Friday, October 18, 2013

Sandra Phillips ‎– Too Many People In One Bed

Guest Post By (My Cuz) Seattle's Mike 'The Moose' Barber of
Cascadia '10 - Soul Senate, and Shady Bottom

With the exception of Hawaii or Alaska, Seattle is pretty much the most distant American soil from the Deep South.  As such, musicians up here who steep themselves in funk, soul, gospel, groove, and R&B music can sometimes find themselves feeling a bit misunderstood.  There are certainly sufficient (and enthusiastic) audiences to keep these funkateers going strong, but the general public doesn't always seem to grok the depths of what we do.  Case in point, a local "critic" reviewed a much-loved local gospel choir with these curious words: "Which isn't to say that they sing Jesus-free songs. Secular gospel would be even worse than Christian rock."  It's bad enough that this individual slammed an entire genre, but to believe that "secular gospel" doesn't exist?  Say what??  Secular gospel IS soul music.  You can go back as far as Sam Cooke and hear him "borrow" gospel songs wholesale, with nothing changed but the words. THAT's secular gospel.

Enter the time capsule that is Sandra Phillips' "Too Many People In One Bed".  It's a great reminder of the roots of soul music--the church.  It's down home, unassuming, in the pocket.  From the hand swaying "I've Been Down So Long" to the groove of "Some Mother's Son", this is classic soul borne of that Southern Baptist church down the street.  Stylistically, this is pure "secular gospel" and it makes my heart (and soul) happy.

The background singers lack the polished finesse of the Raelettes, but they embrace the real charm of Southern Soul: the gritty and down home gospel choir.  The organist is clearly is busy on Sundays, playing aside the background singers.  The guitar is well-played but consistently aggressive in the mix--which is good.  This isn't Steve Cropper's slightly delicate licks--this is punchy and in your face as Southern Soul guitar should be, even when accompanying the pensive strings of "If You Get Him (He Never Was Mine)".

On occasion, when Sandra goes for the vocal Hail Mary touchdown, she sometimes misses her mark & her vocals can get a tad wily.  Her strength seems to be going straight up the middle.  It's the straight-forward mid-range delivery where she grabs my attention and holds it tight.  There are, of course, moments when she plants it right through the goal posts, and those are some incredibly uplifting moments.  When she finished cutting "Ghost of Myself" everyone in the studio must have just fallen back and bellowed "Hot DAMN!"

As for the production, the recording seems a bit bright.  I have to wonder if the folks in charge of re-mastering didn't push the treble just a wee too hard.  Most vintage soul recordings of this era are a bit muted, both by age and taste, but this production is a bit crunchy.  I would prefer if the finished product wasn't so crunchy.  I like it when the recording sounds a good bit like a lost 45 that I found in the attic.  I doubt most folks would complain, but my nightclub-weary middle-aged ears were starting to get fatigued after track 5--mostly from the hi-hats, which is something you don't normally hear from untouched vintage recordings.

All things being even, this is a wonderful release that is long overdue and Swamp Dogg's work as producer on this should be appreciated for its genuine Southern Soul sound.

There's no doubt about it, someone snuck into the church and left the door open.

1. Rescue Song
2. It's Been So Long
3. My Man And Me
4. To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman)
5. Now That I'm Gone (When Are You Leaving)
6. Someday (We'll Be Together)
7. After All I Am Your Wife
8. Ghost Of Myself
9. If You Get Him (He Was Never Mind)
10. She Didn't Know (She Kept On Talking)
11. Please Don't Send Him Back To Me
12. Some Mother's Son

Never officially released by Canyon (the label went belly-up just after shipping the first copies in 1970), this album was meant to be a follow-up to the Doris Duke hit record “I’m A Loser." Produced by Swamp Dogg in Macon, GA this is Deep Soul at its best. Sandra Phillips (a/k/a Sandra Reeves-Phillips) has become a star on Broadway, movies and TV, winning awards and appearing in movies such as “Round About Midnight” and “Lean On Me,” and on TV Shows such as “Law And Order.” Ltd. ed. color vinyl available exclusive from Bomp-mailorder.

"I signed Sandra Phillips to Wally Roker’s Canyon label and then took her to Macon, Georgia, where I had a magic lantern that produced a band consisting of Johnny Sandlin (drums), Robert Popwell (bass), Pete Carr (guitar), Paul Hornsby (organ & piano) and me, also on piano. My genie wouldn’t let me do wrong. I had a production deal with Wally for as many albums as I wanted to do, with complete autonomy. I’m damn sorry he went belly-up. The album that you are drooling over was never officially released. Canyon shipped it and then Canyon bought the farm. I gave Sandra an unconditional release and we have remained friends."  – Swamp Dogg

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