Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bertha Belle Browne - Bertha Belle Browne

Bertha Belle Browne
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Mainstream MRL 383

I Cannot Say Goodbye

I'm Jus' An Orphan

In honour of hump day, here's the hump. Regardless of matters of taste in genres, this one is widely acknowledged as the worst album on the label and it's a helluva head-scratcher as to how it could come to pass in the first place. Upon much speculation ranging from the casting couch to a gambling debt, the closest I can come to explaining this pea-under-the-mattress is somehow Shad thought (or had been sold on) the idea that BBB could be his next Janis Joplin (whom he had "discovered" and signed first).

Well, lemme tell you, he was sorely mistaken if that's the case. The best word I can come up with for her singing style is "caterwauling." Look it up. To be fair, she's OK in the middle range but she jumps around waaaay too much and pulls more gimmicks than Mariah Carey at a diva convention, losing it completely in the upper registers. She's got less chops than a kosher vegan restaurant.

She's not helped any by the musical material, all her own compositions. It's your run-of-the-mill tepid white-kid funky country blues with requisite hackneyed lyrics coming off like entries from a sophomore community college humanities major's journal. Obviously earnest but this girl is about 5 years away from a demo tape, so what the hell is she doing being backed by Ernie Wilkins and his orchestra? He produced this affair so the arrangements are awesome and throughout the set there's some great grooves underneath the "singing." Rumour has it he used the same personnel as the gorgeous and majestic Alice Clarke LP but for what seems like obvious reasons, they probably didn't want their name on this turd.

Apparently BBB became a born-again Christian at a later date and has given interviews on the subject but I don't know if she's recorded any other material. Nor am I eager to find out. File this one under "curiosities" and consider it recommended for weirdos, tone-deaf trustafarian hippie chicks from the old south who discovered Woodstock this summer and completists only. In my estimation, this album marks the beginning of the end for the label as it's the first point where Shad lost the plot.

1 I Cannot Say Goodbye
2 Gotta Take My Stand
3 Don't Feel Bad
4 Country Borders
5 Have You Seen The Mirror
6 I'm Jus' An Orphan
7 I Felt Myself Fall
8 Lily Lady
9 Come Innocent

Soundological humps you HERE or HERE.


matthew said...

Sounds too good to miss... Thanks for making me laugh all day!

soulbrotha said...

Cheeba, you sho is funny! "Less chops than a kosher vegan restaurant!" hahaha!

And no, I will not be downloading this.

E-mile said...

C.U.R.I.O.U.S. - can't resist it -
will be back ofcourse after lissening [:-)
peace, E-mile

ish said...

With a great review like this I"m gonna RUSH home and download it!

cheeba said...

Glad you had fun with this post gents! One thing I miss when comparing blogging to writing weekly record reviews (besides a cheque at the end of the month) is the fun of skewering a bad record every once in a while.

Anonymous said...

For sure the best review i've read in quite a while! Thanks for the fun.

E-mile said...

a really bad reincarnation of misses Joplin gone terribly wrong?

cheeba said...

Doing some research on Shad this weekend, I learned Nat Shapiro, listed in the notes as "catalytic agent," worked with Shad in the late 40s at National before Shad went to Mercury. Not sure what her relation to Shapiro was.

The album was recorded at The Record Plant in NYC during the 2nd week of July 1972. She was signed by Chappell Publishing the following February.

Anonymous said...

Hi it is nice to see my GRANDMOTHER being tourn apart,.. like they probably did not want their name on this turd! what the hell! very upsetting to read about how ya'll talk about her. she has past not to long ago and i was thinking about her so i looked her up and see this. as a child very proud of her, listen to her music every day showin all my friends her album. and know for a fact what she had to go threw in her life to get where her was. well i guess this is apart of life on this note i will just say she was aawsome singer her opera singing would blow you away!! her granddaughter Brandi Lee Chantel Moore-King

cheeba said...

Hello Ms. Moore-King and thank you for your comment.

I think you need to re-read the post and understand I did not "tear apart" your grandmother. I neither cast aspersions on her character nor mentioned anything about her personally except for the use of one adjective: "earnest." Look it up, it's not an insult - in fact many would consider it a compliment.

As for my personal feelings regarding her talent as a singer-songwriter as captured on this piece, I stand by them. Completely. The fact this album has fallen into obscurity, that there is almost zero information about her on the web and that record stores can't give this LP away pretty much reinforces my opinion.

I would ask you also keep in mind that I devoted the same care and respect in archiving and restoring her material as any other performer so that it is digitally available for future generations. Have you seen a copy of her album made available anywhere else? What do you get when you Google her stage name?

At least thanks to my efforts, folks can listen and form their own opinion - however, out of the 150 or so people who have downloaded this record in the past four months, not a single one (who is not a direct descendant of Ms. Pierre) has voiced an opinion to contest my assessment.

If your grandmother spent decades in the New York music scene and on stage, she likely not only greatly developed her skills over the years, she would have also probably developed a thick skin as far as critics are concerned and would not be nearly as distraught about this post as you seem to be. Especially judging from her lyrics, she would be much stronger than that.

I understand she was your grandmother and you love her dearly but that's beside the point. Your emotional attachment to her does not change the fact this was a prematurely amateurish attempt and she did not have the talent at the time to pull it off. She got a shot thanks to a connected friend (as your mother explained she was close to Shapiro's daughter), she took it and she missed the mark.

It's unfortunate she never released an album later on since I'm sure 10 or 20 years after this 1972 recording she would have improved greatly in her delivery and song-writing and a recording would support your comments.

Anonymous said...

Virtual Memory sure is becoming cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. I'm curious as to when we will finally hit the rate of 1c to 1 Gig.

I'm eagerly anticipating the day when I will finally be able to afford a 20 terabyte harddisk, hahaha. But for now I will be happy with having a 16 gigabyte Micro SD in my R4i.

(Posted on FFV2 for R4i Nintendo DS.)