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Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But Vintage R&B: Expanded Reissues Arrive From Payne, Mills, Guthrie

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Freda Payne - Supernatural High

A recent trio of releases from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint is sure to get the pulses racing of ’70s and ‘80s soul fans.

Freda Payne’s second album for Capitol Records, 1978’s Supernatural High, followed 1977’s Stares and Whispers, also the recipient of a past SoulMusic reissue.  Skip Scarborough (Earth Wind and Fire, Dionne Warwick, Phyllis Hyman) took the production helm from Motown’s Frank Wilson and wrote a few tracks for the project.  Like many of Payne’s best albums, Supernatural explored numerous sides of the versatile artist.  Freda had, after all, been spotted by Duke Ellington, toured with Billy Eckstine, played on Broadway, and recorded for labels including Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus/Hot Wax family and ABC-Paramount.  She scored her stone-cold classic “Band of Gold” for H-D-H in 1970, but was still very much an active recording artist when Supernatural rolled around.  The album has numerous disco flourishes but is still very much in a soulful R&B vein as produced by Scarborough and arranged by David N. Crawford.

The opening medley of “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Scarborough’s “Happy Music” put a disco spin on the Democratic Party favorite written in 1932 and adopted by Barbra Streisand (and so famously sung by Streisand and Judy Garland as a duet).  “Livin’ for the Beat,” from Payne’s then-husband Gregory Abbott, was another track designed for the dancefloor.  ”Tell Me Please,” from Scarborough’s pen, is a sweet ‘n’ smooth mid-tempo ballad for Payne to wrap her pipes around, as is Thom Bell and Leroy Bell’s “Just the Thought of You and Me Together (Supernatural High),” which lent its title to the album.  Kevin L. Goins’ excellent liner notes don’t explain how Payne got a hold of the Bell song, but it’s a major highlight with Bell’s typically lush melodic style.  Alas, he didn’t come on board to produce or arrange the track, but the horn arrangement near the song’s conclusion is in vintage Bell style.  Other songs on Supernatural High came from Deniece Williams (the languid “Falling in Love”) and Freda’s sister, the Supreme Scherrie Payne (the shimmering “Storybook Romance”).  One more album followed for Capitol (1979’s Hot) before Payne took an extended recording hiatus.  Soul Music’s new edition adds one bonus track, the single edit of “Happy Days/Happy Music.”  (The B-side of “Happy Days,” “Falling in Love,” has not been included, and nor has the “I’ll Do Anything For You” Pt. 1 and 2 single.)

After the jump: we revisit classics from Stephanie Mills and Freda Payne, plus order links and track listings for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 18, 2013 at 14:38