This week, three female harmony-soul records from the early ’70s. Their production styles are wildly different, but they’re all suffused with the lightly trippy aesthetic of the era.
1. The Three Degrees, Collage (Roulette)
An enduring Philadelphia female vocal trio, the Three Degrees found national fame in the mid-1970s on Gamble and Huff’s massively influential early disco label, Philadelphia International Records.
Named, I’d guess, for its pastiche of gloomy and strikingly imagistic lyrics, “Collage” was, aesthetically, light years from the Soul Train dance lines and gold lamé. This was 1970, when pulling out all the stops in the studio meant a technicolor cascade of minor-key harmonies, chimes, vibraphone, and wah-wah guitar.
2. Sweet and Innocent, Express Your Love (Active)
Cooing with a charming lack of affectation, Sweet and Innocent strive here to fill those holes in their hearts.”Express Your Love” is sweet, innocent, and – like a love letter sung into a portable tape recorder in a teenager’s bedroom – almost too intimate.
They recorded this echo-drenched sleeper in Memphis in the early 1970s.
3. Patti Drew, Keep On Movin’ (Capitol)
Chicago-based Patti Drew has a voice that’s a powerful, wondrous thing, and she really unleashes the full dramatic force of it on “Keep On Movin’.”
The pop charts were once friendlier to anthems of survival, empowerment, and “personal voyaging.” Listen to the gravitas with which Ms. Drew intones lyrics like, “But somewhere, somehow / I’m going to keep on trying / until in the end / I finally win.” It was a different era, 1970.
** Many, MANY thanks this week to Oliver, who gave Office Naps a sweet shout-out from his mighty Soul Sides site. Oliver’s discipline – and his peerless writing and tastes – were a real inspiration to me (and should be for any music blogger). Back when he was reviewing LP’s on a monthly basis and posting drool-y album scans, back before “blog” meant anything to you or me, HIS was one of the first homegrown music sites that I regularly checked (and it still is one of the few). Check Soul Sides everyday. **