Kim Tolliver: ‘Come & Get Me I’m Ready’ (Label: Reel Music)

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Kim Tolliver: 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready'

Nashville-born/Cleveland-raised singer/songwriter Dorothy Kimberley Tolliver is an unsung Southern Soul heroine to many collectors of rare and antique R&B records. Blessed with a powerful and tremendously expressive set of pipes, Tolliver began her recording career in 1967 with a single called ‘Get A Little Soul’ for the Sureshot label. Failing to see any chart action, Tolliver moved to another small indie, the New York-based Rojac label, where she waxed several sides between 1968 and 1970. With success proving elusive, Tolliver recorded a one-off 45 for Superheavy in the guise of ‘Big Ella’ in 1971. That too bombed. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as Tolliver – who had married songwriter/producer Fred Briggs, author of The Dells’ ‘Strung Out Over You’ and Mavis Staples’ ‘You’re Driving Me Into The Arms Of A Stranger’ – collaborated with her husband on Margie Joseph’s two Volt LPs, ‘Margie Joseph Makes A New Impression’ and ‘Phase II.’ After that, the couple then worked together on Tolliver’s debut album (which was credited to Kim Briggs) called ‘Who’s Kimberley’ for their own label. In 1973, Tolliver landed at Chess, where she cut ‘Come & Get Me I’m Ready,’ which sadly, turned out to be her final long player. Now released on CD for the first time – thanks to the new US reissue label, Reel Music – ‘Come & Get Me I’m Ready’ proves to be a genuine soul masterpiece. Kim Tolliver’s vocals, which swoop and soar majestically, are dark and sultry. Her singing possesses the rawness and visceral attack of the blues and yet also displays the subtle expressive nuances that jazz singers customarily employ. In soul terms, it sounds a little like Stax meets Motown. The opening number, the self-penned ‘The Other Side Of Town,’ with its passages of spoken narrative, is a tour de force of confessional Southern-style balladry. It’s a classic ‘other woman’ cheating song and Tolliver’s cathartic performance, while histrionic at times, is grippingly dramatic – so much so that her sense of heartbreak, betrayal and loss is almost palpable. Following this is a superlative interpretation of Clarence Reid’s ‘She Don’t Know You Like I Do.’ The title cut is another winner – a mid-tempo tale about misunderstanding and stubbornness that boasts a great chorus and superb string and horn arrangements. ‘The Way He Used To’ is a slow ballad about loss and nostalgic reminiscence featuring a rich, throaty vocal from Tolliver and an arrangement that builds to a passionate climax. Impressive in a different way is a medley, which combines the cinematic funk of ‘I Need You (Come As You Are)’ with the Motown-style ‘Drop Whatever You’re Doing.’ By contrast, ‘Taking A Woman’s Stand’ has a pronounced country-soul feel and a big, rousing chorus. Despite its high quality in terms of performance, material and production, sadly ‘Come & Get Me I’m Ready’ didn’t see any chart action and sank without trace soon after its release. It’s been championed by soul collectors for many years and now, finally, is granted a new lease of life that with any luck, will result in an army of new admirers. Go and get it while you can…
(CW) 5/5