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Monday, January 16, 2017

Carla Thomas: The Queen Alone


1) Any Day Now; 2) Stop Thief; 3) I Take It To My Baby; 4) I Want To Be Your Baby; 5) Something Good (Is Going To Happen To You); 6) When Tomorrow Comes; 7) I'll Always Have Faith In You; 8) All I See Is You; 9) Unchanging Love; 10) Give Me Enough (To Keep Me Going); 11) Lie To Keep Me From Crying.

The meaning of the title is that Otis Redding and Carla had only just recently completed a duets album called King & Queen, where Carla's role was somewhat more supportive, so it was only fair to give her an autonomous chance — while making the «queen» moniker stick, particularly since Aretha was only on the verge of her national breakthrough, and the proverbial crown was pretty much up for grabs, whoever claimed it first.

As usual, nothing particularly outstanding is going on, but the record is a bit more consistent and fun than Carla, the real good news being that the Porter/Hayes duo are now contributing a good half of the songs instead of just two, as it used to be. Unsurprisingly, this half is the best half of all, with playful grooves, hooky choruses, and plenty of charming entertainment value, most of it due to the composers rather than the players and the singers. ʽStop Thiefʼ ("give me back my heart") features smart usage of the cleptomaniac metaphor; ʽI Take It To My Babyʼ uses an oddly nagging cowbell to bring the message home; ʽSomething Goodʼ recycles the lead-vs.-backing vocals trick previously used on ʽB-A-B-Yʼ to raise the seductiveness of the tune above average level; ʽWhen Tomorrow Comesʼ rides a slightly modified version of the ʽMy Girlʼ bass riff that gives this love ballad a funky edge; and only the straightforward waltz ʽUnchanging Loveʼ looks like it took about two minutes to piece together, though Carla still gives it her best.

The non-Porter/Hayes songs tend to drift into schmaltz, sometimes of a pretty variety (ʽGive Me Enoughʼ, with gorgeous falsetto harmonies), sometimes of a boring one (ʽAll I See Is Youʼ). In­terestingly, neither of these tunes, nor the even schmaltzier ʽAny Day Nowʼ, a strings-heavy Bacharach cover, were chosen as the singles — the first single was ʽSomething Goodʼ, clearly attesting to the fact that Atlantic/Stax were trying to repeat the success of ʽB-A-B-Yʼ; unfortu­nately, the success proved to be unrepeatable, with R&B audiences growing less and less interes­ted in such «bubblegummy» stuff.

The album was, nevertheless, fortunate enough to be oficially remastered and released in an ex­panded CD package on its 40th jubilee, with five bonus tracks that seem to have been outtakes (I do not see them listed as contemporary singles or anything), including a minor pop gem called ʽMe And My Clockʼ and more of the same ordinary, but listenable R&B grooves. All in all, very disappointing for a true «queen-level» album (the real queen was just minutes away from show­ing the true meaning of R&B royalty), but a solid treat for any solid fan of conventional mid-Sixties R&B.

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