miércoles, 7 de octubre de 2009

Bettye LaVette: Souvenirs (2000)

Bettye LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that, although LaVette has been recording for over four decades, up to this point she has remained criminally unknown. Despite the wealth of quality recordings that Bettye cut over the years, only six of her forty-fives managed to chart R&B and none of them broke into the pop Top 100. That is something unbelievable for a singer of her stature. Rather than enjoying the sustained success that by right should have been hers, her career has been haunted by what she refers to as “buzzard luck.” In 1972, on her second go round with Atlantic Records, LaVette headed down to Muscle Shoals with the Memphis Horns and producer Brad Shapiro to cut her first full-length album. The recordings were mastered and readied for release under the title Child of the Seventies before the powers-at-be at Atlantic mysteriously pulled the plug, unconscionably shelving the record for nearly thirty years before it was released in 2000 on Art and Soul under the new title Souvenirs. Soul fans the world over were stunned by what was clearly a heretofore unknown masterpiece. The backing is classic Muscle Shoals, in this case rather guitar-based, with additional arrangements, such as strings, applied tastefully. It is a truly classic Southern Soul record made for grownups, with very little filler. ‘It Ain’t Easy,’ ‘Our Own Love Song’, Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me,’ ‘If I Can’t Be Your Woman’ and ‘Souvenirs’ are simply superb and her interpretations of Kenny Rogers' ‘What Condition My Condition Is In’, Neil Young's ‘Heart of Gold’ and Free's ‘The Stealer’ clearly beat the original. Both sides of her first two singles, from 1962, are also included. Obviously, these tracks represent a major shift in mood, but are welcome nonetheless. http://www.amazon.com/

Oh, by the way, Bettye is NUMBER 1 on my list…

Bettye's stunning take on The Who classic, 'Love Reign O'er Me' at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey as part of the audience. Watching their expressions during this video is as moving as the performance by Bettye LaVette:

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