MITTY COLLIER: ‘Shades Of Mitty Collier : The Chess Singles 1961-1968’ (Label: Kent)

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MITTY COLLIER: 'Shades Of Mitty Collier : The Chess Singles 1961-1968'

Mitty Collier was just 22 when she first tasted chart success with her Chess single, ‘I’m Your Part Time Lover,’ in 1963. Before that, the raspy-voiced, church-reared chanteuse from Birmingham, Alabama, had been a member of a gospel troupe called the Lloyd Reese singers. In her late teens, though, Collier crossed over the tracks, musically speaking, and ventured into the realm of what devout black church-goers would call the ‘devil’s music’ by singing R&B in clubs. Collier’s big break came during a sojourn to Chicago to visit her brother during the summer of 1959 when she took part in a weekly talent competition held at the Windy City’s Regal theatre – legend has it that the young singer won the contest for six weeks running, a feat that didn’t go unnoticed by Chess Records’ executive, Ralph Bass, who offered Collier a contract with the label in 1960. Collier’s tenure as a singles artist at Chess comes under the spotlight on this superb new Kent compilation, which includes all the singer’s A-sides for the label between the years 1961-1968 as well as a clutch of essential flipsides. As with all Kent/Ace compendiums, the annotation and artwork is exemplary and enhances the listener’s appreciation of the music. Collier’s most famous song is, of course, the plaintive, frank confessional ‘I Had A Talk With My Man,’ first released in 1964. Ironically, despite the reverence accorded it in soul circles, it was not her most successful single – that was ‘Sharing You,’ issued in 1966, which made the R&B Top 10. But chart positions are irrelevant here, even though it’s mystifying why Collier was unable to rack up more than four chart entries during her entire secular career. The mystery deepens when you listen to the sheer quality of material that failed to ignite the charts – like the driving, gospel-flavoured ‘Do It With Confidence’ (which takes its sassy cue from Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’), ‘Gotta Get Away From It All,’ and the stridently funky ‘Git Out.’ Perhaps it was disappointment at her failure to make any real commercial impact that finally persuaded Collier to quit secular music for good and return to her gospel roots in the early 1970s. Despite the fact that her pop career barely lasted twelve years, this stunning compilation reveals that Mitty Collier left behind an impressive body of work for Chess. Forty years on and it still sounds sublime. As one of our famous poets once wrote: ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever…’ Right on!
(CW) 4/5