Friday, 10 March 2017
"The Complete Atlantic Recordings" by BETTYE SWANN (2014 Real Gone Music/Rhino CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...
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Relative newcomer label REAL GONE MUSIC (out of the States) have been impressing of late with their clever selections for reissue CDs - and this Bettye Swann overhaul (in conjunction with Rhino and Soul Music) is part of their ongoing series of Atlantic Records retrospectives. And what an out-and-out winner it is. You get great Seventies Soul music from a lesser-heard voice, updated and best ever remasters, five previously unreleased tracks and quality liner notes. There's even a duet with one of the giants - Sam Dees. I have to say I'm more than impressed.
The tracks are presented in recording date order on this CD - so it can be confusing working out what's what. In order to break it down into more manageable chunks - I'm provided a track list and a Discography beneath that. Here are the intricate details...
US released January 2014 - "The Complete Atlantic Recordings" by BETTYE SWANN on Real Gone Music/Rhino Custom Products/Soul Music Records RGM-0213 OPCD-8817 (Barcode 848064002130) pans out as follows (77:36 minutes):
1. Victim Of A Foolish Heart
2. Cold Day (In Hell)
3. I'd Rather Go Blind
4. Today I Started Loving You Again
5. Yours Until Tomorrow
6. I'm Not That Easy To Lose
7. Till I Get It Right
8. The Boy Next Door
9. Kiss My Love Goodbye
10. Time To Say Goodbye
11. When The Game Is Played On You
12. All The Way In Or All The Way Out
13. Doing For The One I Love
14. I Feel The Feeling
15. Either You Love Me Or You Leave Me
16. This Old Heart of Mine
17. Suspicious Minds
18. I Want Sunday Back Again
19. The Jealous Kind
20. Heading In The Right Direction
21. Be Strong Enough To Hold On
22. Storybook Children (with SAM DEES)
23. Just As Sure (with SAM DEES)
Track 6 first appeared in 2006 on the CD compilation "Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters" credited as "I Ain't That Easy To Lose"
Tracks 14 to 17 and 19 are Previously Unreleased - recorded in Nashville in 1975
Track 18 "I Want Sunday Back Again" first appeared in 2005 on the UK Warners CD compilation "You Better Believe It! Vol.2"
Track 20 "Heading In The Right Direction" is miscredited in the booklet and rear inlay as "Heading In The Wrong Direction"]
USA and UK SINGLES:
Her eight 45s were issued in the USA and UK as follows -  = Track Number etc
1. Victim Of A Foolish Heart  b/w Cold Day (In Hell) 
May 1972, US 7" single on Atlantic 45-2869
June 1972, UK 7" single on Atlantic K 10174
2. Today I Started Loving You Again  b/w I'd Rather Go Blind 
December 1972, US 7" single on Atlantic 45-2921
February 1973, UK 7" single on Atlantic K 10273
3. Till I Get It Right  b/w Yours Until Tomorrow 
August 1973, US 7" single on Atlantic 45-2950
4. The Boy Next Door  b/w Kiss My Love Goodbye 
May 1974, US 7" single on Atlantic 45-3019
5. Time To Say Goodbye  b/w When The Game Is Played On You 
August 1974, USA 7" single Atlantic 45-3211
6. All The Way In Or All The Way Out  b/w Doing For The I Love 
May 1975, USA 7" single Atlantic 45-3262
June 1975, UK 7" single on Atlantic K 10622
[Notes: in the UK the A&B-sides were reversed and "Doing" is miscredited in the booklet and on the inlay as "Doin'"]
7. Storybook Children  b/w Just As Sure 
February 1976, US 7" single on Big Tree Records BT-16054 [credited to SAM DEES and BETTYE SWANN]
March 1976, UK 7" single on Atlantic K 10719
8. Heading In The Right Direction  b/w Be Strong Enough To Hold On 
February 1976, US 7" single on Atlantic 45-3352
October 1976, UK 7" single on Atlantic K 10851
Produced by DAVID NATHAN - the well-appointed 16-page booklet pictures lots of those Atlantic 45s (and the lone Big Tree Records entry with Sam Dees) - has detailed liner notes from noted writer and Mojo contributor CHARLES WARING and gives us recording details/writer credits. ALAN WILSON has carried out the digital remasters from original tapes (he's worked with BGO, Edsel and Cherry Red) and the audio quality is fabulous throughout - amazing clarity. It's hardly surprising when you read the credits - Bettye had quality Seventies productions from Rick Hall's Fame Studios (tracks 1 to 7) with the rest being split between The Young Professionals in Philadelphia and Brad Shapiro in Nashville. Song after song is full of presence and warmth - bolstered by musicians able to get with the groove. Couple this with her wonderful vocals and the result is pretty remarkable...
It's hard to describe the impact of Bettye Swann's voice - it's part Dionne Warwick - part Etta James - with a wobble in the vocal that gives each rendition a sort of aching. Swann could take a song like "Yours Until Tomorrow" (a Goffin-King hit for fellow label mate Dee Dee Warwick in 1965 and later for Gene Pitney in 1968) and imbibe it with a sort of croaky passion that elevated the tune into genuine Soul. The same applies to Pop like "Till I Get It Right" - and even when she went Funk and Disco in Nashville for stuff like her talking-take on "This Old Heart Of Mine" (a Previously Unreleased version of The Isley Brothers classic) - she manages to turn a cheesy arrangement into Soul gold. What Bettye Swann lacks in sheer lungpower (say Aretha Franklin) - she more than makes up for with delivery - that constant hurt in her tone imbibing her singing with real beauty (like say Mavis Staples).
Northern Soul fans have been digging the B-side "Kiss My Love Goodbye" since it turned on the WEA CD compilation "You Better Believe It!" in 2004. Another Philly-sounding Funkathon with strings is "When The Game Is Played On You" which WEA featured on the 2005 CD compilation "Crème De La Soul Vol. II - More Philly Soul Classics..." I also love her big and brassy version of the Etta James/Chicken Shack classic "I'd Rather Go Blind" that gives the hurter a sweeter edge (gorgeous remaster too - wow!). But even prettier is the Homer Banks/Carl Hampton song "Either You Love Me Or Leave Me" where her man keeps turning away - such a great smooching groove (lyrics from it title this review).
Bettye then morphs Country into Sweet Soul on her cover of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again". She even goes Blaxploitation on the Shaft-like and uber funky "The Boy Next Door" (sounding not unlike Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead") - another winner with amazing production values courtesy of LeBaron Taylor, Phil Hurtt and Bunny Sigler (aka The Young Professionals). By the time we get to "Heading In The Right Direction" and it's flipside "Be Strong Enough To Hold On" - she's gone over to the sound taking the world and charts by storm - Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International. And again the remaster for both tunes is simply gorgeous...
Touching on Northern Soul dancers, swooning Philly, boogie Funk and even a bit of tortured Southern Soul heartbreak and infidelity - I cannot recommend this reissue enough. And in June 2013 at the tender age of 68 - Bettye Swann came out of retirement and performed for the first time in decades at a Cleethorpes Soul Weekender in the UK (it's pictured on the inlay beneath the see-through tray). She was greeted with a hero's welcome by British Soul nutters tearfully appreciating one of the unsung greats of Soul Music. Let's hope that's not the last we hear from lovely Bettye. In the meantime - we at least have this fab CD compilation to savour...
Similar 'Real Gone Music' titles to date are:
1. LINDA JONES - The Complete Atco-Loma-Warner Brothers Recordings
2. PATTI LaBELLE and THE BLUEBELLES - The Complete Atlantic Sides (2CDs)
3. BARBARA LEWIS - The Complete Atlantic Singles (2CDs)
4. BARBARA LYNN - The Complete Atlantic Recordings [REVIEWED]
5. JACKIE MOORE - The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Jan 2015)
6. BETTYE SWANN - The Complete Atlantic Recordings [REVIEWED]
7. THE SWEET INSPIRATIONS - The Complete Atlantic Singles (2CDs)
8. IRMA THOMAS - Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album
9. DEE DEE WARWICK - The Complete Atlantic Recordings (2CDs) [REVIEWED]-->