Wednesday, 16 July 2014
"The Spice Of Life" by MARLENA SHAW (2005 Universal/Cadet CD Remaster - Her 1969 Cadet Records LP) - A Review by Mark Barry...
"...All You've Got To Do Is Believe It..."
Released on vinyl in late 1969 in the USA on Cadet LPS-833 - Marlena Shaw's 10-track LP "The Spice Of Life" contains the monster rare groove hit "Woman Of The Ghetto" (the opening track on Side 1) and from there on in - it just doesn't let up.
"The Spice Of Life" by MARLENA SHAW is one of those fantastic Soul LPs you don't know anything about and should - so Sixties - Funky, Bluesy, Soulful and righteous in its message. It ticks all the right boxes.
This hip little Universal CD reissue (released in the UK and Europe July 2005) on Verve/Universal 0602498818695 comes in an aesthetically cool-looking card digipak with a foldout inlay that repros the black rear sleeve and Louis McGlohan's original liner notes. The lovely BOB CRAWFORD photograph and silver feel to the front album cover art is there too (the vinyl repro of it is gorgeous to look at).
1. Woman Of The Ghetto
2. (They Call It) Stormy Monday
3. Where Can I Go
4. I’m Satisfied
5. I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
6. Liberation Conversation
7. California Soul
8. Go Away Little Boy
9. Looking Thru' The Eyes Of Love
10. Anyone Can Move A Mountain
The remaster (31:32 minutes) was carried out by BOB IRWIN and JAYNE PIERUZZI at Sundazed Studios in the States and is fabulous throughout - clear, full of power, great presence - just a joy to listen to. All of the tracks were recorded at the famous Chess/Cadet 'Tel-Mar Studios' in Chicago between 1968 and 1969 with "Liberation Conversation" actually dating back to September 1966.
The big names involved here are RICHARD EVANS and a personal cult hero of mine - CHARLES STEPNEY - arrangers, songwriters and musicians. Stepney was involved in a lot of the Cadet label output - Rotary Connection, Terry Callier and The Dells and was sort of a Burt Bacharach of Soul - bringing beautiful string arrangements and cool brass fills to many songs.
Shaw's cover of T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday" is wicked while her version of the song made famous by Nina Simone "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To be Free" ends Side 1 in real style. Ashford And Simpson provide the other huge Rare Groove hit "California Soul" - while "Go Away, Little Boy" is a Goffin-King track made famous by Steve Lawrence in 1962.
Marlena co-wrote the huge hitter "Woman Of The Ghetto" with soul heroes Bobby Miller and Richard Evans ("Liberation Conversation" is also a co-write with Bobby Miller) and it's impossible not to be moved by its funkiness and 'trying to survive' lyrics. Mellow and lovely like Dionne Warwick on a Soul tip - "Looking Through The Eyes Of Love" is a Mann-Weil song with that Gene Pitney melodrama built in. It also has staggering backing vocals with that glass-breaking sky high pitch Minnie Riperton used to get for Rotary Connection. The liner notes don't provide full musician credits - so I wonder is it her - its got to be? It ends on the anthem gospel groove to "Anyone Can Move A Mountain" written by Johnny Marks (lyrics above).
A stunner - a peach - enrich your Soul world with this little beauty...
PS: see also reviews for TERRY CALLIER - Occasional Rain, What Color Is Love and I Just Can't Stand It, Rotary Connection and Songs/Hey, Love (2LPs on 1CD) by ROTARY CONNECTION and Standing Ovation by THE DELLS (all of which have Charles Stepney connections)...