PHYLLIS HYMAN: Goddess Of Love (Label: Reel Music)

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PHYLLIS HYMAN: Goddess Of Love

Phyllis Hyman’s 1983 swansong for Arista finally makes its CD debut via the redoubtable Stateside reissue label, Reel Music. As with all previous Reel releases, this reissue is remastered from the original first generation master tapes and comes with copious liner notes (by A. Scott Galloway, who’s gleaned some great quotes from some of the album’s key participants) as well as rare photos. Overall, it’s a great package and one that all Hyman devotees will want to acquire post haste. However, said Hyman fans – if they’re familiar with the original vinyl – should realise that ‘Goddess Of Love’ (at least in the opinion of this writer) was one of the Philadelphia-born singer’s least satisfying efforts for Clive Davis’s label. Her vocal performances are impeccable throughout – rather, it’s the quality of some of the material that’s at fault. Hyman’s talent is cheapened by the bubbly, pop-tinged, dance floor number, ‘Riding The Tiger’ – complete with jungle sound effects – helmed by ex-Mahavishnu drummer turned producer Narada Michael Walden. The same can be said for the sultry but slightly tawdry title cut, which doesn’t quite hit the spot. Walden redeems himself, though, with the sublime ballad, ‘Why Did You Turn Me On,’ one of Hyman’s best ever tracks and undoubtedly the set’s killer cut. The rest of the album is produced by Philly legend, Thom Bell, normally a safe pair of hands, production-wise, although there’s something a bit lacklustre about his contributions despite upping the album’s soul quotient. The highly emotive ‘Your Move, Your Heart’ – where Hyman wrings every nuance of emotional drama out of the lyrics – is good; so too the poignant ‘Just Twenty Five Miles To Anywhere.’ ‘Let Somebody Love You,’ co-penned by Preston Glass, with its jazzy, Latin lilt, is pleasant but not really substantial and ‘Falling Star’ is a pedestrian slice of crossover MOR balladry saved by the soulfulness of Hyman’s vocal. ‘We Should Be Lovers’ quickly runs out of ideas and becomes too repetitive while the storytelling narrative of ‘Just Me And You’ seems a little stilted and doesn’t quite work. Arista dropped Hyman after ‘Goddess Of Love’ as it failed to yield a big hit. Thankfully, she eventually signed with a resuscitated Philadelphia International label and made some of the best music of her career. For dedicated Hyman devotees, ‘Goddess Of Love’ – despite my reservations – is an essential purchase. Even more alluring is Reel Music’s forthcoming reissue of the singer’s 1978 Arista set, ‘Somewhere In My Lifetime’ complete with bonus cuts, which to these ears is a much more satisfying opus.
(CW) 3/5