Thursday, October 23, 2008
LABELLE RETURNS: MUSIC'S LEGENDARY NIGHTBIRDS ARE BACK WITH NEW ALBUM IN OVER 3 DECADES
BACK TO NOW
9 Out of 1-10
Whenever journalists would interview Patti La Belle, they would always ask would she, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash would ever reunite and perform? Girlfriend would always say yes, and they have reunited for several occasions; they recorded the song “Release Yourself” for Patti’s 1991 Grammy Award winning album “Burnin” and recorded a top charting dance single “Turn It Out” for the “To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything” Soundtrack. They even reunited for two specials where Patti were honored, but many including the fans and the ladies grew tired of waiting for the original Space birds to get back together.
“Pat’s been talking about us getting back together for thirty years! Nona said in the group’s bio.“ I said, ‘we should either stop announcing it…or do it!’” “I knew it was long overdue but each time, I was not ready to do it and I had so many things on my plate.” Patti added. “My manager Damascene Pierre Paul kept asking me to do this; he was begging me and finally, I gave in. Then I said, ‘I don’t want to half–step…I will make time to do this.” Adds Sarah, “We never did a farewell tour. We just stopped. This is a way of bringing completion for the fans who were with us from the beginning.”
The group had originally began as Patti La Belle & The Bluebelles, which also featured Cindy Birdsong, who joined The Supremes in 1967, while the group carried on as a trio. Three years later, the group linked up with British producer Vicki Wickham, who gave them a music make-over by changing their name to La Belle, having them dress in silver costumes, and record songs (mostly written by Hendryx) about empowerment, sex, and politics, which became a hit with many fans including Blacks, Women and Gays, who embraced their musical mixture of Soul, Funk and Rock. They hit big with their top charting classic “Lady Marmalade” which made them the first Black group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Sadly creative difference caused tensions in the group (Nona wanted to record Rock, while Sarah wanted to sing Dance and Patti wanted to record more ballads), and to save their friendship, they decided to split in 1976 to pursue solo projects. In addition to writing and producing for several artists including Lisa-Lisa, Nona also scored many classic hits including “Transformation” and “Why Should I Cry?” as well as forming her own record label. Sarah has scored many Dance hits while starring in several television movies and plays and singing background for The Rolling Stones as well as working with the group’s members Keith Richards on their solo projects. Patti has became a legend in her own right, scoring several classic hits including “If Only You Knew,” “New Attitude,” “If You Asked Me To” and her chart topping duet with Michael Mc Donald on the classic “On My Own.”
While they ladies were working on their solo careers, many of today’s artists have kept their music alive including Shelia E, Lady Soul and Sugar Babes who each did versions of their classic “Lady Marmalade” along with Christina Aguleria, Mya, Pink and Lil’ Kim, who’s version of the song topped the charts and earned them several awards for Best video and performance by a group or duo, while rappers Nick Cannon and Nelly sampled “Going On A Holiday” and “Isn’t A Shame” for their singles “Get Crunk Shorty” and “My Place.”
After years of waiting, the trio is back with “Back To Now” which features songs written by the trio and production by Hendryx, Lenny Kravitz, Wyclef Jean, and the legendary team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who was able to keep the album fresh without losing their originality.
The CD opens with Hendryx’s self-penned “Candlelight” which contains a nice combo of Blues, and Soul courtesy of the guitar, piano riffs, strings and harmonies, followed by the album’s first release “Roll Out” which is getting spins in Gay clubs and moving up the charts as we speak. This track has sassy and empowering lyrics about being mistreated by a man and doing your own thing and features Wyclef singing the hook while the group’s sings harmony in a Caribbean style, but the computerized effects weren’t necessary. Especially for these talented females
I ain’t your superwoman
I ain’t your wonder woman
I ain’t gonna wash your clothes
I ain’t the floor you’re walking on
I’m gonna keep the car
Stop caring where you are
Buy your own cigarettes
Walk your own pets
I’m out the door
Tonight when you come home
I will be gone
Tonight. Ain’t gotta fight
I’ll be alright.
I see the light.
“Super Lover” is a beautiful sexy ballad that has a nice horn section and captures Patti’s ability to sing mid range as well as harmony with Nona and Sarah, further demonstrated on “Without You In My Life, which contains heartfelt lyrics penned by the group and “System” which is one of my favorites songs on this CD. In addition to the music, the songs has creative social conscious lyrics that tells people (especially politicians and homophobic pastors) not to impose their narrow-minded views on people because they wouldn’t like it if the tables were turned.
Please don’t take that attitude
Now who’s reflecting who?
I control the multitude
Tell me which one would you chose?
It’s up to me to whatever you’re gonna be in the end
System don’t bother me
System don’t worry me.
Nona cuts loose vocally on the hard rocking “Truth Will Set You Free” which has hot Rock guitars solos and lyrics encouraging people to be who they are without compromise and to put their trust in God, while they tackle issues of war, poverty, haterism, abandonment of children and violence of the Caribbean flavored “Tears For The World” which should have had more balanced percussion, but the vocals compensates for the loss along with the Nona-produced “Dear Rosa” a beautiful tribute to the late Civil Right leader whose refusal to give her seat for a white passenger resulted in her being arrested and for equality for many Southerners who experienced racism on a daily basis and the Disco-flavored “How Long“ The CD closes with the group’s 1970 original recording of the Cole Porter classic “Miss Otis Regrets,” a treat for longtime fans who were eager to see how the former Bluebelles was going to succeed with the new direction they planned to take.
Patti, Nona and Sarah recorded a good album, and it shows that they haven't lost their touch to record thought proviking songs that touches the hearts and souls of fans who love good music, and it show how they were able to maintain their originality as opposed to jumping on the everchanging music band wagon to acheive success.
This review is dedicated to those who impact people in positive ways including My brother Garry, My Godfather Donald, Obama, Da Doo Dirty Show and Beautiful Boyz of Pride Network.
This review is also dedicated to the memories of James Budd Ellison-La Belle's original music director, My grandmother Clythia Dorsey, My great-aunt Manda Lowery and my uncles and friends Phillip Howell and Robert Spellman