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Monday, February 20, 2017

Barbara Lewis: Snap Your Fingers


1) Snap Your Fingers; 2) Please, Please, Please; 3) Frisco Blues; 4) I'll Bring It Back Home To You; 5) Just A Matter Of Time; 6) Twist And Shout; 7) I Don't Want To Cry; 8) Turn On Your Love Light; 9) Stand By Me; 10) If You Need Me; 11) What'd I Say; 12) Baby, Workout; 13) Shame, Shame, Shame.

So much for «original songwriting». With a short string of self-penned singles (ʽStraighten Up Your Heartʼ, ʽPuppy Loveʼ) that charted quite modestly, unable to repeat the success of ʽHello Strangerʼ, Atlantic Records probably decided that it was, after all, a mistake to be so permissive towards the lady — and, in stark contrast, made sure that her second LP did not contain even a single original. Instead, they came up with the plain-as-day, dumb-as-death concept of «Barbara Lewis Sings The Great Soul Tunes». This means that Barbara Lewis has to demonstrate to the world that she knows how to put a special twist on James Brown, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Solo­mon Burke, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Bland, and make it all the way to Jimmy Reed.

Needless to say, that is a really tough challenge for a nice, quiet, collected lady like Barbara who would much rather write her tender little ballads and pop ditties. She bravely braces herself for the ungrateful task and does what she can — yet even if the results are perfectly listenable, there is hardly any reason for us to get too excited about these takes on ʽTwist And Shoutʼ and ʽWhat'd I Sayʼ, with their energy level well suited to the ambience of a contemporary teen-oriented TV show, but never reaching the requirements of a truly sweaty, gritty R&B workout. In other words, ʽTwist And Shoutʼ here is far more about twisting than shouting, and the infamous moaning sex bits on ʽWhat'd I Sayʼ would probably satisfy the most conservative parents, so far removed they are from, you know... the real thing.

I have absolutely no idea how Atlantic, a label that was generally known for its good marketing sense, could have thrown away money on such a hopeless project — making the star of ʽHello Strangerʼ cover Jimmy Reed's ʽShame, Shame, Shameʼ was pretty much the equivalent of some genius marketologist telling Simon & Garfunkel, "hey boys, that ʽSound Of Silenceʼ thing was so cool, now how about you covering some of those British Invasion hits for us, like ʽYou Really Got Meʼ and ʽMy Generationʼ?" The only way for Barbara Lewis to succeed was with original material suited to her quietly reserved personality; instead, she is challenged with the impossible task of having to stand up to the belting of James Brown and to the gospel-pop vibes of Sam Cooke. She is a good girl, and she had a good backing band, but this has got to go down in his­tory as one of the most ridiculous gaffes in Atlantic's history in the Sixties. Thumbs down.

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