Filtro a struttura composita per acqua del rubinetto

lunedì 21 dicembre 2009

A Milwaukee secret treasure, Penny Goodwin recorded just two albums in the 70's, and this is her debut, released on Sidney Records in the first half of the decade. The singer is simply fantastic: she has a rich dark voice, strong and tender at the same time, and a very peculiar style, influenced by Sarah Vaughan, plus injected with a strong gospel feel and with Shirley Horn's emotional reading of the lyrics. She is one of those people who do not just sing a song, but also turns it into a story of her own, so that you can really believe every word she says. The material she recorded for this set is simply amazing, with its predominance of socially-conscious tracks, like her cover of Roberta Flack's underrated gem "Trade Winds", and a stunning, unpredictable, jazz-drenched take on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" (combined with the old spirituals "John Brown's Body" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"), which is surely the best one I've ever heard after the original. Some of the tunes have an introspective, jazzy afterhour feel, like "Today is the first day (of the rest of your life)", "He's come back" and "Rain sometimes" (a Ray Hamilton track, previously recorded by Matt Monro in 1967, and covered by Peggy Lee in 1970), others have a more soulful bent, like the deep, funky "Too soon you're old", an opus about the relationship between a woman's age and her approach to life and to the other sex. Another great track is "That's allright with me", a song that was originally written for Esther Phillips' Kudu debut "From a whisper to a scream": a sweet, nocturne ballad, that requires great vocal and emotional skills to be delivered; for what I know, this here is the sole cover of the tune, and what masterpiece it is! Her abilities are shown also in "Lady Day and John Coltrane" (one of Gil Scott-Heron's best tunes), and the rare "Slow hot wind", a Henry Mancini theme that Sarah Vaughan had done in a Bob James-arranged album dedicated to the composer: Penny's version is even more atmospheric, complexe and infectious than Vaughan's, and you know that matching Sarah is clearly not an easy task. The album closes with the best version of "Amazing Grace" that I've ever heard in my whole life, and it's all said. The arrangements, rich and rhythmically various, are courtesy of pianist/organist Ray Tabs, but the six-piece string section (that sounds like a much bigger one) is managed by Richard Evans. Guitarist Phil Upchurch and saxophonist/flutist Don Myrick are featured on some tracks.
This album is one of those who leave a deep trace on the listener, it's meant to capture your attention and make you enjoy the beauty of the music; it's a real pity that this singer, who finds her place between Nina Simone and Roberta Flack, has disappeared from the recording scenes. She could deal with jazz, gospel funk and soul, as only masters can do. I hope that, provided that she is still alive (I couldn't find any biographical detail), she will return to the studios. I'm searching for a Japanese issue of Penny's unreleased live tracks, simply called "Penny Goodwin Live": I'm very curious to hear how she sounds on stage.
Pierluigi Avorio.

giovedì 22 ottobre 2009


On October 18, 2008, Dee Dee Warwick passed away. She was one of the best Soul singers ever, although she didn't reach a great commercial success. I don't want her to be forgotten, so here I post the translation of the article I wrote last year for the magazine Audiophile Sound. This translation has been done by me under request of Ms. Dionne Warwick who, through my friend David Nathan (thank you, David, thank you!), got to know about it. When I met her, this year, she personally said thank you to me for this. She also said that there are some mistakes in the part concerning the Gospelaires, and that when she has time she will make the corrections.
Anyway, if you don't have any Dee Dee Warwick music, go and get it. She deserves recognition for her sheer talent.
Dee Dee, we won't forget you.

To Dee Dee’s own name, it is impossible to avoid the comparison with a family name that recalls a superstar sister, and obviously her career affected by this fact. In spite of this, Dee Dee gave us a precious musical testimont, not comparable to Dionne’s, because of the substantial difference between their musical directions. While Dionne is a pop-based singer, appealing mainly a middle and high class American and European audience, often white, Dee Dee was a ‘working class soul heroine’, loved basically by her Black brothers and sisters. As it often happens in Black music, she started as a Gospel singer, in a family group, the renowned Drinkard Singers, so much loved (and launched) by the Queen of African-American sacred music Mahalia Jackson. The line-up included Lee, mother to Dionne and Delia Mae (Dee Dee’s real name), Ann, Marie, Larry, Nicholas and Emily ‘Cissy’ Drinkard, plus Judy Guyons and, later, her sister Sylvia.
Larry, once the group had reached celebity status (they had even recorded an album for Norman Granz’s Verve Records, titled ‘A Joyful Noise’, in 1958) created a new group with the younger generation of the family: Dionne, her cousin Myrna Smith, and at different times Doris Higginsen, Cissy (later Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother), Judy, Sylvia, and Estelle Brown, supplied their robust harmonies to the soloist, Dee Dee, who still used her own family name. The junior group (officially called ‘the Gospelaires’, or commonly Dee Dee and the girls), was very much in demand, and appeared on countless records: Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Esther Phillips, Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown, Garnett Mimms, Wilson Pickett, Maxine Brown, Gene Pitney, Chuck Jackson, The Drifters... So, as David Nathan recalls, Dee Dee’s is still one of the most heard voices in Rock and Soul history, and her sound is very recognizable. Judy was the first Gospelaire to go solo, known as Judy Clay (she would find success at the end of the sixties with Billy Vera, in the first interracial soul music duo, and later with William Bell). Doris (Doris Troy) and Dionne - the rising superstar, who became Dionne Warwick for a printing mistake - followed. Dee Dee, who for this reason started being called Warwick too, usually cut demos for other singers, like Martha Reeves (leader of Martha and the Vandellas, of ‘Dancing in the street’ fame) did at Motown; she also cut songs for TV spots. But in the meanwhile, a few singles of her own came out: You’re no good, for Jubilee Records, gained the general attention, not for its sales, but because Betty Everett (of "Let it be me" fame, with Jerry Butler) covered it soon after its release, for the Vee-Jay label, with much success (as did Linda Ronstadt in the 70's, with a good chart position as well). After a cover of a Ben E. King hit (I who have nothing) fot the unknown Hurd label, and a further 45, Don't think my baby's coming back/Standing by, for Tiger records (where she supplied harmonies to the songs of her peer Bessie Banks, including the marvellous "Go now!", soon made by the British group Moody Blues becoming their first smash), Dee Dee signed for Blue Rock, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, that had included people like Dinah Washington and Clifford Brown in its roster. Three singles were released, of which the first, We're doing fine, had warm success, enough to secure her a contract with the main label Mercury.
Between 1966 and 1969, Dee Dee released two albums and a dozen singles, many of which had an interesting story. The first 45, I want to be with you (b/w Lover's chant, written by Lorraine Ellison, Known for the classic "Stay with me baby"), was a song from the musical "Golden Boy", but when its authors, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, heard Dee Dee singing a little bit of it, they insisted that Mercury would record Dee Dee's version. It became her biggest hit (#9 r'n'b, #41 pop) and also the ultimate reading of the song, as the following covers (Aretha, Cissy Houston...) were always referred to her version, and never to Davis'. The focus on Warwick began to increase: Nina Simone covered Dee Dee's Don't you pay them no mind.
After I want to be with you, it was I'm gonna make you love me's turn to make it to the charts, reaching the top 20 (#13 r'n'b). The track, written by Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams, who would later contribute to Dee Dee's success, was covered by Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptation, who brought it to the attention of a wider, white audience, turning it into an evergreen; its B-side, Yours until tomorrow, is a pearl of American song, and listening to it today is just as touching as it was forty years ago. One more outing (the beautiful, melancholy When love slips away, #43 r'n'b, #92 pop) secured a warm stay in charts, just before Locked in your love's turn. The B-side of the latter, Alfie (yes, exactly the Bacharach and David standard) was recorded a couple of years earlier in England, before Dionne did it, and it was also a demo used by the authors, which means that Dionne learned the song from that.
Dee Dee was one of the first people to work with the ever-famous Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and those sessions built the foundations of Philly Sound, that from the 70's on began to spread with much success. Just think about Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones", Harold Melvin and the BlueNotes' "If you don't know me by now"... they wouldn't exist without Dee Dee! Unfortunately, if songs like It's not fair (B-side of the single Girls need love) are still gorgeous and appealing under a musical point of view, they are and were meant for a niche taste and not for masses', and were commercially unsuccessful. Girls need love is a good exemple of her skills in reading a tune: although it may seem to be written rather for a Barbra Streisand than a soul singer, it is faced with the almost sacred, mysterious intensity of Dee Dee who, with her beautiful dark tone, clean and fully-shaped, and her power and high-octane range, gave a huge emotional intensity to every piece she sang; we wouldn't be mistaken if we would call her "the Jessye Norman" of Soul.
in 1969 Dee Dee was paired again with Ed Townsend, who produced some of her earlier hits, and with him cut some singles that had a more traditional and soulful sound. The first was Foolish fool/Thank God, and it reached a good position n the charts (#14 r'n'b, #57 pop) and was nominated for a Grammy; the robust southern funk of the A-side was in a different vein from the more sensitive, emotional sounds (sweetened by harmonies courtesy of the Teaneck Choir) of the B-side's protest song against war; in the same mould, the beautiful That's not love, deep and intense even in its lyrics. And even Next time (you fall in love) didn't betray this feeling, while its B-side Ring of bright water (#113 pop), soundtrack of a same-titled movie, had a jazzier dressing, thanks to Bobby Scott arrangement, and it fit perfectly to Dee Dee's elegant vocal power, revealing affinities between her style and Mahalia Jackson's.
At this point, Mercury offered to renew the contract, but Atlantic Records, through its Chairman Jerry Wexler (known mostly for the incredible job he was doing with Aretha Franklin in those years), made a more appealing proposal, and Dee Dee accepted it, signing for the subsidiary Atco.
Out of the first recording session, held at the beginning of 1970, nothing was released (we had to wait until 1996 to discover some of its material, when David Nathan published two tracks, the amazing Only the one you love and The way we used to do, the latter co-written by Dee Dee). The producer was, again, Ed Townsend.
In the month of April of the same year, a session produced by Dave Crawford at the famous Criteria Studios in Miami, laid the foundations of what was to be her sole Atco album, Turning Around (now a rarity for collectors). All the songs were picked by Dee Dee and Jerry Wexler, and he rhythm session was supplied by the famous band The Dixie Flyers. According to many people's opinion, including mine, that day some of the greatest tracks in the whole soul music history were recorded. The sound stuck much more to its gospel, blues and jazz roots than it used to in the Mercury years, with very little orchestral sweetenings, and strong background vocals (by Judy Clay, Jackie Verdell, Dee Dee's aunt Ann Moss Drinkard, and even the Sweet Inspirations, who were simply the Gospelaires after Dee Dee's departure). From the session, two singles came out. The first one, She didn't know (She kept on talking), was the answer song to Doris Duke's hit To the other woman (I'm the other woman): the tunes, musically similar, embraced the subject of adultery, one (Duke's) under the point of view of the other woman who accepts her role of a n°2 lover, the other (Warwicks), of the wife who learns, from that woman's mouth, that her husband cheated her, without that woman knowing the man was married to her. Both the tracks were written by Swamp Dogg. Duke had also recorded the song before, without releasing it. Atco reached the goal: Warwick's debut for the label peaked at #9 r'n'b, and it also entered the pop charts (#70), becoming her second-biggest hit and securing her a second Grammy nomination. Its B-side, Make love to me, written for Dee Dee by Van McCoy (known for his work with, among others, Gladys Knight and the Pips, later a hitmaker on his own right with The Hustle and producer of Aretha Franklin's swansong for Atlantic Records), was later covered by Maxine Brown.
Excited by this success, Wexler & Co. published a second 45, If this was the last song/I'm only human. In the annals of southern soul, even today it still stands up as a cult record, for the beauty of this tunes: the first of them was written by Jim Webb, I think specifically for Thelma Houston (who had cut it earlier for an album produced by Webb himself), but it takes two bars of Dee Dee's version to forget the original. I'm only human was brought by George Soulè, a famous composer, from Tennesse I think, who wrote many southern soul masterpieces sung by singers like Margie Joseph and Jean Knight (of Mr Bigstuff fame). No need to say how beautiful it is, and how much I love it (I cried many nights listening to it), you sure guessed it by yourself. Unfortunately, it often happens that the best things wait a long time to be understood, and although today this two tracks are very much sought-after in the international soul scene, at that time they were ignored, and were commercially unsatisfying. The same late understanding fate came for other tunes from Turning Around: the jazzy More today than yesterday, cut shortly earlier by Carmen McRae for the same label; the solid, tough blues Who will the next fool be?, that makes us guess what she would have done if she was sent to Stax Records and was teamed, like her adopted sister Judy Clay, to David Porter and Isaac Hayes, who also sadly passed away this year. The request for re-printings of these songs (David Nathan had the good idea to do it in the mid-90's) show how much the following generations of listeners still love this music.
In search of new hits, Wexler sent Dee Dee to Muscle Shoals, at the renowned Fame Studios, birthplace of many of the greatest and most important hits in the history of soul music: I never loved a man (the way I love you), the stunning Aretha Franklin's Atlantic Records debut that established her as the Queen of Soul for the rest of her life; the Staple Singers' I'll take you there and Respect yourself; Etta James' Tell Mama; Wilson Pickett's Mustang Sally; Millie Jackson's Hurts so good; the list can go on forever. Producer Crawford was paired to Brad Shapiro, who was beginning a lucky collaboration with Millie Jackson that very year, and who would have recorded Bettye Lavette in those studios a couple of years later. From that collaboration, two singles came: Cold night in Georgia, answer song to Brook Benton's hit "Rainy Night in Georgia", backed by the wonderful Searchin', that had deep introspective, psychological lyrics; the funky Suspicious minds (Elvis Presley's chestnut, it had its definitive reading by Dee Dee, in fact Candi Staton's 1982 cover refers to Warwick's version, not to the original), backed with I'm glad I'm a woman, that showed the more delicate, lilting side of her vocals. Both 45's charted, and the second one had more success (r'n'b #24). The session produced some unreleased tunes that recently resurfaced: Love I found (in you) (listen to it, please, and then tell me if just this tune doesn't deserve all these pages that I'm writing), and I can't wait until I see my baby's face, originally a Baby Washington's classic, were released on the Ichiban anthology, and a bluesy Rescue me (yes, Fontella Bass' hit!) in a 2006 compilation of rare and unreleased tracks, title Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters.
A new collaboration with the team Crawford-Shapiro was held in 1971 in Detroit, at Pac-Three Studios, and produced one more single: Everybody's got tot believe in somebody, an Isaac Hayes/David Porter tune originally written for Sam & Dave; the B-side was Signed Dede, her version of Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Signed Gladys", sang with an overflowing gospel feel. This 45 was "signed Dede" Warwick for astrological reasons: but clearly the stars didn't help it, because in spite of its beauty, it was a commercial flop.
At this point Dee Dee, feeling ignored and underrated by Atlantic Records, left the label to go back to Mercury for a short stay, and cut the theme of the movie "Touch of class", featuring Maggie Smith. As a single, All the love that went to waste didn't even scrape the charts, but the flip-side I haven't got anything better to do was covered by Esther Phillips in 1976 and by Natalie Cole in 2006.
From this point on, the number of Dee Dee's recordings started decreasing.A couple of years later, she released two singles for Private Stock, Get out of my life and This time may be the last time, both backed by Funny how we change places; the first one gained a modest chart position (#73 r'n'b). Private Stock went out of business and, I think, was bought by RCA. In fact, RCA issued Funny how we change places as a 45 in 1976, with This time may be the last time as a flip-side, and the singer went under the name of Dee Dee Schwartz (that brought the same kind of astrological... luck that she had with Everybody's got tot believe in somebody!). Dee Dee's carrier was focused on live performances, and she did also some stint as a backing vocalist for Dionne.
In the eighties, two albums saw the light of day, Dee Dee (1983, for the Heritage label), and Call me (Sutra,1984), now hard to find. Dionne, in that moment, was having a new, successful start in her carrier, and cousin Whitney Houston was about to have her debut as a superstar. From the Call me's sessions, a single was released, Move with the world/The way we used to do (the latter, a new version of the song that Atlantic Records didn't release), ant this seemed to be the end of the tale. Instead, in the nineties she played the role of Dinah Washington in a musical, and in 1999 the Rhythm'n'blues Foundation gave her the Pioneer Award.
In 2006, she took part of the soundtrack of Tyler Perry's movie "Daddy's little girls", along with Whitney, Dionne and Cissy, and in 2008 she appeared on Dionne's "Why we sing", sharing lead vocals with her sister on the title-track. And Chaka Khan, in 2007, had Foolish Fool with great success. It seemed that Dee Dee was having a brand new start, there were all the signs for a flaming comeback, and instead, in this November her weak heart didn't make it: the Soul Music community is drenched in sadness, and many artists, starting from her family and Chaka Khan, have expressed the pain of so big a human and musical loss, and the disappointment for her talent being underrated by the musical industry.

I hope these few lines will make you be curious and will stimulate you to (re)discover this vocalist, able like very few others to imbue every note she sang with her soul, a main performer of the truest side of the African American musical tradition.
Pierluigi Avorio, November 2008. Sources: David Nathan.

mercoledì 7 ottobre 2009

KIM BURRELL - NO WAYS TIRED (2009) (entire review)

She has been variously described as "this generation's Ella Fitzgerald", "one of the most interesting voices I've heard in a long while" (Chaka Khan), "the greatest musical mind I've ever been around" (Harry Connick, Jr), and quoted as an influence by stars like Beyoncè and Mariah Carey. The truth is that Kim Burrell is a fantastic jazz-based gospel singer, powerful and controlled, and even if I may not like all of her songs, I sure love her vocals. She has a beautiful dark tone and a natural graffiato, reminiscent of Billy Paul and Vermettya Royster (former Clara Ward's side-woman and Sisters Love's leader). She has an instrumental approach to singing, and phrases as if she is playing a saxophone.
Her debut for Shanachie records, this is her fourth album (it has the same title of a Fontella Bass release) and has got some great musical moments. Yes, some of the songs are a little bit over-produced, but Burrell is in full shape and delivers them with conviction and elegance. The highlights are the deep "Yes to your will", a duet with her sis Kathy Burrell, the jazzy, scat-only "Prelude" (based on Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke"), and the reprise of her own composition "Jesus", which has a more traditional southern sound that perfectly fits her warm voice (this is my fave track from the album, because she sings so softly, in an almost shy way, reaching the highest emotional peaks). Her gospelized version of Gershwin's "Someone to watch over me" is also interesting, with its afterhour, Sarah Vaughan-like feel and pathos.
When the music industry will decide to give more room to this lady, and to invest more money on her, we will see her making musical miracles: I'm sure that her best is yet to come, and I'm faithfully, patiently waiting. Pierluigi Avorio.


She has been variously described as "this generation's Ella Fitzgerald", "one of the most interesting voices I've heard in a long while" (Chaka Khan), "the greatest musical mind I've ever been around" (Harry Connick, Jr), and quoted as an influence by stars like Beyoncè and Mariah Carey. The truth is that Kim Burrell is a fantastic jazz-based gospel singer, powerful and controlled, and even if I may not like all of her songs, I sure love her vocals. She has a beautiful dark tone and a natural graffiato, reminiscent of Billy Paul and Vermettya Royster (former Clara Ward's side-woman and Sisters Love's leader). She has an instrumental approach to singing, and phrases as if she is playing a saxophone.
Her debut for Shanachie records, this is her fourth album (it has the same title of a Fontella Bass release) and has got some great musical moments. Yes, some of the songs are a little bit over-produced, but Burrell is in full shape and delivers them with conviction and elegance. The highlights are "Yes to your will", a duet with her sis Kathy Burrell, the jazzy

martedì 6 ottobre 2009


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.

lunedì 5 ottobre 2009

hello everybody

Hello everybody,
I'm Pierluigi, and this is my blog. Here, you can find my reviews and other material about Soul Music and other genres, like Jazz, Funk, Blues, Gospel, Folk, World and more. You'll find also concerts reviews, and juicy stuff about new and old artists.
I really hope you'll like it.
With all my heart and Soul,