Claudia Lennear – 1973 – Phew
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What can we say about the personality of this woman, when two of the greatest artits of all time (Mick Jigger and David Bowie) wrote two of their best songs for her?
In the 70’s as a session and back up singer for Ike & Tina Turner where she met Mick Jagger on the Infamous Stones tour of 1969 she also sang with Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Al Kooper and can be seen in The Concert For Bangla Desh Film. Over in Wolfgangs Vault there is a Leon Russell Gig where she and Kathi McDonald (Another Great Voice) are singing back up vocals in his band worth checking out. There is also footage of her shaking her funky stuff with Tina Turner on Playboy After Dark in 1971.
Claudia Lennear’s 1973 album, Phew, produced by Ian Samwell, had an interesting collection of songs and players, using a different set of musicians on each side.
Side one with Ry Cooder on guitar and several members of the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (Jim Dickinson and Tommy McClure). Side two under the supervision of Allen Toussaint who wrote all the compositions, plays the piano and doing the horn arrangements. Together with some of the best musicians, like Chuck Rainey on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Spooner Oldham on electric piano.
This is a @320 vinyl rip
A1. It Ain’t Easy (Ry Cooder : electric guitar)
A2. Sing With The Children (Ry Cooder : electric bottleneck guitar)
A3. Sister Angela
A4. Not At All (Ry Cooder : electric bottleneck guitar)
A5. Casey Jones
B1. Going Down
B2. From A Whisper To A Scream
B3. Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky
B4. What’d I Do Wrong
B5. Going Down (reprise)
Produced by : Ian Samwell (tracks 1-5), Allen Toussaint (tracks 6-10)
Musicians (tracks 1-5)
Ry Cooder – electric bottleneck guitar, electric guitar (where shown), John Craviotto – drums
Jim Dickinson – piano, guitar, Charles Grimes – guitar, Milt Holland – percussion
Tommy McClure – bass guitar, Mike Utley – hammond organ
Musicians (tracks 6-10)
Arthur Adams – guitar, Harold Battiste, Jr. – alto sax, Tessie Calderon – congas
Gene Cipriano – baritone sax, Marlin Greene – guitar, Paul Hubinon – trumpet
Dick Hyde – trombone , Jim Keltner – drums, Rick Littlefield – guitar
Warren Luening, Jr. – trumpet, Lew McReary – trombone, Don Menza – tenor sax, flute
Spooner Oldham – electric piano, Chuck Rainey – bass guitar, William Smith – hammond organ,
Allen Toussaint – piano
Claudia Lennear should have been huge! She had a great pedigree that was a publicists dream ( Ikette, One of Leon Russell’s Shelter People and Jagger wrote Brown Sugar about her). Warner Brothers threw lots of money at this album, top session players, gate fold sleeve, very sexy photo inside. The album is split into two halves. The first side is the ‘Rock’ side with definite Stones vibe with Ry Cooder, Mike Utley, Milt Holland and Jim Dickinson all putting their talents into the mix; the second side is a suite of four (minor) Allain Toussaint songs with the great man in charge of musical direction and on piano, and another set of top sessioner’s at work. They all work their up a fine funky sound, but unfortunately CL bottled it. This is most peculiar singing style, she can start a line as if she is going to go all out for it only to pull out. If Chaka Khan or Tina Turner had had the vocal duties then this could have been huge, unfortunately, it is just average. I was fortunate to get a press release in my copy. In it Claudia tell the world that “It’s a whole different feeling being in the spotlight instead of hidden in a chorus of nine people. I like it, but I’m just beginning to discover who the real Claudia Lennear is, myself” It would seem that she wasn’t comfortable in front, as this is the only album she ever got the chance to make.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that while saying Thanx for a cool Grant Green album in comments that I made my humble request through a Merlot haze for this long lost solo effort from 1973.I remember always seeing and drooling over this gorgeous album cover in the cut out bins at Virgin Records, but as Prog and Kraut was my main tastes back in the day the funk had yet to creep into my soul. It was only recently while listening to a rare funk soul comp that had the track “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” on it did I put 2 & 2 together Doh!!!!
That in turn started the quest to track it down and ended up where we are today. The danger has always been that you start to crave hearing the album so much that you build it into a masterpiece of proportions so high that by the time you actually track it down and get to play it you are left disappointed!!! After playing it twice here’s what I think. The first thing I noticed was Ry Cooder’s guitar is pure Keef riffage on the opening track, now that has to be good right? shame that Claudia seems a bit uninvolved and that her vocal could be stronger cause I know she can belt it out anytime she needs to, Also the song seemed very familiar then it clicked this is the Ron Davies track that David Bowie covered and made his own on ZIGGY STARDUST, She sang back up on Davies 2nd Album U.F.O. from 1971.
Track two is also a Ron Davies song and from where I stand the rest of side 1 is just going through the motions soul by numbers vocally and the songs aren’t that memorable, Jimmy Miller could have done wonders with these musicians me thinks. Not a bad first side but just not that great and I agree with Nikos when he said average.
Side two is a different story altogether, Now we’re talking the funk. Allen Toussaint’s production has a nice open live feel and Miss Lennear seems more at home dressed in the squelchy wah wah guitar funky bass and brass he envelopes her in. This is more like it, in fact I would suggest renumber Nikos tracks and put the 2nd side long track first followed by side one tracks and you will enjoy the album a lot more, in the days of vinyl I would have had side 2 on first every time. Not the funk masterpiece I had always hoped it would be but a fine album for the Funk Blog Downloads Folder on the PC. Anyone wanting to hear more should check out in no particular order……Ike & Tina Turner
Humble Pie – Rock on , Leon Russell – Leon Russell (Claudia and Kathi McDonald)
Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Ron Davies – U.F.O.
The Dependables – Klatu Berrada Niktu 1971, Gene Clarke – No Other
and countless other sessions too many to mention (by Kundalini69)
Side two is a suite with no gap among the songs. So i give two opportunities. The whole album with the songs split (the best way i could) and side two as one song (suite) as Allen Toussaint probably wanted.