FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY SOUL is Marlena Shaw’s fourth album which was released on Blue Note records in 1973. It is the second of her five Blue Note releases. I have to admit, upon first hearing this album I was a bit surprised by what I heard. As a fan of her now most popular release and second album for Cadet Records, THE SPICE OF LIFE (1969), I was expecting Ms. Shaw’s typical sass and bite. However, this album showcases her softer side and her inimitable storytelling abilities.
From the first song, “Prelude/I Know I Love Him,” the tone of the album is set. One can sense this will be an introspective collection of music. The strings lead you along until Ms. Shaw’s voice comes on and it’s as gentle as you’ll ever hear her. “Hum This Song” would maybe be insignificant if it wasn’t for the soul and sincerity Ms. Shaw adds to it. At this point I thought about the phrase that is often used for the great singers, “She could sing the phone book and it would still sound good.”
“But For Now” is a tender ballad written by jazz pianist, Bob Dorough of School House Rock fame. The soft and unhurried way in which Ms. Shaw sings pulls you in close to her with such finesse and charm. With “Easy Evil” there’s a bit of that funk and sass fans associate with her as she sings “...you’re such an easy evil, such a promise of fun...”. After this though there are more soft ballads to come and “The Laughter And The Tears” is a pleasant one, followed by “The Feeling’s Good” which was written by Charles Foxx and Noman Gimbel, who are known for writing Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
Ms. Shaw’s versions of soul classics, “Wildflower” and “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” are testaments to her song styling abilities. As I said, she can sing anything. She gives us just a bit of sass again with “Say A Good Word” before the album closes.
This is the type of album you play to relax and simply if you enjoy great singing. It shows how versatile Ms. Shaw is and why she’s considered one of the great singers and song stylists.
About the Writer
Terrence Lathan is a music enthusiast based in Houston, Texas and the curator of HueSoul.com.