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MILLIE JACKSON has been with us for three years now as a hit recording artist. During that time, she has rather uniquely scored from two angles. Lovers of deep soul acknowledged her moving performance from the "Cleopatra Jones" movie, "It Hurts So Good", as a masterpiece. And yet, barely a year sooner, disco folk were raving over "My Man A Sweet Man" as one of the year's best dance records.

Well, whatever Millie has achieved in the past, her new album, "Caught Up", has surpassed it all. And, after spending a whole evening just listening to the album, I couldn't resist calling the lady and complimenting her on having the album of the year in my own humble estimation.

"This is the album that we were working on the last time we talked," she bashfully replied, perhaps not too sure that I was speaking completely genuinely — I was, by the way! "I'm more happy with this album than with any other previous one. I contributed to the album as co-producer and mine was the basic concept of the album — the idea of the triangle.

"Brad Shapiro did all of the musical work but if the album was a flop, I would take the responsibility because the whole thing is my idea. Personally, I don't see a way that it could flop but it's always possible."

My only small negative comment concerned the sleeve, which really doesn't sum up the situation too well — although the basic concept of three people caught up in a web could have been successful if it had been executed better.

"It was the sleeve that held up the release of the album for a month," Millie explained. "The company didn't have a definite name for the album, you see. It varied from "Diary Of A Mistress" to "Two Sides To Everything". Then they wanted me to dress up as a wife and as a mistress and be on the cover in those two disguises.

"But I really didn't want my picture on the album and so finally we came up with the concept of a web, which seemed to best sum up the idea of a triangle and people being caught up."

For those of you who haven't had the opportunity of hearing, let alone buying, the album, I asked Millie to run through it track by track:
"If Loving You Is Wrong". "I've always done it on stage and it's always been exactly the way it is on the record. At various times, I've taken it out of the show but because of the fact that everyone knows Luther Ingrams's version of the song, it always finds its way back in because when I play a club and have to take on a new band, here's a song that they are sure to already know. But it always draws such a positive response from the audience.

"And the song is part of the concept of the album because it deals specifically with the eternal triangle. And it is aimed at both men and women because they both do what the song says. OK, so maybe there is more of a tendency for men to cheat this way.

"The Rap part has always been part of the song to me and I wrote that part myself. I love to hang a song out to ten minutes on stage as long as it is good and interesting. Why, even "Hurts So Good" lasts ten minutes in my show now.

"You see, I have a tendency to get involved in what I'm singing as I'm singing it and so the longer it goes, the better I get. And when I'm rapping, it gives the audience a chance to get involved and the more they do that, the stronger I become."

"All I Want Is A Fighting Chance", co-written by Millie. "I have always had this basic idea for a song about a woman confronting the wife of the guy in the triangle and the line about us being wives-in-law really kills me.

"I needed another voice to take the part of the wife in the opening spoken part because when I tried doing both parts, it really didn't come off. So, I did it with a friend who is now working at Motown in their promotion department. I suppose that basically, it was a poem first and we set it to music. Most of my songs come from poems because that's what I write in my spare time or when I'm at a loose end."

"I'm Tired Of Hiding". "This song was written by Philip Mitchell, who wrote "Hurts So Good" and I really didn't intend to record this one until we actually got ot the point of recording the album. I had a basic concept and runninr order for the album and side one was built around "Loving You Is Wrong" and "Fighting Chance" but when Philip played me this song, I threw out my original choice and fitted this one in. It's such a good song and it fits the concept perfectly."

"It's All Over But The Shouting", also co-penned by Millie and the opener to Side Two. "The idea for this song, believe it or not, came from when I was sitting in a restaurant with my booking agent. His secretary came in and came up with the line of something being all over but the shouting and I thought it would make a good idea for a song. I actually wrote it before the concept for the album came up but it seemed to be in the right vein."

"It's Easy Going", another Philip Mitchell song that is one of my two favourites on the album. "This one was a funny situation because the song was originally intended for Joe Simon but Joe didn't like it. Brad didn't want to waste the tracks so he played it back to me and I loved it. So I rang Philip and told him that I wanted to change the lyric around a little so that it fitted the woman's side of things better.

"And he panicked — I could have him thinking "she's gonna mess up my song" but he said go ahead and do it. And it worked out perfectly and Philip even rang me up afterwards and agreed! "I'm Through Trying To Prove My Love To You," my other favourite cut on the LP. "I always love the song from when Bobby Womack did it originally and I had to record it, was one of those situations. It had to be adapted from the man's view to the woman's and I felt that the rap idea before the song actually started would suit.

"Summer (The First Time)". "Brad always liked the song but it really didn't fit the concept of the albums so it, too, had to be changed around some. And with the rapping before it, ties in. When the album was being mixed in Nashville, Bobby Goldsboro who wrote it, was there and he admitted that he couldn't see how an idea like this could work on his song. But when he heard it, he just couldn't believe it and he loved it."

It seems that on hindsight, the album's success is now fairly much on guarantee. The only question now remaining is which track will be culled and the single.

"Everyone has been calling for "The Rap" from between "If Loving You Is Wrong" but it may well turn out to be too long for a 45," Millie feels. "I could be "I'm Tired Of Hiding" or "All I Want Is A Fighting Chance" but it may be a week or two before the decision is made."

And just how much of a difference will this album make to Millie's career? "Everything!" she immediately responds. "In the past, I've done some pretty good records, I guess, but I've really been getting nowhere fast, you know. In fact, as an entertainer, I would say I have gotten more respect in Britain than I have here in America.

"Everyone always says how they like the way I sing but…So, I wanted to stir them all up and give them something to sit up and take notice of. Even if they didn't like it, they would have to take notice of it, right?

"One radio station played the album all the way through and then was surprised to find that all the switchboard lights came on because of one or two of the things that get said in the course of the album's playing. For example, the word 'nigger' has been bleeped out by some station during the "Loving You Is Wrong" rap and others have objected to the bit about washing out somebody else's drawers! But the reaction has been extremely encouraging in every respect and I'm just keeping my fingers crossed now."

However, I think that the success of this album won't be determined by anything so negative as luck. As the old proverb states, the cream always rises to the top and this album is just that…cream.

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