Thursday, 5 February 2009

Shirley Brown - Shirley Brown - Soul Brother Records

The wonderful Shirley Brown is one of soul’s great could’ve beens. Everybody knows and loves her biggest hit – the classic love triangle song, ‘Woman To Woman’. The song has the distinction of being Stax’s last big hit and therein we see Shirley’s problem. With the venerable old label in terminal decline, she couldn’t capitalise on her smash and as Stax came tumbling down, she signed to Arista, for whom she cut three singles and this eponymous 1977 LP which has now won re-issue on the UK Soul Brother label. In fairness to Aritsa, they were no Stax. The label was geared to pop and lighter shades of soul than those that Memphis specialised in, but with the gospel-reared Shirley they did their very best. That best is evident on this album’s ballads. There’s some outstanding knee-tremblers here, including the sublime ‘Blessed Is The Woman’. It comes complete with a ‘Woman To Woman’ spoken bit (in the middle this time) and in places Ms. Brown sounds lot like Aretha. ‘I Need Somebody To Love’ is a lot more dramatic but its roots are evidently in the Church Ditto for ‘Ill Be Right Here Lovin’ You’ and the cover of ‘Givin’ Up’. The less worthy cuts are the up-tempo numbers. The best like, ‘ Said I Wasn’t Gonna Give You No More Love’ try to copy the Stax brass and beats, while the less worthy, like the disco-fied ‘Lowdown, Dirty, Good Lover’ are only saved by the vocal.

Bill Buckley

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