Sunday, February 24, 2008

S4L Showdown I: "Dee Dee Sharp vs. The Ambassadors"

First of a new series I'm puttin' together for the site. The "S4L Showdown" will feature two versions of the same song by different acts.

For this showdown I thought I'd start with a Philly soul nugget written by Jimmy Bishop & Kenny Gamble. With production handled by Gamble alongside partner Leon Huff, "I Really Love You" was first recorded in 1965 by Dee Dee Sharp for Cameo Records as one of her last for the label. Three years later, the team of Gamble & Huff found themselves re-cutting the record with the Philadelphia soul group, The Ambassadors. The cover version was released as a 45 and earned the group a minor R&B hit. The song was also used to lead off their full-length Arctic records LP, Soul Summit.

Neither of these records are very hard to find nowadays. With a bit of patience, each 45 can be yours via eBay for a decent price. Both are available on CD as well. The Dee Dee Sharp version can be found here on the 2005 Abkco records collection, The Best of Dee Dee Sharp 1962-1966 and the 1997 reissue of The Ambassadors' Soul Summit album is available here.

Listen (password req'd)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sweet Inspirations - Sweet Sweet Soul

The Sweet Inspirations were formed by Emily "Cissy" Drinkard (later taking the surname Houston after marriage). In the fifties, Cissy, her sister Lee (mother to Dee Dee & Dionne Warwick), along with Judy Guions (who later became Judy Clay), Marie Epps, Larry Drinkard, Nicholas Drinkard, Ann Moss were members of The Drinkard Singers, a family-based group that marked history in 1958 by having the first gospel album to appear on a major label.

In the early sixties, a collection of female vocalists consisting of Doris Troy, Dee Dee & Dionne Warwick found themselves in great demand by producers and songwriters throughout the industry. Around 1963, Doris and Dionne dropped out of the outfit to pursure solo careers and Sylvia Shemwell (sister to Judy Clay) and Cissy Houston stepped in to fill the gap with Cissy as leader of the troupe. When Dee Dee bowed out of the group in 1965 to nurture her own recording carreer, Myrna Smith served as her replacement. Shortly after, Soon after, Estelle Brown joined the group to complete the line-up.

In March 1967, the girls provided back up vocals for Van Morrison's classic, "Brown Eyed Girl". At this time the group still didn't have a name so one day at the suggestion of R&B crooner Chuck Jackson, the quartet was dubbed The Sweet Inspirations. One month later after the Morrison recording, the group recorded its first sides for Atlantic records. One of the tunes was a cover of the Staples Singers song, "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)". You can hear Sweet's version of "Why" on the jukebox featured on this site. While the singles did little in the way of sales, Atlantic stuck with the group and released their self-titled debut LP.

A few months later, The Sweets headed back into the studio again to work on their follow-up LP, a Gospel set entitled, Songs Of Faith & Inspiration. It was released in 1968 under the name "Cissy Drinkard & The Sweet Inspirations".

Not wasting any time, fresh off the Gospel album release, the ladies quickly got to work on their next project. The end product was the 1968 album, "What The World Needs Now Is Love". The LP featured two charting cuts the first, a cover of "To Love Somebody" originally recoded by the Bee Gees and the second, a soulful reading of the Righteous Brothers hit, "Unchained Melody". By this time, the Sweets had begun working with Elvis Presley in dual roles as backup singers and opening act.

The group's 4th Atlantic LP Sweets For My Sweet was issued early in 1969. For this set, the followed the formula of their first LP utilizing Alabama's Muscle Shoals rhythm section as the main backing band.

The ladies ventured into Philly's Sigma Sound Studio where they hooked up with Gamble & Huff staff producer, Ugene Dozier to begin laying groundwork for their next LP. Cissy's last recording date with the quartet was in October 1969, since left the group to pursue a solo career and put more focus on raising a family (I didn't bother to mention eaerlier that Cissy is the mother of Whitney Houston, I figured it was common knowledge already). The session produced the girls' next R&B hit, "Gotta Find Me A Brand New Lover" penned by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff. With Cissy's departure, Ann Williams signed on to finish the rest of the recordings that would make up the group's fifth and final album for Atlantic; Sweet Sweet Soul, released in 1970.

Williams left the group during a 1971 tour with Elvis. The girls pressed on as a trio recording the album, Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia for Stax in 1973.

In 1977, the Sweets teamed up with Philadelphia producer/arranger Richie Rome to record the one-off single, "Black Sunday". Released on CBS subsidiary, Caribou Records, the song was a disco take on a John Williams composition for the motion picture of the same name.

In 1979, another line-up change saw Gloria Brown replacing Estelle Smith. Brown toured with the group but didn't actually sing on their last album, Hot Butterfly issued in 1979 on RSO records. After a tour as the featured act on the Bee Gees' Spirit's Having Flown Tour, the Sweets disbanded.

The group reformed in 1994 with new member, Portia Griffin. In 2005, an all new full-length project entitled, In The Right Place was released on Frixion records. For the latest info on the group, visit their official website here.

In 2002, Sweet Sweet Soul was reissued on CD alongside Sweets For My Sweet as part of a 2-fer series on Spy Records (a division of Rhino). If you're interested, click here and grab a copy's been out for six years already...who knows when it'll go OOP.

If CDs aren't for you and you just gotta have that flat black plastic, then you can get it right here.

Featured cut: "At Last I've Found A Love"

For the full album, listen here (password req'd)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quickie: Joyce Hopson - This Time

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the voice behind this quickie post. I only know that I grew up with this 45 as part of my Pop's collection and I always dug it. I'm guessing it was a one-off single circa 1968 recorded for Revue (a division of MCA) as I haven't come across any other records by her so far. I ripped it for my 60s page about 5 years ago and the 45 is now far out of reach, else I would've ripped the flipside, "I Surrender To You" too. If anyone has any info about Joyce Hopson, drop a line.

While this single is a kinda on the rare side, you can still track down your own copy here or if you're lucky, here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dee Dee Warwick - Turning Around

Delia Mae Warrick was born on September 25, 1945 in Newark, New Jersey. Like her older sister Dionne, Delia (nicknamed Dee Dee) decided to change her last name from Warrick to Warwick in the early sixties.
In 1964, she signed to Mercury records subsidiary, Blue Rock Records where she saw her first charting single, "We're Doing Fine". The record was produced by Ed Townsend, who enjoyed his own chart success with his 1958 recording of "For Your Love". In years to follow, Townsend would go on to pen and produce mega-hits for Marvin Gaye, The Impressions and a host of others.

However, before any of that would happen he teamed up with Warwick once again in 1968 and the pair delivered the Grammy-nominated, Top 20 scorcher, "Foolish Fool" on the Mercury parent label. The single served as the lead release for Warwick's second album which soon followed.

Despite this success, none of her follow-up Mercury sides made much noise in the marketplace. She kept recording for another two years before making a move to Atco Records in 1970 where she released her third and final LP, Turning Around. She scored a Top Ten single on the R&B charts with "She Didn't Know (She Kept On Talking)". Backed largely by the Dixie Flyers rhythm section and backup vocal supergroup The Sweet Inspirations, Turning showcased a rawer, grittier, southern sound than her more polished Mercury sides.

Beatheads and crate diggers have long been familiar with the LP for the oft-sampled open drum break at the top of "I'm Glad I'm A Woman". Other album bright spots include, "Who Will The Next Fool Be?" and a completely reworked cover of the 1969 Spiral Staircase pop hit, "More Today Than Yesterday". Warwick continued to release singles for Atco over the next few years with minimal chart success but, unfortunately, the bulk of her output for the label never seemed to resonate with the record buying public. In later interviews she would attibute the lack of commercial success to Atlantic (Atco's parent company) throwing most of its promotional weight for female soul singers behind Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack.

In 1973 Warwick re-signed with Mercury records for a short time and released the single "All The Love That Went To Waste".

Throughout the remainder of the decade, Dee Dee recorded for Sutra, RCA (under the name Dede Schwartz), and Private Stock where she had her last charting record in 1975, "Get Out Of My Life" released under the name Dede Warwick.

After being inactive as a recording artist for the years that followed, in 1999, Dee Dee finally received some recognition for her years as a soulful recording artist in the form the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Towards the end of 2006 Warwick returned to her performing career, singing background for sister Dionne on tour and contributing vocals to a song for the Tyler Perry film, "Daddy's Little Girls" entitled, "Family First".

In 1996 Ichiban Records compiled all of her Atco recordings and released, She Didn't Know- The Atco Sessions as part of their Soul Classics Series. The 22-track CD contained all the songs from the Turning Around album as well as a few non-LP singles and seven unreleased tracks from the vaults.

In 2001 Mercury followed suit and came up with, I Want to Be With You: The Mercury/Blue Rock Sessions although there are one or two missing tunes it's still the your best bet for getting on some of her rarer cuts on CD.

As of today, both CDs are out of print and tend to fetch top dollar. There is, however, some glimmer of hope for the budget conscious . The Mercury collection has been made available as a digital download via iTunes or

If what you desire is more of a tangible sort, you can try your luck at picking up the Atco sessions CD here or the Mercury sessions CD here.

If what you're really after is an OG vinyl pressing of Turning Around, then you can usually find one here or here.

Featured cut: "I'm Glad I'm A Woman"

For the full album, listen here (password req'd)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Sorry for the downtime, I've been kinda busy lately so this week's post is running late. I had one all ready to throw up but my crappy image server claims I've used up my bandwidth for the month so I've gotta move everything to another server. I didn't want to put up something half-assed so I'll try to sort this all out as soon as possible and get back to the music. So, if any one is out there reading this....bear with me while I work it out.

In the meantime, I'd like to take this time to thank you all for visiting my page and I hope you're enjoying what I'm doing. That being said, I'd also like to ask you folks out there to break the silence and drop a line every once in a while. I'm not asking anyone to write a thesis, just a "hey, nice site, thanks for the music" would be cool. Leave a comment, show a lil' love.
Slay'd out.