required listening

CD Review

JEAN CARNE  -  Don’t Let It Go To Your Head : The Anthology

Soul Music (UK) SMCR 5173 D (2cd)

Free Love; No Laughing Matter; If You Wanna Go Back; Time Waits For No One; There’s A Shortage Of Good Men; (No No) You Can’t Come Back Now; Happy To Be With You; I Bet She Won’t Love You Like I Do; Don’t Let It Go To Your Head; Was That All It Was; What’s On Your Mind; My Love Don’t Come Easy; Lonely Girl In A Cold Cold World; Bet Your Lucky Star; Sweet And Wonderful*; We Got Some Catchin’ Up To Do; I’m Back For More*; When I Find You Love; Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things); If You Don’t Know Me By Now*; Completeness; Dreams Of Tomorrow*; Mystic Stranger; Revelation–Infant Eyes; Together Once Again; Love Is Beautiful (When It’s Right)*; Love’s In Your Corner*; You Might Be Surprised*; Keep In Touch*; The Look Of Love*; Dindi*; Valentine Love*  (Tracks marked with an asterisk are either duets and/or taken from jazz musicians’ albums on which Jean Carne performed the guest vocal.)

The bulk of the thirty-three tracks on this anthology come from sometimes jazzy lady, Jean Carn(e)’s period at Philadelphia International/TSOP through the late seventies/early eighties, plus a couple during a short stop-off at Motown in 1982 and a number of guest appearances on other - principally jazz artists’ - sets, ranging from Norman Connors in 1975 to Dexter Wansel in 1991.  To concentrate on the solo material first, the magnificent - and justifiable - favourite, ‘Was That All It Was’ is presented in its 12” single version, as is its 12” flip, ‘What’s On Your Mind’, another compelling dancer.  Indeed, cd-one concentrates principally in getting the listener to his or her feet and tripping around the room doing the light - or, in this one’s case, not so light - fantastic.  Lured, slightly reluctantly, to Philadelphia International by Kenny Gamble - as Jean told her tale to ‘In The Basement’ for a feature in issue #27 - ‘Free Love’, the opener here, kicked the ball rolling for her period in the Gamble/Huff empire.  (Asked about her transition from jazz to soul/dance material, she said: “...not [hard].  Because I had, thank goodness, come up singing just about everything from ‘Madame Butterfly’ to Charles Brown’s ‘This Christmas’.  I was at home with any style.”)  Certainly the fine tunes presented by the in-house stable of songwriters, together with the lush orchestrations often arranged by musicians themselves having honed their experiences in jazzier climes, perfectly suit(ed) the lady - just pick what you will: ‘Time Waits For No One’, ‘Don’t Let It Go To Your Head’, ‘My Love Don’t Come Easy’...  Keeping the rhythms going, tracks 15 and 17 on the first cd bring us a pair of duets, with Glenn Jones sharing the honours on ‘Sweet And Wonderful’ and Al Johnson closing the side with the now oft-recorded Kenny Stover song, ‘I’m Back For More’ from Al’s ‘Back For More’ 1980 Columbia album.  Duets and guest appearances dominate cd-two, the Temptations joining Jean for a fine version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, one of the two Motown tracks (the other being the floaty number, ‘Completeness’), Universe featuring Dexter Wansel claim top billing on the gently swaying ‘Love Is Beautiful’, Derrick Hughes partners Jean on ‘Love Is In Your Corner’, a toe-tapper from Norman Connors’ 1981 set, ‘Mr. C’ while, talking Connors, no Jean Carne anthology would be complete without the Michael Henderson duet, ‘Valentine Love’ from Connors’ 1975 ‘Saturday Night Special’ album.  Talking what makes an anthology ‘complete’ here comes the first of my (only) two brickbats...  Whilst I realise and accept that compiling a less than comprehensive anthology is very much in the hands and heart of the compiler, the omission of the outstanding ‘Where Did You Ever Go’ is, in my book, a cardinal sin while brickbat number two has to be reserved for the hideous green wash and over-strong use of red that sadly mar the cover artwork.

review posted 5/7/18 /