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PATTI LABELLE AND THE BLUEBELLES: THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC SIDES PLUS (RGM/SMR)
When Patti LaBelle sings, we stand to take notice – or at least I do. She has a commanding voice that soars to the sky, digs deep into the ground, and encompasses all that’s in between. She takes no prisoners and tolerates no fools: she is boss of her musical world. Before Patti, with None Hendryx and Sarah Dash morphed into the soul trio – Labelle – to take the seventies by storm, the three and Cindy Birdsong comprised one of the best soulful units of the sixties. From Philadelphia, they enjoyed a taste of success during 1962-64 with Newtown then Parkway Records, before signing with Atlantic. Over a four year stint there, they recorded 30+ tracks, including a pair of albums. So let’s dip into those albums – “Over The Rainbow” and “Dreamer” via the first CD here, which also includes a few live recordings like “One Phone Call” and “Where Are You”. However, I have to say “All Or Nothing” has to be the most magnificent track here. How well I recall hearing this for the first time, when goose bumps ran up and down my arms: it was everything I wanted, or needed, in a soul record. The sheer power of the song was breathtaking; every approach to the lyrics was heart wrenchingly sincere by any stretch of the imagination. “Patti’s Prayer”, “Over The Rainbow” and “Groovy Kind Of Love” aren’t far behind either. However, on the downside, I can’t whip up the same excitement for “People” or “Ebb Tide”, but they’re a small price to pay. Disc 2 digs into a more emotional side of the ladies – if that’s possible – where Atlantic sought to secure a niche for them in the market place by presenting them with different production approaches from the likes of Bob Finiz and Joshie Armstead. The real gems here, though, have to be the previously unreleased items – “Forget It”, “Never For Me”, “When Joe Touches Me” and “How Can You Throw My Love Away”. Although Cindy Birdsong is listed as a group member during the July 1967 sessions, she had actually replaced Florence Ballard in The Supremes. But hey! To have all these tracks under one banner, so to speak, is terrific; all the Atlantic sides are here, and are a perfect testament to a group of ladies who would move on to even greater levels. Ignore at your peril!

Rating: 10

About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.
  
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