Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Out Like a Lioness: Heroines of Soul Music, Part 3

For Women's History Month 2016, I have decided to do two more posts on some of the unsung heroines of soul music, as I can see from the right hand column of this page the last two are still quite popular.

Colette Kelly

There is no much known about Ms. Kelly except that, as of the late-90s, she was the owner of a nightclub based in Baltimore. Hailing from Baltimore originally, she recorded the following A-side and B-side of a single that, in the summer of 1969, was licensed to Stax's Volt imprint in Memphis. Never was there a more un-Stax single release on the label; in fact, even the A-side and B-side sound like two different artists.

The top side is called "City of Fools" which went on to become one of the rarest and most coveted Northern Soul tracks ever. It does NOT have summer of '69 all over it: more like summer of '64 with its Martha and the Vandellas shuffle beat and haunting backing vocals (think of the Vandellas' "Quicksand"). Right from get-go, the eerie, minor key organ the starts the song off gives the whole number an off-kilter feel.

The B-side, "Long, Lonely World", DOES have summer of '69 written all over it. An equally haunting southern soul number with the kind of country feel of that would sounded at home at the Fame or Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama. The sweltering organ, the heartbroken vocal, the melancholy saxophone all combine to make this a true gem. Each side has appeared on different compilations over the years.

Marie "Queenie" Lyons

Another obscure artist with a few obscure singles and a once obscure album, made less so through a reissue a few years back. The New Orleans-based Lyons has singles going back to 1967, a few with unknown dates, and the 1970 album Soul Fever to her name. Her debut single was "A Minute of His Good Time" while the strident "I Want My Freedom" from Soul Fever was reflective of the Black Power movement on the cusp of the 70s.

Alice Clark

Alice Clark has had a cult following ever since the 2002 reissue of her 1972 eponymous album along with bonus tracks. Steeped in gospel, her singing style reaches inside you like the best deep soul. Her debut release was 1968's "You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)" on Warner Brothers. "Maybe This Time" was a track on her album released on Mainstream Records.

Dianne Brooks

A Canadian artist hailing from Toronto, Brooks sang back up for many artists, including fellow Canadians Anne Murray and Keith Hampshire as well as others such as Funkadelic and Emmylou Harris. Beginning in 1966, she also released material under her own name. "Walking On My Mind" was released in 1969 on Ray Charles' Tangerine label. Brooks also recorded for Reprise and Mort Ross' Canada-based Revolver label. Brooks died in April of 2005.

Shawn Robinson

60s soul icons Fontella Bass and Doris Troy spent some of their careers in the early 70s recording vocals for European movie soundtracks (in Bass' case, with the Art Ensemble of Chicago for the 1970 French film Les Stances a Sophie while Troy sang on the 1971 Italian film Kill! starring Jean Seberg). Shawn Robinson was much less known, but had been recording gems since the mid-60s, each of which has gone on to become a Northern Soul favourite. In 1971, she recorded "Right or Wrong" for the Italian film Dopo di che, uccide il maschio e lo divora, scored by the great film score composer Piero Piccioni. Not much information on Robinson besides that.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

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