required listening

CD Review

CARRIE LUCAS  -  Dance With You : The Solar & Constellation Albums

Soul Music (UK) SMCR 5174 BX (3cd box)

SIMPLY CARRIE... I Gotta Keep Dancin’; Me For You; Play By Your Rule; Tender Interlude; Tender; Jammin’ Tenderly (Tender, pt.2); I Gotta Get Away From Your Love; I’ll Close Loves Door; What’s The Question; Men Kiss And Tell; STREET CORNER SYMPHONY... Street Corner Symphony; But My Heart Says No; Tic Toc; The Depths Of My Soul; The Edge Of Night; Questions; Simpler Days; Reflections; IN DANCELAND... Danceland; Sometimes A Love Goes Wrong; Are You Dancing; Dance With You; I’m Gonna Make You Happy; Southern Star; PORTRAIT OF CARRIE... It’s Not What You Got (It’s How You Use It); Lovin’ Is On My Mind; Career Girl; Like It Or Lose It; Fashion; Just A Memory; Keep Smilin’; STILL IN LOVE... Show Me Where You’re Comin’ From; Sweet Love; Men; Is It A Dream; Rockin’ For Your Love; Dreamer; I Just Can’t Do Without Your Love; Still In Love; HORSIN’ AROUND... Summer In The Street; Charlie; Goin’ In Circles; Horsin’ Around; Hello Stranger; Let’s Keep Dancing; Somebody Said; Superstar

With the exception of a Christmas album as part of the Seaside High SchoolChoir, Carrie Lucas spent her entire recording career with the labels of her husband, Dick Griffey, first on Soul Train - the label Griffey started in partnership with Soul Train TV-er host, Don Cornelius - then Solar, formed after Cornelius lost interest in record company involvement and finally Solar’s fellow label, Constellation.  This 3cd box set brings her six albums across the three labels together in a neat package with liners which include a run down on each album by the lady herself.  Partly perhaps due generally to the labels and much of their overall material being aimed towards the dance floor, Carrie has tended to be saddled with the ‘disco diva‘ tag and although she has often fitted that bill she is, nevertheless, not a singer to be dismissed with a shrug and a half-hearted listen, as the recordings we have here attest.  So, a look and a listen...  ‘Simply Carrie‘ opens with her debut single, ‘I Gotta Keep Dancin’‘ and, yes, it does contradict my comments about the disco involvement but it’s a highly infectious piece of work that defies anyone to keep still to.  The album also gave Carrie the chance to try her hand at songwriting, contributing much to the set overall, sometimes in collaboration with keyboardist, Greg Phillinganes or, as with the beat-ballad ‘I’ll Close Love’s Door‘ and the tender ‘What’s The Question‘ as a solo effort.  Across tracks 4 to 6, the wistful ‘Tender‘ is topped and tailed by the instrumentals, ‘Tender Interlude‘ and ‘Jammin‘ Tenderly (Part 2)’, while we’re back on the dance floor with ‘Play By Your Rule’.  For the ‘Street Corner Symphony‘ album, producer Griffey was assisted by Solar label-mates, the Whispers and it is they who take Carrie back to those doo-wop under the street lights days, assisting her on a ‘danced-up‘ medley linking a new number to incorporate such songs as ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Duke Of Earl’, ‘Raindrops‘, ‘My Girl’, ‘Sherry’, ‘My Guy’ and even ‘Lickin‘ Stick‘.  Contrasts come by way of the ballads, ‘My Heart Says No‘ and ‘Questions‘ and the deliciously bouncy ‘Simpler Days’, while the short closer, ‘Reflections‘ is a throwback to the nursery.  ‘In Danceland’, the first of the pair on cd-two, pretty much does what it says on the tin but, by this time, Solar was developing its own disco sound, less speedy and orchestrated perhaps than much of the offerings from (for example) Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios but offering up the opportunities for more relaxed dance floor gyrations, epitomised here by ‘Are You Dancing‘, ‘I’m Gonna Make You Happy‘ and, particularly, the across-the-board hit, ‘Dance With You’.  This time around though, ballad lovers had to be sated with just ‘Sometmes A Love Goes Wrong’, a Ken Hirsch/Steven Milburn song.  For ‘Portrait Of Carrie’, the Whispers return to assist on the closing two tracks, ‘Just A Memory‘ - an enchanting ballad written by Carrie with Grady Wilkins - and the dancer, ‘Keep Smilin’’, actually a 12” reworking of her ‘I Gotta Keep Dancin’’ debut song.  Elsewhere, the lady’s first productions by Leon Sylvers III come by way of the infectious ‘It’s Not What You Got (It’s How You Use It)’, the more typical Solar dancer, ‘Career Girl‘ and ‘Fashion’, another irresistible dancer, fulsomely supported by backing vocals from Otis Stokes and Meyers, Flipart & Woods.  Sit it out this time to ‘Lovin’ Is On My Mind’!  Of the ‘Still In Love’album, Carrie Lucas states (in the liners): “After the rush of disco, this was an opportunity to pick songs and do an album that was a little more sophisticated and orchestrated.”  Nevertheless, ‘Show Me Where You’re Coming From’, the opening track, stayed firmly in ‘The Solar Sound’ mould being propelled by acts such as Shalamar and the aforementioned Whispers, ditto ‘Men’, ‘Rockin’ For Your Love’ and ‘I Just Can’t Do Without Your Love’, somewhat negating Carrie’s own observations.  However, ‘Sweet Love‘ and the simpler, ‘Dreamer‘ certainly bear her out, as (in particular) does the album’s closing ballad, ‘Still In Love’, even if the obligatory 1982 drumbeat is a little heavy-handed.  ‘Horsin‘ Around’, the one Constellation album, carried a variety of producers, including Bill Simmons and Jeffrey Cooper from Midnight Star and Joyce ‘Fenderella’ Irby from Klymaxx.  It also borrows from a couple of ‘outside’ songbooks, notably Barbara Lewis, allowing the Whispers (again) to perform the Dells‘ rôle on her ‘Hello Stranger‘ - nicely arranged by the Four Tops‘ Obie Benson and Ronnie McNeir - and the Friends Of Distinction’s ‘Goin‘ In Circles’.  Undoubtedly, these easily provide the finest moments on ‘Horsin‘ Around’, although the Fenderella penned and produced, ‘Somebody Said‘ makes for a reasonable ‘third moment‘, despite it being a rather typical 1984 downtempo opus.

review posted 20/10/18 /