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This Time They’ll Be Sweeter: SoulMusic Label Reissues Marlena Shaw, Angela Bofill Gems

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Marlena Shaw - Just a Matter of TimeFor two of its most recent releases, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint has turned its attention to two soulful divas who have already called the label home.  SoulMusic’s reissue series for Marlena Shaw and Angela Bofill have continued with Just a Matter of Time and Intuition, respectively.

Whether singing jazz, funk, blues, pop, or some combination thereof, Marlena Shaw has always sounded right at home.  Signed to Chess Records in 1967 on the strength of a successful stint performing at Chicago’s Playboy Club, Shaw established herself with the albums Out of Different Bags and The Spice of Life.  Variety really was Shaw’s spice of life as she demonstrated with repertoire ranging from Brill Building pop (“Go Away Little Boy,” “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”) to harder-edged funk (“Woman of the Ghetto”).  Coming off a stint singing with the Count Basie band, Shaw signed to Blue Note Records in 1971.  She would remain at Blue Note for five albums including two already reissued by SoulMusic: 1973’s From the Depths of My Soul and 1975’s unforgettably-titled Who is This Bitch Anyway?.  Just a Matter of Time (1976) was her swansong for Blue Note and like its predecessors touched on a variety of styles save pure jazz.  As Shaw reveals in A. Scott Galloway’s new liner notes, “I was so excited about being on the [Blue Note] label thinking I was going to be singing standards but everybody was looking for a hit…they would talk about all the wonderfulness of jazz and ‘oh, you’re such a dynamic scatter,’ but they didn’t want me scattin’ on no records!”

So while Shaw didn’t scat, she did deliver scorching vocals on the album’s ten tracks, most of which were infused with various strains of R&B from Philly-style soul to disco.  Producers Bert DeCoteaux and Tony Silvester crafted the LP around a varied group of songs with differing histories.  Opening track “It’s Better Than Walking Out” was in a disco-flavored bag, and has the distinction of being the first track remixed for a 12-inch single by Blue Note.  Gwen Guthrie, no slouch as a singer herself, and Patrick Grant contributed “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” and “Think About Me.”  The former has become a soulful staple, also recorded by Linda Lewis, Roberta Flack, Martha Reeves, Angela Bofill and Deniece Williams, among others.  Southern soul greats Bettye Crutcher and Frederick Knight wrote “Take My Body” and “Be for Real,” respectively.  Benard Ighner, producer of Who is This Bitch Anyway and a prime contributor to Carmen McRae’s 1975 Blue Note outing I Am Music, crafted “Sing to Me” expressly for Shaw.  Joe Jefferson and Charles Simmons’ “Love Has Gone Away” was first recorded by The Spinners and gets an earthy makeover here.  (Interestingly, Frederick Knight’s “Be for Real” has more of a Philly feel due to its electric sitar part.)

The extended 12-inch mix of “It’s Better Than Walking Out” has been added to It’s Just a Matter of Time, and the album has been remastered by Alan Wilson.  Marlena Shaw continued working with Bert DeCoteaux throughout the next chapter of her great career, at Columbia Records.  Her three albums there have also been reissued on CD by Big Break Records (Sweet Beginnings, Acting Up) and SoulMusic (Take a Bite).

After the jump, check out Angela Bofill’s Intuition!  Plus: order links and track listings for both CDs! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 8, 2013 at 10:30

Listen, Whitey! Incendiary New Compilation Features Bob Dylan’s Rare “George Jackson” and Much More

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In her 1989 autobiography And a Voice to Sing With, Joan Baez recalled once asking Bob Dylan what was the difference between them. It was simple, he replied: she thought she could change things, and he knew that no one could. But one could argue that music did indeed, change things. Youth were politically engaged as never before, and awareness was raised of many crucial issues still debated today. Author Pat Thomas recalls “those turbulent years (approximately 1967 to 1974) when revolutionaries were considered pop culture icons and musicians were seen as revolutionaries.” Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power, a weighty 200-page tome just released by Fantagraphics Books revisiting the movement that empowered an entire people. In his definitive book, Thomas addresses the fact that many of that movement’s prominent members shared quite different views on how to go about bringing change.

A soundtrack to the written chronicle seemed essential: “My book is not really about white rock stars mingling with Black Power icons; it is a primer on the birth of the Black Power movement and a near-definitive catalog of related recordings; albums and singles; stray cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes that have been suppressed for decades.” And so the just-released Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power from Light in the Attic emphasizes diversity in its selection of artists but also the rarity of its material. At least seven of the album’s sixteen incendiary tracks have never been issued domestically on CD before, including one track by Bob Dylan himself. Other artists represented include John Lennon and Yoko Ono, comedian and activist Dick Gregory, jazz/soul chanteuse Marlena Shaw, poet, musician and spoken-word innovator Gil Scott-Heron, soul man Gene McDaniels and even British folk legend Roy Harper.

Hit the jump to read more about this exciting new release, plus a full track listing with discographical info, and an order link!

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Written by Joe Marchese

March 2, 2012 at 09:34

Marlena Shaw is “Acting Up” Again

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Whether recording jazz, pop or funk, the soulful Marlena Shaw has made her mark. The first female vocalist signed to Blue Note Records, Shaw has had an impressive career with tenures not only at the venerable jazz imprint but also Chess’ Cadet subsidiary, Columbia, Verve and Concord. Included in her outstanding discography are searing takes on Goffin and King’s “Go Away, Little Girl” (as “Go Away, Little Boy”), Ashford and Simpson’s “California Soul” and a discofied “Touch Me in the Morning.” Big Break Records continues its exploration of Shaw’s Columbia catalogue with the April 25 (U.K.)/May 3 (U.S.) release of Shaw’s second album for the label, 1978’s Acting Up. This is just one of Big Break’s stellar line-up scheduled for April/May.

The follow-up to Sweet Beginnings, Acting Up was once again helmed by producer Bert De Coteaux, while Abe Laboriel (bass) and Quentin Dennard (drums) made significant musical contributions. Shaw contributed a couple of songs herself while other notable tracks came from the pens of Billy Tragesser, Ken Stover and the team of Kathy Wakefield and Ken Hirsch. Like many of Shaw’s recordings, Acting Up features her in musical settings ranging from the romantic to the deeply funky. Big Break’s new edition features two bonus tracks, the single version of “Places” and the rare original soundtrack version of “Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow,” from the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Connors, of course, co-wrote the famous theme from Rocky, “Gonna Fly Now,” and under her given name of Annette Kleinbard was the voice of Phil Spector’s “To Know Him is to Love Him” for The Teddy Bears.  Hit the jump for pre-order link and track listing, with discographical information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 18, 2011 at 13:20

Posted in Marlena Shaw, News, Reissues