Girl trips

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. **

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15 Responses to Girl trips

  1. Anonymous says:

    with reference to the “three degrees” cut – the razor blades.. and the mysteries of the hydrological cycles.. this is some serious existential musing going on here.. these people need to lighten up – eat a sno-cone.. go bowling.

    excellent cut.. speedy gonzalez

  2. Anonymous says:

    three degrees = cold = seasonal affected disorder.. they hadn’t quite identified that yet back in 70′ (now where is my xanax)

    🙂 speedy

  3. Indeed, Speedy. TOTALLY existential, left-field lyrics, very unusual for a girl-group. What you can’t tell from the label scan is that “Collage” was actually on the b-side of this 45, where the odder stuff tended to hang out. The a-side was a fairly “normal” remake of the Chantels’ “Maybe” (and a minor hit for the Three Degrees).

    All I can think right now, though, is going bowling with the Three Degrees.

  4. Anonymous says:

    it would beat the hell out of bowling with the charlies angels, no?

    i feel a new reality show germinating.. obscure celebrity bowling competitions – sorry we are getting away from topic now


  5. Blanca says:

    This is my favorite yet…totally dreamy. And yes, “Express Your Love” is my favorite.

  6. “Express Your Love” is probably my fave of batch, too. An absolute dreamsicle.

  7. Mr Muzac says:

    Man, your blog is quality up and down. Soul Sides gave you a shout out and for good reason. Express Your Love is a quite special song, definitly putting it on my Woo Your Woman mix. Do you take requests? I’ve been itching to hear some trumpet funk lately, something that has always surprised me at how hard it is to find, but then again Oregon isn’t exactly a funk wonderland…

  8. Thank you Mr. Muzac! “Express Your Love” is definitely the popular one this week.

    Now I’ve just gotta think I *have* 3 trumpet funk 45’s. Hmmm…

  9. Taylor says:

    Wow, this post is amazing. Every single one of those tracks is golden. I imagine I’ll be listening to them for quite some time to come.

  10. “Golden” is the operative word with these. Like honey, these are.

  11. Darcy says:

    Just found you (thanks to Soul Sides). A veritable hat-trick – all three of these are great.
    You’re on my blogroll!

  12. Pedro says:

    Wow, collage is such a great song. great blog! found you through soul sides and i will definately be checking in regularly.

  13. found u thru ‘magic of juju’ …….both of you extremely informative sites….with great musical tastes….. in exchange i can ofer you… for some obscurish 70’s Northern/Modern soul and plenty reggae….thnxz…keep it up.

  14. italianbeat says:

    wow great kind of music. You have very taste on the choices. Great.

  15. Habryoutube says:

    It’s really ironic to read soul-sides today, Sunday, December 03, 2006. In the same post where you thank O-Dub for a sweet shout-out, he could have heard Collage several months ago. Bloggers are busy people, I guess.

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