Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CD of the Day - "Esther Phillips: Alone Again, Naturally"

CD of the Day
Esther Phillips: "Alone Again, Naturally" (Kudu/Reel Music) 2008

Esther's second album for CTI's subsidiary Kudu label, the Grammy-nominated "Alone Again" (recorded from July to October 1972 at Van Gelder Studios) was reissued for the first time on CD by the UK label Reel Music, with an excellent 8-page liner notes by LA-based writer A. Scott Galloway in the booklet. The follow-up to "From A Whisper To A Scream," it features rhythm & horn arrangements by Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, strings added by Don Sebesky, and an all-star cast of sidemen: George Benson, Eric Gale, Cornell Dupree, Maceo Parker (brought to the proceedings by Pee Wee Ellis), Billy Cobham, Ralph MacDonald, Richard Wyands, Richard Tee, Ron Carter (shining on several tracks), Gordon Edwards (of Stuff fame), Hank Crawford and Cecil Payne, amongst others.

Highlights: "Georgia Rose" (with an spoken message written by Gil Scott-Heron and used as an intro at Esther's suggestion), Joe Turner's classic blues "Cherry Red" (also recorded by Phillips with the CTI All Stars band in 1972 for "CTI Summer Jazz at Hollywood Bowl Vol. 3"), Jimmy Roach's "You and Me Together," and two songs penned (and originally recorded) by Bill Withers: "Use Me" (performed by Jamie Cullum with the CTI All Stars at the 2009 Montreux Festival in tribute to Esther) and "Let Me in Your Life," in a very slow tempo, thus very different from the frenetic arrangement that Eumir Deodato penned to Aretha Franklin later in late '73.

"Alone Again, Naturally" was on the Billboard album charts for 16 weeks in 1973, peaking at #15 (in the "Jazz" charts), at #26 (in the R&B list), and #177 (in the Top 200, ie, the "Pop Albums" list), scoring one Top 20 R&B single: her version of Eddie Floyd/Booker T. Jones' "I've Never Found A Man To Love Me Like You Do." Esther's biggest hit ever, the disco rendition of "What A Difference A Day Makes" was just two years around the corner...

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