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Barbara & Ernie – 1972 – Prelude To

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This lost gem from 1971 by Barbara & Ernie, is quite an oddity. The unlikely pairing of guitarist Ernie Calabria and soul singer Barbara Massey came together to record this album of outlandish, genre-defying hybrids. The fruits of their collaboration are best described as a cross-pollination of folk, R&B and psychedelic acid soul. Consequently, this music met with baffled ears upon its initial release and quickly disappeared into obscurity.

The LP includes a cool cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody To Love‘.

A1 Play With Fire 3:31
A2 Somebody to Love 4:40
A3 Prelude 3:32
A4 Listen to Your Heart 5:15
B1 For You 3:37
B2 Searching the Circle 4:31
B3 My Love and I 3:00
B4 Do You Know 3:12
B5 Satisfied 3:44

A folk funk classic from the early 70s – and a weird little record that has a sound that’s unlike anything else we can think of! The arrangements are quite soulful, almost funky at times – with a righteous undercurrent that reminds us of Richard Evans or Charles Stepney at Cadet Records. But the vocals – by singer Barbara Massey – have a flanged out quality that’s clearly overdubbed, creating a double-voiced sound that’s almost a bit like Brasil 66!

This mix of modes is really great – completely unique, and sublime throughout – with a vibe that was years ahead of its time, and which is finally beginning to get some recognition these many years later. Arrangements are by the pair, but Deodato also had a hand in the record too – and the core combo of musicians includes Grady Tate on drums, Ralph McDonald on percussion, and Sam Brown on guitar – alongside more guitars from Ernie and keyboards and piano from Barbara.

THIS IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THOSE RECORDS people are slow to catch on to. You’ll see it on the wall at finer record stores, but it doesn’t seem to get muggle hype other records do. I’m guessing it’s the nondescript cover, it looks like a dollar bin record (quite the contrary actually). Once you jumped into this dusty classic, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having this in your life.

The sound is so unique, fusing folk, psyche and mild funk with Barbara Massey’s delicious vocals. Check out the often comped “Play With Fire“, the wicked “My Love And I“, a completely reworked cover of “Somebody To Love” and the Axelrod-esque instrumentation of “For You” and the empowering closer “Satisfied“.