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Linda Jones: Precious - The Anthology 1963-72

Reviewed by Heikki Suosalo

Rating: 8/ 10

(Kent, CDTOP 458;; 24 tracks, 71 min., notes by Tony Rounce)

  Linda belongs to the small group of artists that serious soul music fans have strong and often opposite opinions about.  For some she’s too histrionic and melismatic, while for others she’s the deepest and most exciting songstress there is.  Her style certainly is extremely gospel-infused, ecstatic and in her vocal dynamics she never holds back.  You simply can’t have an indifferent approach to her and her music.  She leaves nobody cold.

  Throughout the years a number of compilations have been released on her, but I believe they are mostly deleted by now, so this new anthology named Precious comes in need.  Linda’s recording career can roughly be divided into four parts:

1) early recordings on Cub, Atco and Blue Cat in 1963-66;

2) the Loma stint in 1967-68;

3) two Neptune singles in 1969-70;

4) the Turbo period in 1971-72. 

They put out one album on Loma (Hypnotized in 1967) and three on Turbo in the early 70s.

  The earliest sample on this set is Linda’s perky and captivating cover of Jackie Wilson’s Lonely Teardrops on Cub Records in 1963.  On the label it reads Linda Lane, which was her stage name those days.  Her Atco single in 1965, I’m Taking Back My Love, is a bit poppy and it was backed with a fast rocker titled Take the Boy out of the CountryFugitive from Love (on Blue Cat in 1966) is a big beat-ballad.  Already in 1964 Linda had met George Kerr, who became her producer throughout the rest of her career, as well as a co-writer of many of her hits, often with the Poindexter Brothers.

  The very first Loma single in the summer of 1967 turned into Linda’s biggest hit – the emotive and mesmerizing ballad named Hypnotized (# 4 – rhythm & blues / # 21 – pop).  Other pleading ballads from that period include Give My Love a Try (# 34 / 93) and What’ve I Done (to Make You Mad) (# 8 / 61), and there’s also one northern favourite, My Heart Needs a Break ( # 50), which was penned by Sammy Turner.  Indeed, one might think that a retrospect of Linda Jones is one big cavalcade of deep soul ballads, but for variety on this set there are as many as seven uptempo numbers.

  For Neptune Linda recorded a couple of covers, too.  Her interpretation of the O’JaysI’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (# 45) digs a lot deeper, as well as a passionate version of Jimmy Norman’s Can You Blame Me?  The rest two big-voiced and breath-taking ballads are That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You and Ooh Baby You Move Me, composed by Samuel Bell and another no-restraints lady, Lorraine Ellison.

  On Turbo she charted three times and all three were melismatic ballads.  First single was the dramatic and fervent Stay with Me Forever (# 47), followed by Your Precious Love (# 15 / 74), which has the same recitation that Oscar Toney Jr. came up with already in the early 60s in his shows.  A cover of the MomentsNot on the Outside (# 32) is so improvised and “gospelized” that it becomes almost unrecognizable.  For some reason Linda’s dramatic version of the oft-recorded Goffin-King ballad I Can’t Make It Alone didn’t chart, but – with the exception of Lou Rawls – it never became a sizeable hit for anybody.  It was originally written for the Righteous Brothers (actually Bill Medley recorded it later), but P.J. Proby did the original version... and that spectoresque single is still my favourite take on the song.

  Not only in her voice, but there was pain also in Linda’s life.  Born and based in Newark, New Jersey, she passed in March 1972 at the age of only 27 after slipping into a diabetic coma. (8)

© Heikki Suosalo

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