ALICE CLARK: The Complete Studio Recordings (BGP)

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Brooklyn’s Alice Clark is one of soul’s great mystery artists. She’s perhaps best known for her Northern soul stomper ‘You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)’. Apart from that Warner Bros release, soul historians know that she recorded a hugely collectable album for the Mainstream label and three tracks for Rainy Day Records. With interest growing in that album (and prices for it soaring), the Ace/BGP soul sleuths tracked down the masters, secured the rights to it and licensed both sides of that Warner Bros single along with the Rainy Day cuts – and the result is this wonderful true soul album which – as the title says – brings together all the lady’s studio sides. The set is topped and tailed with ‘You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)’ (vocal cut first, instrumental take last) and it really is a classic Northern soul side.. and I emphasis “soul” – something sadly missing from a lot of “Northern”. It’s the tracks from the 1972 album though that form the real focus of interest with the Bobby Hebb penned ‘Don’t You Care’ being outstanding. Hebb provides another song (‘Charms Of The Arms Of Love’), while other writers include Billy Vera, Jimmy Webb, Leonard Caston and Petula Clark! Alice turns in a wonderful soulful version of Pet’s ‘Looking At Life’ – more than a hint of Burt Bacharach about it. As interesting is the cover of the ‘Cabaret’ tune ‘Maybe This Time’ while the B-side to ‘You Hurt Me….’, ‘Heaven’s Will Must Be Obeyed’, has a delicious feel of ‘People Get Ready’ to it. .. a great uptown soul ballad. The three cuts recorded for Rainy Day, however, have a much more southern feel to them – proving that Alice Clark possessed a huge versatility. Sadly sales from her album were poor and she drifted away from music and nobody has heard of her since – even her one-time collaborator, Billy Vera – whose reminiscences in the notes add some details to the enigma that is Alice Clark.

(BB) 4/5