MELBA MOORE: STANDING RIGHT HERE: THE ANTHOLOGY – THE BUDDAH & EPIC YEARS (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
A fabulous musical trip in two halves. Firstly, we’re invited to remember Melba’s Buddah years in 1975 when she began her journey into stardom. Here we are heavyweight in hits via the international smash “This Is It”, hotly followed by the equally compulsive and mesmerising dance hits “So Many Mountains” and “The Greatest Feeling”. All are disco classics, with a driving beat that can’t be ignored. The hooklines in all are instant, vital and stay in the mind for hours afterwards (particularly “So Many Mountains” for me – just can’t shake it, but no bad thing!) However, there’s others here that spring out, and “Natural Part Of Everything”, with its fascinating melody, is one. There’s so much Van McCoy here – he was responsible for several of the songs – and it’s wonderful: his sound is so recognisable. Singer and producer are a perfect match. With a gospel feel, Melba changes pace with “Lean On Me”, although the musical backdrop is too low keyed for me. A more full blooded presentation would have heightened the dramatic approach that the song lacks. Mind you, when the lady sings, my, she really lets rip. Into the Epic CD now from 1978, where one of the decade’s biggest disco hits roars from the speakers – “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance”. With “You Stepped Into My Life” a close second. This side highlights tracks from Melba’s three Epic albums, with producers ranging from McFadden & Whitehead and Pete Bellotte. Of the ballads, there’s the delicious “There’s No Other Like You”, very plush; while “Where Did You Ever Go” is a little on the dark side. A touch of disco funk with “Miss Thing”, which surprised me as it seemed out of place here, but, hey, it’s interesting. This is a first-of-its-kind package, covering Melba’s career between 1975 – 1980, reminding us of the Moore excitement that contributed to the changing music scene of that period. And, it was during this time that I met and interviewed the lady. Instantly smitten was I. Highly recommended.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: A VERY FINE LOVE: EXPANDED COLLECTOR’S EDITION (SFE)
Little did anyone know when this album was first issued in 1995 that it would be Dusty’s last. Having bought it the first time round, I feel I know it inside out, yet when I received this latest CD, it was like hearing it for the first time. Strange? Well, kind of. Recorded a year earlier than its release date, and originally intended to be titled “Dusty In Nashville” as a tie in with the 25th anniversary of “Dusty In Memphis” masterpiece, it was re-named because her record company feared the public would think it a country and western release. While recording it, the lady suffered from laryngitis and other undiagnosed illnesses, and when she returned to the UK, she faced her worst nightmare, her cancer had returned. With the immediate future being devoted to further treatment, the album was delayed to enable Dusty to promote it, which she did, with great courage. With Tom Shapiro as producer, the album is true to her. From the opening track “Roll Away”, into the CD’s title, the scene is set. Distinctive melodies, wistful vocals, as she meticulously adapts her voice to blend in with the music, with material provided by some of her much loved composers, like Diane Warren who penned the single “Wherever Would I Be”, her duet with Daryl Hall. Both powerful and feisty. With its haunting, melancholy feel, “Go Easy On Me”, typifies all that’s great about Dusty, while with “You Are The Storm” she delivers an epic whirlwind that wraps itself around you. With a commitment, that’s almost chilling, Dusty’s intenseness shows in “All I Have To Offer You Is Love”, leaving the uptempo, almost chirpy, “Lovin’ Proof” to change the mood. “Where Is A Woman To Go” is magnificent on every level, leaving the listener dry mouthed. It oozes with the Springfield magic from its winding melody to her compassionate, soulful delivery, which is sometimes cautious, or is it defiant? However, there are two things I must mention which aren’t musically related: the sound of her spoken voice at the close of the CD which almost caused me heart failure, and the visuals in the booklet. While I appreciate why they’ve been included, they show a desperately ill singer. Just look at Dusty’s eyes because no matter now upbeat she seems, the battle she fought against this dreadful disease is all too apparent. Like so many cancer stricken ladies, Dusty put on a hugely brave fight to beat the monster, but tragically lost it in 1999. If I have to say anything more to close this review, it’ll be this. “A Very Fine Love” is the ideal, or perfect, finale to a career that spanned decades, from our very own, homegrown soul singer who defied all the rules throughout her lifetime and stood up for what she believed in. A legend in more than one way – and I miss her still.
NEW YORK CITY BAND WITH LUTHER VANDROSS: NEW YORK CITY BAND (WIENERWORLD)
One of the seventies top session singers, Luther went on – following his first album “Never Too Much” – to carve a huge niche for himself in music as a top R&B singer on a global basis. His voice was warm, welcoming and oh so, seductive. Anyway, back to the plot, here his vocals front the New York City Band on the soundtrack for the 1979 film “Sunnyside” which I’d not heard of until now, so it must have slipped off the radar somehow. Sadly, there’s only one commercial highlight here, namely, “Got To Have Your Body”, a hot dance inspired song that demands attention. With this title being so vital, the others seem uninviting by comparison. Having said that, the fact that this CD is now available, only adds credence to the foundation of a career that soared into the sky, thanks to Luther’s innate ability to turn a song into a masterpiece. His personal stylish presentations are legendary. And Luther’s multi-million selling albums, said to be 35 million-plus, during the eighties and nineties, are indicative of his unmistakable talent, with the Grammy awards he won during his career recognising that. You don’t need me to tell you that Mr Vandross was also an brilliant commercial composer and producer, working with the likes of David Bowie (he worked on David’s “Young Americans” album), Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Diana Ross, and the list goes on. I’m sure we all have our favourite Luther track but for me it’s, um, “Dance With My Father” – what a song! Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but thank goodness we have a vast, rich catalogue to remember him by, and as for this CD, its historical value will delight Mr V’s fans.