martedì 6 ottobre 2009

LABELLE - PRESSURE COOKIN' (1973)

You all surely know about Labelle, the trio that has recently reunited, more than thirty years after their parting. Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and patti Labelle were women who had the boldness and courage to speak loudly about things like politics and sex, and at the time it was unusual that women, especially non-white, did that. They cut a string of albums in the 70's, most of which commercially unsuccessful, but all fantastic under the artistic point of view. PRESSURE COOKIN', their sole RCA outing, was their third, just prior to their move to Epic Records, where they would have only smash "Lady Marmalade" (one of the greatest funk tracks ever), from the album "Nightbirds". The sound is basic, coherent and very funky, with tastes of psychedelic rock here and there, and a furious gospel feel due to the powerful vocals of the girls. The songs are intense and very strong, and most of them have been written by Hendryx, except two: one, "Open up your heart", was brought by Stevie Wonder, who sings in another song; the other one is a medley of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the air" and the immortal Gil Scott-Heron's "The revolution will not be televised", one of the album's highlights. I really like all the tracks, but there are some that I really adore: the socially-conscious "Pressure cookin'" and "Sunshine (woke me up this morning)", and the dramatic love song "Let me see you in the light". Not to mention the particular "Can I speak to you before you go to Hollywood?", with its peculiar lyrics and sweet melody, one of the few Labelle's songs that feature prominently the wild angel's vocals of Sarah Dash, which leads the longest part of the tune. Believe me, you don't find too many albums like this nowadays. Surely, in the 70's concept albums were much more accepted than they are today, but this really stands out. And it's not even their best one: their last two recorded works of that decade, "Phoenix" and "Chameleon", are two of the greatest soul albums ever, especially the first, so experimental, deep, meaningful, creative... I call "Phoenix" "a musical miracle". But PRESSURE COOKIN' was a necessary step to get there. Pierluigi Avorio.

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