Esther Phillips – 1972 – Alone Again, Naturally
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One of the deepest soul sets from Esther Phillips’ 70s years on Kudu Records – a set with some nicely gritty grooves and a surprisingly earthy feel at times – especially when compared to some of her other albums of the time! Backings are by James Brown’s old reedman, Pee Wee Ellis – and although there’s some of the usual Kudu electric funk in the mix, there’s also some deeper soul elements too – a vibe that’s often a bit laidback and open, almost more Atlantic Records at points – which is a mighty good fit for Esther’s wonderful voice!
A1 Use Me 3:50
A2 I Don’t Want To Do Wrong 4:15
A3 Let’s Move & Groove 3:40
A4 Let Me In Your Life 3:35
A5 Cherry Red 4:30
B1 I’ve Never Found A Man (To Love Me Like You Do) 3:25
B2 Alone Again (Naturally) 3:21
B3 Do Right Woman, Do Right Man 3:25
B4 You & Me Together 3:18
B5 Georgia Rose 5:00
Esther Phillip’s music just oozes with soul. Recorded in 1972, Alone Again, Naturally, is a perfect starting point for people who are new to her music. The album showcases her distinctly smokey voice that is just raspy enough to still be sexy. Think not quite Janice Joplin yet not fully Aretha with the backing of an all-star studio band.
Phillip’s life was marred with substance abuse problems – namely heroin – which contributed to her pre-mature death at the age of 48 due to liver and kidney ailments. Like other childhood prodigy’s, Philips was originally billed as “Little Esther Phillips” and under the guise of bandleader Johnny Otis (father of Shuggie Otis) was able to pump out 10 rhythm and blues hits by the time she was 17. But her childhood charade didn’t last long and by the late 1950’s, she was already battling with addiction.
This however wasn’t before she grew to become what the Beatles called one of the most important innovators in rock. The Beatles even featured her on a BBC telecast in 1965, yet still she has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame despite being nominated twice.
Alone Again Naturally was her second album from her time with the Kudu label – which marked a brief period of moderate sobriety during which she released eight stellar albums. She then signed to Mercury in 1977 and released four albums before dying in 1984.
As usual for Kudu, the players are an all-star lineup – one that includes Richard Tee on keyboards, George Benson on guitar, Maceo Parker on tenor, and Bernard Purdie and Billy Cobham on drums – and Don Sebesky‘s also on deck a bit, to sweeten a few tracks up with light strings. Tracks to watch out for include her cover of Bill Whithers’, “Use Me” and the smoky, southern title track, “Alone Again, Naturally“.
Phillips delivers all the warmth of her native Texas, in a velvety smooth package guaranteed to bring joy to your heart.
More Esther Phillips’ albums in our back pages here