DORIS DUKE: Woman (Label: Shout)


The redoubtable Doris Duke is real underground soul heroine. Her reputation rests chiefly on her wondrous 1969 album ‘I’m A Loser’ – often cited as the definitive deep soul LP – though real anoraks will also recall the singles she cut as Doris Willingham. Her cult status brought her to England in 1974 where she recorded an album for John Abbey’s Contempo label. Abbey, of course, was the founder and editor of Blues and Soul magazine and his label was a spin off from the magazine’s then huge popularity. Using the cream of British session players dubbed “Ultrafunk and the Armada Orchestra”, Duke and Abbey cut nine tracks which were issued as the ‘Woman’ album in 1975. The LP wasn’t particularly well-received – possibly because it was heavy on cover versions – and till now it’s lain in the vault – neglected and dusty. This welcome Shout reissue shows that the original indifference to the set was misplaced and though purists will say it doesn’t match the heights of ‘Loser’ it does have many fine moments and even on fairly pedestrian material like Bunny Sigler’s ‘Grasshopper’ and Gamble and Huff’s ‘A Little Bit Of Your Love’, Duke’s majestically world-weary and truly soulful voice carries the day. Amongst the real highlights are a cover of Carla Thomas’ ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ and a slowed-down version of the Supremes’ ‘Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone’. On that one the obvious influence was Margie Joseph’s famous take on ‘Stop In the Name Of Love’ and like Margie, Doris quite transforms what is essentially a pop hit into a soul stunner. There’s more not-to-be-missed deep soul in the covers of Harlan Howard’s country song ‘To Chicago With Love’ and Irma Thomas’ ‘Full Time Woman’ and listening to those it’s hard to figure why the set was cold-shouldered in its day. Doris piles plenty of soul conviction into every cut and though the CD is short – running in at just over 40 minutes, investigation is recommended for anyone who cares about real soul and the unique stylists who craft it.
(BB) 4/5