MARLENA SHAW; Sweet Beginnings (bbr)


Marlena Shaw has a distinguished musical CV that has seen her acclaimed by both jazz and soul fans and critics. In the mid 60s her talent and versatility won her a contract with Chess/Cadet where her reading of ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ became one of the label’s best sellers in 1966 – and it perfectly illustrated her style – soul-tinged jazz… or should that be jazz-tinged soul? Whatever, the jazz element was enough to win her the vocalist spot with the Count Basie Band followed by a deal with the iconic Blue Note label. By the mid 70s, though, she’d had enough of Blue Note, suggesting that they weren’t promoting her properly; so, ever-ambitious, she moved onto Columbia where in 1977 she recorded ‘Sweet Beginnings’ – just reissued here on bbr.

The album yielded one of her best known recordings – a new, laconic version of the Goffin/King pop classic ‘Go Away Little Boy’, a song  she’d also recorded at Chess/Cadet. Marlena’s Columbia version is prefaced by that famous monologue and ends with the unexpected, playful demand that the “boy” get a job by Thursday. It still sounds great, but it’s by no means the LP’s only goodie. The Thom Bell/Linda Creed song ‘ I Think I’ll Tell Him’ has a jaunty, jazz swing about it that harks back to her time with the Basie Band, while Van McCoy’s ‘Walk Softly’ is different again – an almost country flavour to this. Being 1977 there had to be a few disco cuts and here the best is the LP’s title cut which Ms. Shaw tackles with a huge assurance that is replicated on the other blatant disco track ‘Pictures And Memories’. This reissue comes complete with a fine contextual essay from American writer Christian Wikane and as a bonus you can enjoy the single edit of the aforementioned ‘Pictures And Memories’.

(BB) 3/5