelle, a 1971 self-titled effort for Warner Bros., had songs written by all three members – Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx – as well as Carole King, Laura Nyro and The Rolling Stones.  1972’s Moonshadow saw Hendryx’s songwriting talent blossom alongside compositions from Dash, Pete Townshend (a searing cover of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) and Cat Stevens (the title track).  Post-Moonshadow, Wickham and Labelle decamped for RCA.  SoulMusic has just reissued Labelle’s first and only RCA album, 1973’s Pressure Cookin’.

Nona Hendryx continued to shine on seven of the album’s nine tracks, and she was particularly concerned with social issues of the day. In A. Scott Galloway’s fine essay which accompanies this reissue, Hendryx relates, “I was inspired by artists…like Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell.  There was so much racism, sexism, drugs…there needed to be a revolution of the mind.”  Hendryx and Labelle provided one with the scorching title song, and even the album’s cover material reflected that raised consciousness.  A medley melded Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” with Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken-word “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” with all three women taking raps. Hendryx found room for the personal, too.  “(Can I Speak to You Before You Go to) Hollywood” took aim at the people who might later have been deemed poseurs: “There were many people we knew who went from being new to major stars, i.e. divas, and things went to their heads…These were the same people that at one time you’d shared dressing rooms and chicken legs with on the chitlin circuit!”  (Some have suggested Cindy Birdsong was a possible inspiration for the song.)  On “Mr. Music Man,” Hendryx addressed the rapidly-changing musical climate, specifically the marginalization of certain artists from Top 40 radio.  (The more things change…!)  The funky “Goin’ on a Holiday” was co-produced by Wickham and an uncredited Stevie Wonder, and Wonder also wrote “Open Up Your Heart” for Labelle.

After the jump: more on Pressure Cookin’, plus Cheryl Lynn and Johnnie Taylor! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2014 at 10:44

United Together: Aretha Franklin, Cheryl Lynn Among Latest From BBR

with 3 comments

Without a doubt, Cherry Red’s Big Break Records label has been one of the most hospitable to the legendary divas of soul, and two recent releases just further underline that fact.  Having previously reissued deluxe editions of Aretha Franklin’s 1982’s Jump to It and 1983’s Get It Right, both produced by Luther Vandross, the label has turned the clock backward to 1980 for the Queen’s Arista Records debut, simply titled Aretha.  It’s recently been joined by Cheryl Lynn’s 1982 Columbia LP Instant Love, produced by…wait a second…Luther Vandross!

Aretha Franklin greeted the 1980s with open arms, reinvigorated by a new deal with the Arista label.  Under the direction of Clive Davis, the label had already given a shot in the arm to the recording career of another legendary singer, Dionne Warwick.  Like Dionne’s time at Warner Bros. Records, the final years of Aretha’s Atlantic Records contract had been less than fulfilling, artistically and commercially.  Dionne’s 1979 Arista debut (also coming soon from Big Break!) earned the singer two Grammy Awards and even a new signature song (“I’ll Never Love This Way Again”).  Could Arista work the same magic on Franklin?

Whereas Barry Manilow took the producer’s chair for the Dionne album, Aretha split the duties between two talents.  The LP reunited the singer with longtime Atlantic arranger Arif Mardin (with whom she had some of her greatest triumphs) and another accomplished producer and songwriter, Chuck Jackson (not the “Any Day Now” singer).  The Sweet Inspirations, who lent their background vocal prowess to Aretha’s 1960s classics, also were on deck.  The cover photo of a relaxed Franklin reflected the music within, from an artist utterly in control of a vocal instrument still in its prime.  The eclectic line-up of songs was designed to show all sides of the artist.  Mardin oversaw two cover versions with the most overtly modern sounds on the album: a driving, funky reworking of Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose” and a glossy treatment of The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes,” a No. 1 hit just one year earlier for the band.  Though including the song’s signature riff, Franklin reinvented the vocals with stunning new harmonies.  Mardin was also at the helm of the opening song, the inviting, mid-tempo “Come to Me,” with its intertwined piano part from David Foster and David Paich.

Chuck Jackson produced the most successful single from the album, the anthemic “United Together,” which rose to the R&B Top 5 and remains one of the most potent items in Franklin’s considerable catalogue today.  He also was behind the sweet Philly groove (just dig those flutes and horns!) of the playful “Take Me with You,” and the earnest “Together Again.”  On the latter, Franklin could have been singing about herself and her bond with an audience that never left her, even in fallow days: “Well, here we are, after so many years, together again!  Yes, we’re together again!”

Though Aretha only reached No. 47 on the Billboard 200 (but a strong No. 6 on the R&B chart), it’s one of the most timeless entries in her latter-day catalogue.  It eased her into the new terrain of the 1980s while still appealing to her core style of classic R&B and soul.  Mardin returned for 1981’s Love All the Hurt Away before Franklin disciple Vandross was brought in to bring the singer in a more contemporary urban direction.  Big Break’s new edition includes four bonus tracks: 12-inch mixes of “What a Fool Believes” and “Can’t Turn You Loose,” and single versions of “Fool” and “United Together.”  Christian John Wikane’s strong essay includes great reminisces from none other than Clive Davis as well as the late Arif Mardin’s son Joe.

After the jump: the scoop on Cheryl Lynn’s Instant Love, track listings with discography and order links for both releases, and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 2, 2012 at 10:12