required listening

CD Review


Dee Dee Bridgewater + Just Family + Bad For Me + Dee Dee Bridgewater

Robinsongs (UK) QROBIN 42 CDD (2cd)

DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER... My Prayer (fast and ballad versions); My Lonely Room; It Ain’t Easy; He’s Gone; Goin’ Through The Motions; You Saved Me; Every Man Wants Another Man’s Woman; JUST FAMILY... Just Family; Maybe Today; Children Are The Spirit Of The World; Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word; Sweet Rain; Open Up Your Eyes; Night Moves; Thank The Day; Melody Maker; BAD FOR ME... Bad For Me; Back Of Your Mind; For The Girls; Love Won’t Let Me Go; Streetsinger; It’s The Falling In Love; Tequila Mockingbird; Don’t Say It (If You Don’t Mean It); Is This What Feeling Gets; DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER... Lonely Disco Dancer; When Love Comes Knockin’; One In A Million (Guy); Gunshots In The Night; When You’re In Love; That’s The Way Love Should Feel; Give In To Love; Jody (Whoever You Are)

The four original albums across two cds here comprise Dee Dee Bridgewater’s one 1976 Atlantic set, plus the three recorded for Elektra between 1977 and 1980.  As someone whose background was in jazz, perhaps the Atlantic outing delivered the biggest surprise - certainly at the time - with production being shared by Stephen Scheaffer and the team of Gene Page and Jerry Wexler and with the whole shebang opening with an out-and-out disco-aimed take on the standard, ‘My Prayer’.  Personally, I have always found the treatment to be a sheer beaut but doubtless there will be many who prefer the far more sophisticated ballad version which tailed the album at track eight.  In between run a nice selection of songs, including Allen Toussaint’s funky, femme-supported ‘It Ain’t Easy’, a powerful working of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ ‘She’s Gone’ - as ‘He’s Gone’, naturally - and Tom Bahler’s ‘Goin’ Through The Motions’, Dee Dee’s perfectly controlled vocals sitting well against a fulsome string arrangement by Harold Wheeler.  Equally commendable is the dramatic take on Peter Skellern’s ‘My Lonely Room’.  Despite the Wexler involvement, it seems something or someone failed to get behind what should have been a major success and it rather disappeared without trace, as did the option of a sophomore set for Dee Dee.  Instead, a year later she joined Elektra - ironically part of the same WEA group - where, doubtless taking more note of her jazz roots, she was assigned Stanley Clarke as her producer for the label debut, ‘Just Family’.  (While the lady may well have been pleased to have been pregnant a second time, her naked display of the fact did not necessarily make for the most tasteful of album covers!)  Clarke and a bunch of musicians from the jazz-fusion world bring a tougher edge and more complex musical settings to the whole than its predecessor but there are still some notable moments, especially with Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’, the cut most harking back to the Atlantic album, ‘Maybe Today’, a ballad relying heavily on Bobby Lyle’s piano accompaniment, the warm floater that is David Foster’s ‘Open Up Your Eyes‘ and the bouncy, latin-style ‘Night Moves’.  Swapping one jazz man for another, George Duke took over the production reins for the 1979 ‘Bad For Me‘ release, securing a mid-thirties r&b chart position with the single issue of the funky title track.  It’s another mixed bag of an album with the lady herself co-penning ‘For The Girls’, a rather uncharacteristically harsh dancer and the somewhat complex ‘Love Won’t Let Me Go’.  Elsewhere, Carole Bayer-Sager and David Foster’s ‘It’s The Falling In Love‘ is suitably exuberant and the the highspot is the closer, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s exquisite ‘Is This What Feeling Gets‘ (aka ‘Dorothy’s Theme’) from ‘The Wiz’.  For what would be one last throw of the dice, Elektra opted to send Dee Dee to Sigma Sound in Philadelphia for her second unimaginatively self-titled album.  With Thom Bell the producer and arranger - and (co-) writer of fifty percent of the material - the odds should have been of a sure-fire winner but, despite ‘One In A Million (Guy)‘, chosen as the lead single, looking to be of fine potential, chart-wise it stalled midway and it’s easy to assume any efforts on behalf of the record company were then abandoned.  Nevertheless, the results overall were of expectedly high standard, personal delights being - in addition to that 45 cut - the beat-ballad, ‘When Love Comes Knockin’’, the joyful, mid-pacer, ‘That’s The Way Love Should Feel‘, the heavily-orchestrated  ‘Jody (Whoever You Are)’ and the fine Thom Bell/Linda Creed ballad, ‘Give In To Love’.

US R&B Chart statistics  (peak positions: BB = ‘Billboard’, CB = ‘Cashbox’)...

Bad For Me  (Elektra lp, 188)  -  BB 57

Bad For Me  (Elektra 45, 46031)  -  BB 37, CB 36

Just Family  (Elektra 45, 45466)  -  BB 95

One In A Million (Guy)  (Elektra 45, 47046)  -  BB 52, CB 80                                                                                                             

review posted 3/1/20