SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: ‘Swamp Dogg’s Southern Soul Girls’ (Label: Kent)

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SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: 'Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls'

Adultery was a big money-spinner in the 1970s – at least in relation to soul music, which spawned a slew of risqué records focusing on adulterous love triangles, steamy ménage a trois and clandestine sexual liaisons. Everyone was doing it – or at least in seemed that way, what with Billy Paul extolling the joys of infidelity on ‘Me & Mrs. Jones,’ Bill Withers asking ‘Who Is He And What Is He To You?’ and a lust-crazed Luther Ingram proclaiming ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right.’ Women, too, got in on the act, with the likes of Millie Jackson, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, and Shirley Brown (to name a few) all chipping in their pennyworth. This new double-header from Kent is jam-packed with heart-rending tales of illicit love and lust and focuses on the work of two obscure female singers who worked under the aegis of legendary Southern Soul producer, Jerry ‘Swamp Dogg’ Williams. Cult songstress Sandra Phillips cut an album with Williams at the helm for Wally Roker’s Canyon label – home also to Doris Duke and her classic album, ‘I’m A Loser’ – amusingly titled ‘Too Many People In One Bed,’ which came out in 1970. It appears in its entirety here. Dominated by Phillips’ passionate vocals and featuring excellent arrangements and first class material penned by Williams, it proves to be a forgotten tour de force of Southern Soul. Highlights include harrowing confessional ballads like ‘To The Other Woman (I’m The Other Woman)’ – as good as the original cut by Doris Duke – ‘She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking)’ (which became a US hit for Dee Dee Warwick later the same year), the thumping Aretha-like ‘Some Mother’s Son’ and a super-soulful remake of The Supremes’ ‘Someday We’ll Be Together.’ Besides Phillips’ 12-track Canyon LP, this compilation includes 9 cuts by recondite chanteuse, Bette Williams. Little is known about the mysterious husky-voiced singer, but amongst her meagre recorded output are some fine performances – notably the gospel-infused stomper, ‘He Took My Hand,’ the funky, strident ‘A Feeling (For Someone Else Has Grown),’ and the memorable cheatin’ songs ‘If She’s Your Wife (Who Am I),’ and ‘Another Man Took My Husband’s Place.’ Also included are two previously unissued cuts, making this 21-track CD an essential purchase for aficionados of gritty, tell-it-like-it-is, sock-it-to-’em Southern Soul. Absolutely unmissable.
(CW) 5/5