Esther Phillips — I Don’t Want To Do Wrong
from Alone Again, Naturally (1972)
Esther Phillips just kills it on ballads.. the slow tempo gives her so much room to play with her voice, at times hard as nails, at times just a quivering sigh.
This album was served up back to back with From a Whisper to a Scream in 1972. My sister prefers Alone Again; I like Whisper. Neither will let you down.
Esther Phillips — Home Is Where the Hatred Is
from From a Whisper to a Scream (1972)
Highs and lows… that was the life of Esther Phillips. She caught the attention of R&B ‘godfather’ Johnny Otis at just 14 years old, at a talent show at his LA club in 1949. A string of big hits followed. But just a few years later, “Little Esther” was addicted to drugs, bouncing between her father’s Texas home and the hospital.
Then in 1962 Kenny Rogers re-discovered her singing at a club in Houston and immediately signed her to the Lenox label. Her cover of the Beatles’ ‘And I Love Him’ hit big on the R&B charts, and the Beatles flew her to the UK for her first overseas shows. But her renaissance ended when she checked into rehab with a heroin addiction.
Beating drugs once again, she came out with this stunning album in 1972. The first track is this very personal rendition of an anti-drug number penned by Gil Scott-Heron.
The performance earned her a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1973. She lost to Aretha Franklin (who reigned the category from 1968-1975), but Aretha turned the trophy over to Esther, saying she was the rightful winner.
Phillips died of liver and kidney failure in Los Angeles in 1984. She was 48.
Lynsey de Paul — Sugar Me (1972)
Cheeky pop ditty penned and sung by the English bombshell Lynsey de Paul. Very catchy piano work and an unexpected violin solo to boot. De Paul had unusual beginnings, starting out designing album jackets for other musicians before making a splash in the London songwriting scene in the early 70s. This was her first big hit.
Nancy Sinatra and Claudine Longet covered this track too… just don’t watch the Sinatra version unless you’re ready for some crazy dancing.
Annette Peacock — My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook
from X Dreams (1978)
“My mama never taught me how to cook… that’s why I’m so SKINNNNYYYY!!!” Annette Peacock is a one-of-a-kind poet, pianist and musical experimentalist. On her 1972 solo debut I’m the One, she sang through a Moog, a sometimes-frightening technique others picked up later in the decade. David Bowie was so impressed by that album he asked her to back him on his Aladdin Sane tour. She declined.
Six years later, she released X Dreams… a bit smoother, fitting for the times. The vocals on this track just kill me. Sounds a lot like Patti Smith… but Annette invented the genre.
I’m trying to get a hold of her debut I’m the One, so stay tuned for a followup post when I do… in the meantime, listen to the title-track opus here. It’s a bit experimental for the first few minutes. I knew it sounded familiar when I first heard it. That’s because Mick Ronson covers it on his 1974 solo debut Slaughter on 10th Avenue in very glammy fashion. And he covers ‘Love Me Tender’ too.. which Annette covered on her debut as well. Mick was definitely paying attention.
Vodka Collins — Sands of Time
from Tokyo New York (1972)
Tokyo glam rock outfit, led by American guitarist Alan Merrill, maybe one of the first Americans to be “Big in Japan.”
The Dramatics — Hot Pants in the Summertime
from Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (1972)
This is amazing.
hey there girl (hey there)…
you sho’ look good in your hot pants, hot pants, hot pants, hot pants…
Gypsy Blood — Wasurekaketa Kotoba (Forgotten Words)
from Rokko Oroshi (1972)
If ニールヤング.. er.. Neil Young.. had been born in Japan instead of ol’ Canada… he might have sounded something like this! Rokko Oroshi is Gypsy Blood’s second and final album, and it’s a pity, because this is classic dust-under-the-wheels road music… roll the windows down, dude. (Or roll another number…) Other tracks are straight-up Deliverance-style hand-clappin’, fiddle-sawin’, mandolin-pickin’ jams—wild stuff.
I am only guessing, but they may have gotten their name from the raw solo guitar track of the same name, recorded by Jimi Hendrix in 1968.
Piano parts on this album performed by none other than Alan Merrill, frontman of the amazing Tokyo glam rockers Vodka Collins. Stay tuned for some of that too.
Grabbed this record at Japanese Old Prog.
Jorge Ben — Taj Mahal
from Ben (1972)
Is there such a thing as too much Jorge Ben? The answer, in my book, is no. This is one of his catchiest songs (you might be humming it later), in its first version, with some incredible fretless bass work. It is also, according to Wikipedia, recognizable (and legally recognized in a plagiarism lawsuit) as the source of the melody in Rod Stewart’s hit ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ There you have it.
He re-recorded this on his massive funksplosion record Africa/Brasil in 1976… also worth a listen.
David Axelrod — The Auction
from The Auction (1972)
The name David Axelrod may bring to mind Obama’s strategic adviser. Now meet the other David Axelrod—prolific jazz and funk producer/composer.
This percussion-heavy spoken word groover appears on Axelrod’s 1972 slavery concept album The Auction. If you like this, make sure you check out Lincoln Chase, who operates on a similar plane…
Thanks to Know Your Conjurer for posting this gem. Get yer audio there…
Sly Stone — I Ain’t Got Nobody
from Recorded in San Francisco 1964-67
Killer psychedelic soul track by Sylvester Stewart—aka Sly Stone—recorded in 1967, eventually released as a Sly and the Family Stone single in 1972. The bass & drums break about halfway in is outlandishly good—don’t miss it. The rest of the album is a bizarre collection of spoken word pieces, funky singles like this, and a Herbie Hancock cover, ‘Watermelon Man.’
Sly is reportedly living in a van in LA right now, too paranoid to go into his rented house, but friends say he’s content and recording tunes on a laptop in the van.
Howard Tate — Girl from the North Country
from Howard Tate (1972)
Rarely does a cover song break the mold from which it was cast. Tate, though, pulls it off, with his unrecognizable soul rendition of Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country.’ Dylan’s 1969 version from Nashville Skyline is still my favorite. Tugs more at the heartstrings. And who doesn’t love that reverb, and Johnny Cash’s throaty growl?
Howard Tate’s rich, soulful cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.”
Learn more about Howard Tate, from his start as a teenage gospel singer to his late-career rise out of hard times and back to recording, on this week’s American Routes.
Bernard Purdie — Song for Aretha
from Soul Is…Pretty Purdie (1972)
As far as tributes go, this one claims the heavyweight title: Bernard Purdie’s ode to Aretha Franklin, for whom he served as musical director from 1970-1975. He’s said that “backing her was like floating in seventh heaven.” His monologue on this track, too, is exploding with Aretha-love:
“There’s a woman.. who brings love and laughter, whenever she sings, to the people standing beneath her. Yes, she gives strength to the weak, whenever she speaks. And her name, her name, her name, is Aretha. Aretha. ARETHA! ARETHA! ARETHA! Cause she’s soul sister number one!”
This track is the most transcendent on the album—there are some other high points, like the breakbeat-fest ‘Heavy Soul Slinger,’ but many of the tunes remind me of checking-into-a-hotel music, not too far afield from the soulful jazz of Purdie’s contemporary, William S. Fischer.
But even if you’ve never heard of Purdie, you’ve probably heard his drumming. Other than Aretha, the acts he’s worked for read like a who’s who of modern music: James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Hall & Oates, Isaac Hayes, Cat Stevens. Beck also sampled this song on his 1996 track ‘Hotwax.’
If this song doesn’t have you shuffling for an Aretha album… nothing will.
Vernon Wray — When I Start Drinking
from Wasted (1972)
Hard-livin’ harmonies laid down in a Tucson shack with an 8-track. This desert jewel has now resurfaced with a vinyl reissue from Sebastian Speaks. It formerly existed only as an ultra-rare 400-record pressing by Wray’s record label, Vermillion Records, and copies were reportedly sold only at shows in the Tucson area.
Vernon’s younger brother Link Wray was the musical star of the family, a legendary guitarist who supposedly ‘invented’ the power chord in the 1950s, and the reason Pete Townsend picked up a guitar. Vernon never got as famous as Link, though he played in several iterations of his brother’s band. Along the way he worked as a taxi driver, grocery store owner and recording studio manager, at his own ‘Wray’s Shack 3-Track.’
In 1972 he moved from the family compound in Maryland to Tucson, taking a wall of his Maryland studio with him, and building a new studio around it, with eight tracks rather than three. There, he recorded this brightly melancholy collection.
Listen to that beautiful steel guitar. And that forlorn harmony. Makes a man want a beer, don’t it? Hell, why not…it’s Country Sunday.