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Gloria Barnes – 1971 – Uptown

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Gloria Barnes

Gloria Barnes got her start as “Towanda” Barnes, releasing 45’s on both The Groovy Label in 1966 and A&M Records in 1969. “Uptown”, her one and only full-length offering, came two years later in 1971 on the somehat obscure, but vibrant Maple label. The Johnny Brantley produced long-player yielded impressive results and features backing from both Lee Moses & The Disciples and The Hustlers. The platter mixes upbeat tracks with some fiery deep soul and includes “You Don’t Mean It”, a song penned by the Ohio Players. Gloria’s version of the cut became popular among those in the know in England’s Northern Soul movement. Barnes’ vocal prowess is on full display in the opening track, a seven-minute showstopper entitled “Old Before My Time“, the A-side of the only single culled from the LP.

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Gloria “Towanda” Barnes is an obscure soul sister whom little is known except what can be gleaned from the notes on the back of her Maple album, Uptown, from 1973. She came from Harlem, NYC, and was discovered on Mary Fox’s Northern Soul Night on Radio Stoke. Her first release was ‘If I Am Guilty’ / ‘Oh Darling’ on the Groovy Imprint, as Towanda Barnes, but she is best known on the Northern Soul circuit for the tracks ‘You Don’t Mean It’ (backed by Lewis/Brantley song ‘Find Someone to Love Me’) and ‘Love Slips Through My Fingers’, interestingly both originally recorded by the Ohio Players.

However, it is on her Uptown album that she really shines, showcasing her supreme vocals, particularly on the seven minute opus ‘Old Before My Time’,  as Gloria delivers an aching vocal of pure intensity backed by a Dayton, Ohio group The Hustlers. The song is backed by an atmospeheric organ and mournful guitar which allows Gloria plenty of space to espouse the reasons why she aches so much. She is simply getting old before her time because of her aching heart. This is one of Lewis/Lewis/Farmer’s best songs.

You Don’t Mean It‘  is the killer and superior version of the Ohio Players song which is pure primitive excitement with Gloria’s haunting echoing vocal making the record deep soul over an uptempo beat. From the start this recording, with its live feel, just ouses pure emotion from the bongo drum opening until Gloria calls out “You Don’t Mean These Things You Said”. The Ohio Players also supply sparse backing vocals which add to the mood.

 The record features 8 great songs – a few with Lee Moses and the Desciples Backing -, and mixes upbeat with some fine deep stuff.