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Archive for the ‘Cissy Houston’ Category

Cherry Pop “Thinks It Over” With Two Reissues From Cissy Houston

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Cissy Houston - Cherry PopWhen Cissy Houston was signed to Private Stock Records in 1977 to record the first of two albums just reissued by the Cherry Pop label, her C.V. spoke for itself. Music practically ran in the veins of the vocalist born Emily Drinkard in Newark, New Jersey, 1933.  Cissy first made her mark as a member of The Drinkard Singers, the group said to have recorded the very first major-label gospel album (1959’s A Joyful Noise, on RCA Victor).  Among Cissy’s fellow Drinkard Singers was her sister Lee Warrick, mother of Marie Dionne and Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warrick – later Warwick.  During the same period her niece Dionne was pursuing solo fame at Scepter Records, Cissy was getting ready to give birth to a baby girl she would christen Whitney and also forming the in-demand session group The Sweet Inspirations with Dee Dee among its initial members.  The Sweet Inspirations sang with Elvis Presley, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and countless others, and also recorded a string of well-received solo albums for Atlantic Records.

But Cissy had her eyes on solo stardom, and eventually departed the ranks of the Sweet Inspirations. She headlined the just-reissued Presenting Cissy Houston (and was first to record Jim Weatherly’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”) in 1970, but continued to sing with a diverse array of artists.  That’s Cissy cooing on Bette Midler’s “Do You Want to Dance” and taking the lead on Burt Bacharach’s “One Less Bell to Answer.”  So Houston wasn’t exactly sitting on her laurels when she signed to Larry Uttal’s Private Stock label, where she remained for two albums.  Cherry Pop has brought both back to CD – 1977’s Cissy Houston and 1978’s Think It Over – the latter in an expanded edition.

To produce Cissy Houston, with its eponymous title signifying a new beginning for the singer, Private Stock turned to Jersey boy Michael Zager.  At Private Stock, Zager would front a disco band and score a hit with “Let’s All Chant.”  But Cissy Houston steered clear of dancefloor beats in favor of a tasteful, pop-soul approach.  Houston applied her powerful and versatile voice to nine selections arranged and conducted by Zager to emphasize her gospel background and emotive style.  A surprising highlight is the album’s opening track, one of the very first recordings of Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin’s “Tomorrow.”  The song was introduced in the musical Annie, which opened on Broadway on April 21, 1977 following a pre-Broadway tryout at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House.  Cissy Houston was released the very next month, in May, affording those who hadn’t yet seen the musical a chance to learn the optimistic credo that tomorrow “is only a day away.”  The rendition is straightforward, but as expected, there’s some choice vocalizing from Houston that adds a mature dimension to the future standard.

Considerably more familiar by 1977 were a pair of songs plucked from the recent past: Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song” and Bobby Russell and Bobby Scott’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (a hit for The Hollies).  These choices weren’t even slightly radical; both tunes had crossed over from the Top 40 to be covered by artists such as Andy Williams.  But backing choir The Voices of Hope adds gospel flair to “Your Song,” while “He Ain’t Heavy” also allows Houston to soar, sanctified-style.

On the earlier Presenting Cissy Houston, the singer tackled her niece Dionne’s songbook with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” turning the ballad into an up-tempo groove.  Here, she takes “Make It Easy on Yourself” – first recorded as a demo by Dionne but released first by Jerry Butler, in 1962 – and slows it down considerably.  Houston digs deep into David’s pained words, embellishing many with dramatic, swooping runs, or melisma.  Listening to this track, it’s evident to see just how much of an influence Cissy had on her daughter Whitney.  (The physical resemblance between Cissy and Whitney circa her own debut album is also clear on the cover photograph of Cissy Houston, while photos in the booklet to follow-up Think It Over nicely show the Houston-Warrick family similarity.)

The album is rounded out by a few original cuts.  Zager and Aram Schefrin’s funky, saucy “Morning Much Better” (“I like it in the morning…the morning’s much better!”) has a bit of the lyrical flavor of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s delicious “Just a Little Lovin’,” and is Houston at her earthiest.  (Schefrin was a member of the band Ten Wheel Drive with Zager.)  The album’s first single, “Love is Something That Leads You” by Zager and Barbara Soehner, is smooth, deliciously catchy R&B.   Its B-side, the upbeat “It Never Really Ended,” answers the question “What happens when you go back to an old love affair hoping that the feeling will still be there?”

After the jump, we’ll revisit Think It Over!  Plus, we have full track listings and order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 4, 2013 at 10:14

Reviews: First Family of Soul – Rare Albums From Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy Houston Reissued and Expanded

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If there’s such a thing as a First Family of Soul, it might as well be the combined Houston/Warwick clan.  Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Emily “Cissy” Drinkard sang gospel with her family as part of The Drinkard Singers, which counted Cissy’s sister Lee Warrick among its members.  Marie Dionne Warrick was born in 1940 to Lee and her husband Mancel; Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warrick followed in 1942.  Though The Drinkard Singers remain an important part of the history of gospel music, said to have recorded the very first gospel album on a major label (1959’s A Joyful Noise on RCA Victor), could Cissy and Lee have imagined the success that their daughters would have had?  Dionne Warwick – her new surname having been created by a record label misspelling – ranks second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charting female in pop history, with 56 singles on the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.  Cissy’s daughter Whitney Houston, of course, made history of her own, cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most-awarded female singer of all time and also the first to chart seven consecutive chart-topping singles!  Cissy Houston, to this day, continues to perform and inspire audiences wherever she goes.

Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records has just celebrated this true First Family of Soul with three remarkable new releases: the first-ever CD reissues of Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick’s 1977 A Man and a Woman and Dee Dee Warwick’s 1969 Foolish Fool, plus a deluxe, expanded edition of Cissy Houston’s 1970 Presenting Cissy Houston.  Taken together, these three albums represent a mini-history of American soul music.  Hit the jump and we’ll individually explore each of these seminal releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2012 at 13:09

Release Round-Up: Week of May 22

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Chubby Checker, It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again/Durocs, Durocs/Terry Knight and the Pack, Terry Knight and the Pack/Reflections/The Orlons, The Wah Watusi/South Street/Various Artists, Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1 (Real Gone Music)

The latest group from Real Gone Music includes classics from the vaults of Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway label plus power-pop from San Francisco’s Durocs!

Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick, A Man and A Woman/Cissy Houston, Presenting Cissy Houston (Expanded Edition)/Dee Dee Warwick, Foolish Fool (Expanded Edition) (SoulMusic Records)

Dionne Warwick and Isaac Hayes’ long-unavailable 1977 live concert LP makes its CD debut alongside two other titles from members of the Warwick family: Dionne’s aunt Cissy Houston’s 1970 solo collection Presenting Cissy Houston, and sister Dee Dee’s 1969 Mercury LP Foolish Fool!  Watch for reviews later this week!

The Knack, Havin’ a Rave-Up!  Live in Los Angeles, 1978 (Zen/Omnivore)

The New Wave quartet is at its most powerful on this live album drawn from pre-fame performances on the Sunset Strip!  Joe’s review is at the link above!

Dean Martin, The Dean Martin Variety Show Uncut (Time Life)

Time Life releases the first-ever DVD set of complete and uncut episodes of The Dean Martin Show!  Dino’s guests include Cyd Charisse, Joey Heatherton, Barbara McNair, Zero Mostel, Leslie Uggams, Abbe Lane, Buck Owens and The Lettermen!

Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (Hear Music)

It’s finally here!  Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album has been remastered and reissued in a variety of formats with loads of bonus content!  Our review arrives tomorrow!

Neil Sedaka, The Tra-La Days Are Over/Overnight Success (BGO)

Neil Sedaka’s 1973 and 1975 albums are paired by BGO.  The combined collection features guest stars Elton John and 10cc, and includes such favorites as “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “The Hungry Years” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”

Three Degrees, Standing Up for Love (Funky Town Grooves)

Funky Town Grooves reissues and expands The Three Degrees’ post-Philadelphia International album recorded in 1977 for CBS/Epic!

Various Artists, The Philadelphia International 40th Box Set (Harmless/Demon)

The long-delayed 10-CD box set celebrating Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International label finally arrives in the U.K. courtesy Harmless Records!