Saturday, 11 October 2008

Denise LaSalle - Under The Influence

Under The Influence

73 MB
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from ABC 9022-1087

Denise brought some serious studio stars to this self-produced session (which reached #58 on Billboard's Black Albums chart) such as Stax regulars Michael Toles and Ben Cauley (the sole survivor of the crash that killed Otis Redding) from the Bar-Kays as well as Isaac Hayes' stalwarts Errol Thomas, Marvell Thomas (son of Rufus and brother of Carla) and Hot Buttered Soul. She also pulled the Memphis Horns, "arguably the greatest soul horn section ever" according to AMG, all under the guidance of formidably funky arranger David Van dePitte.

The real crazy nutty nugget of info related to this LP is drums were played by a young Blair Cunningham who would later be a member of New Wavers Haircut 100 (that's him in the Love Plus One video) and Chrissy Hynde's Pretenders. At least that's what the internet says. It also says "Ishwho?" so that's why there's no link for the conga player. All I could suss was that he got a writing credit along with David Porter on a song called "Ray of Sunshine" from Circle O' Fire's Escape Hatch.

AMG Bio by Richard Skelly & Al Campbell
Unlike so many other blues vocalists who just reinterpret material given to them by songwriters, Denise LaSalle is a seriously talented songwriter. Although her soul blues style has strong urban contemporary overtones at times, it's best to think of LaSalle as a modern-day Bessie Smith, because that's really what she is. She writes funny songs full of sassy attitude and it's an attitude she carries with her on-stage. Off-stage, LaSalle accommodates all autograph seekers and gladly obliges journalists and radio disc jockeys.

The Jackson, TN-based LaSalle was raised in Belzoni, MS, (also home to Joe Willie "PineTop" Perkins some years earlier) but she got started singing in local churches around Leflore County. She was born July 16, 1939, as Denise Craig. Growing up, she listened to the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts and then in Belzoni, lived across the street from a juke joint. LaSalle's early influences, from the jukeboxes around Belzoni and over the radio, included Ruth Brown, Dinah Washington, and LaVern Baker. LaSalle moved north to Chicago when she was in her early twenties and would attend shows at the Regal Theatre, always returning home to write songs. She got to know blues musicians and began giving her songs to them, until one day a Chess Records executive stopped by at Mixer's Lounge, where LaSalle was working as a bar maid. He listened to one of her songs and took it down to Chess Records, and the company later signed her as a vocalist, but never recorded her. Two years later, LaSalle recorded and produced her own record with the help of Billy "The Kid" Emerson, the Chess executive who'd originally shown an interest in her. After the record made some waves on local radio, Chess stepped in and purchased the master and took it to Europe. Meanwhile, LaSalle continued writing songs and sitting in with blues musicians around the Chicago clubs.

LaSalle's first big hit came about in 1971 when her "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" broke on the radio in Chicago and then Detroit. That record was for the Westbound label and then she signed with ABC Records in 1975, cutting three albums in three years until the label was sold to MCA. After MCA dropped her because of the label's "difficulty in promoting black acts" at that time, she continued performing as much as she could in Chicago and Memphis. In 1980, a Malaco executive called to ask her to write a song for Z.Z. Hill. A positive relationship with the company was quickly developed, which resulted in LaSalle recording 11 discs for the label, including Lady in the Street, (1983), Right Place, Right Time, (1984), Love Talkin', (1985), Hittin' Where It Hurts, (1989), Still Trapped, (1990), Still Bad, (1994), and Smokin' in Bed (1997). While her Malaco sides are probably her most important recordings, other than the original of her early-'70s hit "Trapped," she still releases excellent gospel crossover material, including This Real Woman (2000) and There's No Separation (2001) on Ordena Records and Little Bit Naughty (2008) on Shout.

Robert Christgau's review of Under The Influence in his book Rock Albums of The '70s:

In the wake of two bad tries for the big label, this perpetually promising, perpetually frustrating singer-songwriter rebounds a little, flattering Millie Jackson sincerely every step of the way. The bleh ballad is more than overbalanced by "Feet Don't Fail Me," a sorrowful, tellingly specific cheating song. But the self-production never finds a groove. Recommended to stubborn old souls. B

David Freeland in his book Ladies of Soul: Stories of Female Soul Singers:

LaSalle's late-'70s work for ABC is also out of print, but the albums frequently turn up in used record stores. Each is uneven, but all have their high points. Under The Influence, which she recorded in 1978, contains two of her best songs, "Workin' Overtime" and "Feet Don't Fail Me."

Denise LaSalle - Vocals, Producer
Michael Toles - Lead Guitar
Kenny Ray Kight - Lead Guitar
Errol Thomas - Bass Guitar
Marvell Thomas - Paino, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet
Carl Marsh - Clavinet, ARP Synthesizer
Blair Cunningham - Drums
Ishmu - Congas
Ben Cauley - Trumpet
Edgar Matthew - Trumpet

The Memphis Horns:
James Mitchell - Baritone Sax
Lewis Collins - Tenor Sax, Alto Sax
Andrew Love - Alto Sax
Jack Hale - Trombone

Strings - The Memphis Symphony
Background Singers - Hot Buttered Soul plus Deborah Carter
Rhythm, Strings and Horns arranged by David Van De Pitte

1 P.A.R.T.Y. (Where It Is)
2 Feet Don't Fail Me
3 No Matter What They Say
4 Let's Stay This Way
5 Workin' Overtime
6 Under The Influence
7 You Ought'a Thank Me
8 Talking 'Bout My Best Friend

You can get influenced by Soundological HERE or HERE.


djandpete said...

nice album thanks

cheeba said...

You're welcome, djandpete! Thanks for commenting as usual, us bloggers do like that!

Kosta said...

i had this in my wanted!
i love the track Let's Stay This Way
...i would have give a bit of more bass to this album, since it miss the .wav...
you're great!! i love your way to organize this blog....
good: discographies with links to the original blogs...u're honest, you're not a reposter as many other blogs...
and good ripper too!!

cheeba said...

You are very welcome, Kosta!

I know what you mean about bass but I try to process the rips as little as possible.

I appreciate your kind words and feedback on the blog! My parents taught me a few rules that have never failed (at least in the long run):

- Honesty is the best policy
- Give credit where credit is due
- Always do your best

k02 said...

Thank you just discovered your blog, its amazing

cheeba said...

k02, sorry for not responding, this comment seems to have gotten lost in shuffle. Thank you very much for your encouragement!!

cheeba said...

For those of you who are looking for more, Doc Okeh just posted another LaSalle goodie: Here I Am Again

flux_is_krux said...

Thanks! Great album, and great rip! :-)