Totally obscure, utterly beguiling and shockingly relevant to today's music scene, this 1971 pairing of guitarist Ernie Calabria and soul singer Barbara Massey is a good example of why reissue labels exist. Prior to this recording, Calabria had played on sessions for Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone and Anita Carter, while Massey had sung backup for Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Cat Stevens among others. With those influences, the duo made exactly the kind of album you might expect a funky, folky (!), psychedelic soul gem graced with a stellar list of sidemen (e.g. Joe Beck and Keith Jarrett) that vanished without a trace in the more stratified world of early '70s music retail. Nowadays, of course, the record's mix-and-match blend of styles sounds amazingly current thanks in part to disco pioneer Eumir Deodato's orchestrations and its oft-sampled sound has won devotees from the jazz, soul, psych and funk factions of crate diggers worldwide. Nevertheless, this Real Gone release marks its first legitimate release on CD, with added liner notes by Pat Thomas. For starters, check out the slow-burning version of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" you're gonna fall instantly in love with this album.
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Top Customer Reviews
Not only did both Barbara Massey and Ernie Calabria have an impressive resume of other artists they played with, the album's producer, Joel Dorn, surrounded them with a very talented cast of supporting musicians, guys like Joe Beck, Grady Tate, Ralph MacDonald, Keith Jarrett, Richard Tee. Plus, Eumir Deodato conducted the orchestral and string arrangements.
I like this description of the music in the liner notes; "What Barbara, Ernie and Joel came up with is a bit hard to classify. THere's a strong commercial vibe, but it's more complex than that with elements of R&B, psychedelic soul, and folk-rock coming through the mix as well. As for Massey's vocals, to me she sounds like a huskier Minnie Riperton mixed with a bit of Flora Purim and even Grace Slick (okay, they do a cover of "Somebody to Love" but there is a still a Slick-ish sheen to her vocals). The liner notes go a bit further in describing her vocals, saying "the timbre of her voice sounds like the missing link between Julie Driscoll and Grace Slick by way of Karen Carpenter." One trick that the producer used was multi-tracking Massey's vocals, making for some very nice harmonies with herself. And you can't ignore that ace band that's behind her and Ernie; the horns, the keyboards, and the guitar parts are all expertly executed.
Perhaps not a lost classic, but still a very interesting and satisfying listening experience, one that should appeal to fans of 1970s folk-rock, soul-jazz, and other fascinating musical hybrids.