Shirley Brown – 1977 – Shirley Brown
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Rip and research by Mr.Moo Review by Soulbrother.com
Posting and additional info’s by Nikos
Wonderful Memphis soul album – warm and touching. Recorded with Stax musicians. Produced by Bettye Crutcher and Jeff Stewart (son of Jim Stewart – Stax founder)
A great non-Stax album from Memphis soul singer Shirley Brown – recorded for Arista, but with all the depth and feeling of her indie work! Shirley’s wonderfully teamed here with songwriter Bettye Crutcher –one of the best second generation talents at Stax, and writer with a great way of putting over a mature, modern southern soul tune. In addition to contributing most of the tracks, Crutcher also co-produced the record – and helps give it a sound that’s hip and focused – without any overdone southern soul cliches. The set’s the kind that should have made Brown as big as Millie Jackson in the 70s – and it’s filled with great tracks that include “Blessed Is The Woman (With A Man Like Mine)”, “When You Really Love Somebody”.
A1 Blessed Is the Woman (With a Man Like Mine) 3:45
A2 When You Really Love Somebody 4:19
A3 Said I Wasn’t Gonna Give You No More Love 3:30
A4 I Need Somebody to Love Me 4:35
A5 Givin’ Up 4:59
B1 Long on Lovin’ 2:55
B2 Midnight Rendevous 4:14
B3 I’ll Be Right Here (Loving You) 3:52
B4 A Mighty Good Feeling 5:29
Born January 6, 1947, she earned a reputation in gospel circles throughout the city for delivering powerful solos. In her late teens, she concentrated on secular music and sung with many of the city’s soul singers. Her first recordings, produced by Oliver Sain, did nothing nationally but made some noise locally. “I Ain’t Gonna Tell” and “Love Is Built On a Strong Foundation” found their way to Memphis R&B stations, giving Brown the impetus, with the help of manager Albert King, to tryout and secured a deal with Stax Records. Brown had the last hit for Stax before the label folded. On November 14, 1974, “Woman to Woman” topped the R&B chart for two weeks.After “Woman,” she released two more singles on Stax’s Truth label: “It Ain’t No Fun” and “It’s Worth a Whippin’,” but Stax was on its last leg, and the doors closed in 1975. She signed with Arista Records in 1977, her first single “Blessed Is the Woman (With a Man Like Mine)” didn’t light up the charts. Neither did two other Arista singles: “Givin’ Up” and “I Can’t Move No Mountains.” A self titled Arista album suffered the same fate as the singles. Brown’s next label, 20th Century, released “You Got to Like What I Do” in 1980 but it didn’t sell and the label lost interest. A deal with Sound Town resulted in the LP “Intimate Storm”, and one single, “Leave the Bridges Standing,” in 1984. Two years later, “Shootin’ a Blank” on Chelsea Avenue bombed, as did a single on Black Diamond Records, “If This Is Goodbye.” Things inproved when she signed with Malaco in 1989.
In early 1977 released Shirley’s first Arista single, a soul ballad called Blessed Is the Woman (With a Man like Mine). Although it starts softly and gently, Shirley in a typical gospel-infused manner lets loose towards the end. This beautiful song reached # 14 in Billboard’s soul charts (# 102-pop), and it was written by Bettye Crutcher. Bettye: “It was a song really based on how I felt about the man I loved.” The non-album b-side was a funky scorcher titled Lowdown, Dirty, Good Lover, also composed by Bettye.
Shirley Brown, a self-titled album, was released later in 1977, but commercially it didn’t take off. It was produced by Bettye Crutcher and Jeff Stuart. The album was recorded at Shoe Productions and Ardent studios in Memphis, Tennessee, with Marvell Thomas and Lester Snell taking care of the arrangements. Marvell also plays acoustic piano on the set and Lester is on electric keyboards, but still neither one of them seems to have been fully aware of the master or the direction of the project. Sessions were engineered by William Brown, and other musicians included Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and Willie Hall on drums. Considering that Rhodes-Chalmers-Rhodes were on background vocals, we can conclude that for the most part the personnel is the same as on Shirley’s debut album, Woman to Woman.
There’s one notable exception, though. An impressive soul ballad called I Need Somebody to Love Me was written and produced by Harvey Mason and arranged by D.J. Rogers. It was picked up for the second single and in the summer of 1977 it peaked at # 50-soul. On the single release, Harvey’s song was backed with Shirley’s slowed-down interpretation of the Gladys Knight gem, Givin’ Up; done here in a Donny Hathaway style. The third single from the album was comprised of two fast songs from the pen of Bettye Crutcher. A Mighty Good Feeling is a disco type of a mover, Long on Lovin’ is a toe-tapping, cheerful dancer, which Shirley later re-recorded for her Joy & Pain album.
Just to prove that Arista was taking Shirley in the wrong direction, one year later – early summer in 1978 – they released a busy disco ditty titled I Can’t Move No Mountains (# 92-soul), written by two pop artists, Michael Gately and Robert John, and cut earlier, among others, by Blood, Sweat & Tears and Margie Joseph. A storming dancer called Honey Babe on the flip wasn’t much to brag about, either.
Both songs were cut in Chicago by Eugene Record, and allegedly there’s more material produced by Eugene in the can, still. Those days there was also talk about General Johnson producing the Arista sessions and Maurice White being involved in them, too. Soon after I Can’t Move No Mountains, Arista dropped Shirley.
You can enjoy her biggest success “Woman to Woman” LP in our back pages here