Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ruth Brown - Softly


256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 369
Reissue of
Ruth Brown '65 (Mainstream S-6034)

He's A Real Gone Guy

Watch It

Thanks to her phenomenal success in the 50s at Atlantic records, most folks have Ruth Brown pegged as simply a Rhythm 'n' Blues/Rock 'n' Roll artist, albeit one of the best. Although her potent pipes were particulary suited to belting out tunes in those genres, she was a much more versatile singer and often compared to Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday by those in the know. This reissue on the Mainstream MRL series captures her in a setting more suitable to a chanteuse with an emphasis on beautiful balladry and lush, though not saccharine, string accompaniment. There's a couple nods to her jump blues heyday but, aside from that, listeners are treated to a much more mellow version of her incredibly versatile vocal style. If you enjoyed the Morgana King or Carmen McRae sides featured previously on Soundological then you're bound to appreciate this one as well.

AMG Bio by Bill Dahl
They called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built" during the 1950s, and they weren't referring to the Sultan of Swat. Ruth Brown's regal hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the '50s helped tremendously to establish the New York label's predominance in the R&B field. Later, the business all but forgot her -- she was forced to toil as domestic help for a time -- but she returned to the top, her status as a postwar R&B pioneer (and tireless advocate for the rights and royalties of her peers) recognized worldwide.

Young Ruth Weston was inspired initially by jazz chanteuses Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Dinah Washington. She ran away from her Portsmouth home in 1945 to hit the road with trumpeter Jimmy Brown, whom she soon married. A month with bandleader Lucky Millinder's orchestra in 1947 ended abruptly in Washington, D.C., when she was canned for delivering a round of drinks to members of the band. Cab Calloway's sister Blanche gave Ruth a gig at her Crystal Caverns nightclub and assumed a managerial role in the young singer's life. DJ Willis Conover dug Brown's act and recommended her to Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, bosses of a fledgling imprint named Atlantic. Unfortunately, Brown's debut session for the firm was delayed by a nine-month hospital stay caused by a serious auto accident en route to New York that badly injured her leg. When she finally made it to her first date in May 1949, she made up for lost time by waxing the torch ballad "So Long" (backed by guitarist Eddie Condon's band), which proved to be her first hit.

Brown's seductive vocal delivery shone incandescently on her Atlantic smashes "Teardrops in My Eyes" (an R&B chart-topper for 11 weeks in 1950), "I'll Wait for You" and "I Know" in 1951, 1952's "5-10-15 Hours" (another number one rocker), the seminal "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" in 1953, and a tender Chuck Willis-penned "Oh What a Dream," and the timely "Mambo Baby" the next year. Along the way, Frankie Laine tagged her "Miss Rhythm" during an engagement in Philly. Brown belted a series of her hits on the groundbreaking TV program Showtime at the Apollo in 1955, exhibiting delicious comic timing while trading sly one-liners with MC Willie Bryant (ironically, ex-husband Jimmy Brown was a member of the show's house band).

Every Time It Rains I Think of You
from Rhythm and Blues Revue 1955
link to full movie at Prelinger Archives - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

After an even two-dozen R&B chart appearances for Atlantic that ended in 1960 with "Don't Deceive Me" (many of them featuring hell-raising tenor sax solos by Willis "Gator" Jackson, who many mistakenly believed to be Brown's husband), Brown faded from view. After raising her two sons and working a nine-to-five job, Brown began to rebuild her musical career in the mid-'70s. Her comedic sense served her well during a TV sitcom stint co-starring with MacLean Stevenson in Hello, Larry, in a meaty role in director John Waters' 1985 sock-hop satire film Hairspray, and her 1989 Broadway starring turn in Black and Blue (which won her a Tony Award).

There were more records for Fantasy in the '80s and '90s (notably 1991's jumping Fine and Mellow), and a lengthy tenure as host of National Public Radio's Harlem Hit Parade and BluesStage. Brown's nine-year ordeal to recoup her share of royalties from all those Atlantic platters led to the formation of the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping others in the same frustrating situation. In 1993 Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and 1995 saw the release of her autobiography, Miss Rhythm. Brown suffered a heart attack and stroke following surgery in October 2006 and never fully recovered, passing on November 17, 2006.

AMG Review by Ron Wynn
Ruth Brown '65 was an underrated, nicely produced mid-'60s album putting Ruth Brown more in the blues and interpretive mode that she moved away from during the hit years. She can still belt out numbers, but also shows some wit and some flourishes that were sacrificed for impact when she was doing rock & roll.

Ruth Brown - Vocals
Hank Jones - Piano
Roland Hanna - Piano
Barry Galbraith - Guitar, Bass
Richard Davis - Bass (for a goldmine of RD material check El Goog Ja!)
Archie Freedman - Drums
Doug Allen - Percussion
George Devens - Percussion
Clark Terry - Trumpet
James Maxwell - Trumpet
James Sedlar - Trumpet
Britt Woodman - Trombone
Urbie Green - Trombone
John Messner - Trombone
Tony Studd - Trombone
Phil Bodner - Oboe, Clarinet, Flute, Alto Sax, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Tenor Sax
Shelly Gold - Oboe, Clarinet, Flute, Alto Sax, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Tenor Sax
John Hafer - Oboe, Clarinet, Flute, Alto Sax, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Tenor Sax
Ray Alonge - French Horn
Richard Berg - French Horn
Eugene Bianco - Harp

Violins - Ariana Bronne, Frederick Buldrini, Winston Callymore, Bernard Eichen, Lewis Riley, Leo Kruczek, Walter Legawiec, Joseph Malignacci, Gerard Molfese, Elvira Morgenstern, Marvin Morgenstern, David Nadien, George Ockner, Raoul Poliakin, Michael Sepivakowsky, Jack Zayde
Violas - David Mankovitz, David Schwartz, Emanuel Vardi, Harry Zaratzian
Celli - Alla Goldberg, Charles McCracken, George Ricci

1 On The Good Ship Lollipop
2 Help A Good Girl Go Bad
3 He's A Real Gone Guy
4 Porgy
5 What Am I Looking For
6 Here's That Rainy Day
7 Hurry On Down
8 Table For Two
9 What Do You Know (Quien Sabes Tu)
10 Whispering Grass (Don't Tell The Trees)
11 Watch It
12 I Know Why (And So Do You)

Get hit with the Brown note by Soundological HERE or HERE.


Soul Bonanza said...

Thank you - looking forward to listening to Ms Brown!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheeba,

discovered your blog just yesterday and after digging thru the AcidJazz section I can state I've finally found my personal "holy grail"! Long wanted & searched for albums like
Réminiscence Quartet - Psycodelico &
Marden Hill - Hijacked etc. in great quality, wow. This is absolute perfect, thank you very much for these albums and all the info's about.

Cheers Rauke

cheeba said...

@Soul Bonanza, you're welcome and enjoy!

@Raue, thanks for dropping a line! Look forward to more of those rarities in the near future. Also recommend The Soul Vendor, flageolette and Funkydisposition (links on my blogroll to the right) as they have a lot of acid jazz too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheeba,

flageolette is on my daily web ride, Funkydisposition sometimes but TSV is new to me, thanks for the hint ;-)


Jur said...

Hi Cheeba,

Some songs are a bit too sweet for me, but "Watch It" is a real killer song.


@rauke Don't forget to download

It is one of the best jazz funk compilations you will ever find. I listen to it at least once week.

cheeba said...

Hey Jur! Love your honest appraisals as always! I'd definitely agree that this album is a bit more sugary than most and am with you on Watch It.

I'm really glad you're still diggin' on that Groove Liberation comp. I had to replicate it with assorted tracks because I have worn out the tape in the last 15+ years. Now that I have it burned to CD I'm still playing it often.

@rauke, good luck at Soul Vendor and you might want to follow Jur's tip too!

Arkadin said...

Come on over to Sounds from the Edge, Cheeba! - Frangipane/Nyro awaiting you... :-)

cheeba said...

Thanks Arkadin! You're 100x awesome! I hope to get there soon...unfortunately nowhere to download them!

dwayne said...

i love her voice on this one

troods said...

Got sent here for Ruth Brown from Shad Shack. Love both you guys for the incredible generosity you show to music lovers. Thank you.

cheeba said...

thanks troods, always a real pleasure to have you visit. your positive heartfelt comments always brighten my day!

Francesco said...

your blog is full of gems, I love it... a big THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

The only link that seems to work is the rapidshare but it won't let you dl because the uploader has denied all requests to do so. Strange...