JAYE P. MORGAN: ‘Jaye P. Morgan’ (Label: Voiceprint, Sonic Past Music)

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JAYE P. MORGAN: 'Jaye P. Morgan'

The name Jaye P Morgan doesn’t probably signify much to British audiences but in her native USA, the actress, singer and TV host born Mary Margaret Morgan in 1931 is something of a household name. Now 77, she started off as a big band jazz singer and scored a couple of US pop hits in the 1950s before entering the world of TV, where she hosted her own musical variety show. Morgan was a ubiquitous figure on US television in the 1970s, making guest appearances on chat shows and panel games, acting in TV dramas and even singing soap opera theme songs. Morgan famously appeared as a celebrity judge on producer Chuck Barris’s TV talent spectacle, The Gong Show (Interestingly, Barris, who claimed he led a double life working as an assassin for the CIA, was recently the subject of the George Clooney-directed movie, ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’ starring Sam Rockwell, which included a cameo appearance by Morgan). At the height of her fame in 1976, Morgan – who never gave up singing – went into Hollywood’s Sound City Studios with keyboardist David Foster sitting in the producer’s chair and cut a 9-track album. It’s not clear who financed the album and whether a record label was interested in releasing it, but after it was recorded and mixed the set was never released and was left languishing in the studio vaults until a reissue label called Sonic Past Music discovered it and acquired the rights in 2007. Now remastered and available via Sonic Past’s Voiceprint label, somewhat incredibly, ‘Jaye P. Morgan’ turns out to be a bit of a lost treasure that fans of late-’70s soul will appreciate. Foster’s slick, shiny, production is very much like his work from the same era for Earth, Wind & Fire and Cheryl Lynn – who, incidentally, was a onetime winner of the infamous Gong Show. In fact one of the album’s standouts is an excellent version of EW&F’s Skip Scarborough-penned ‘Can’t Hide Love’ that retains the uplifting soulful core of the original. Morgan’s got a fairly decent set of pipes too – her smoky tone is reminiscent of Marlena Shaw – and combined with Foster’s on-the-money arrangements (delivered by LA session luminaries like Lee Ritenour, Ray Parker Jr, Jay Graydon, Jeff Porcaro and Harvey Mason as well as the Tower Of Power horn section), results in an eminently playable long player. Another striking sonic feature of the album is the impeccable quality of the background vocals, which are imaginatively arranged and perfectly executed (singer Bill Champlin, a key member of LA’s ’70s session mafia, is responsible). The opening cut is an attractive upbeat slice of disco-soul complete with dancing strings and slurping hi-hats. Even better is a spirited rendition of the Average White Band’s Alan Gorrie-penned ‘Keepin’ It To Myself.’ The tempo drops for the slinky Bill Champlin-scribed ‘Here Is Where Your Love Belongs,’ which sounds a tad like one of those ultra-slick beat ballads that EW&F delivered in the late-’70s. By contrast, Morgan gets funky on a mighty chicken-neck groove called ‘Let’s Get Together.’ Another highlight is a disco-inflected version of Ashford & Simpson’s classic ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ featuring male vocalist, Donny Gerrard. Well worth a gander this – especially by those that appreciate slick, late-’70s, LA soul grooves.
(CW) 4/5