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Soul Express CD Review

Marlena Shaw: Acting up CD
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MARLENA SHAW

Acting up

Columbia (1978) reissue by Big Break Records (UK, 2011)

More / Moonrise / Rhythm Of love / Places / I Wonder / You Bring Out The Best In Me / Dreamin' / I'm Back For More / Mamma Tried / Don't Ask To Stay Until Tomorrow / Places (single version) / Don't Ask To Stay Until Tomorrow (Soundtrack LP version)

Marlena Shaw is one of life's hidden pleasures. Whenever I did out any of her albums I am reminded how wonderful she is, and what breadth and depth of music and song she has given us since the 1960s. Her "Love Is In Flight" set for Polydor in 1988 remains one of my favourite albums, and her Columbia years were also crammed with more goodness than a shelf full of multi vitamins. Quality is assured here... Marlena Shaw and Columbia... says it all doesn't it? So, 1977 and 1978 saw working with producer Bert DeCoteaux and nothing on here fails to impress. Stepping further away from her Blue Note years, the vocals still retain that sass, that Jazz and even aping the style of Nancy Wilson on "Moonrise", Bert married Marlena's awesome vocal ability with a soulful, funky and (for the time) street flavour that did nought but create a wonderful musical offspring.

When today's music press hail the likes of Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and all the rest as superstars and talents I can only assume that they have never been party to a talent such as Marlena Shaw. When this album was released you needed real chops and credibility to step up to a microphone. Today you just need to look pretty. And let the nice engineer with his pretty cool computer enhance or create the rest. Oh, and don't forget the dance routine for the video. SCRUB THAT, turn back a few years and listen to REAL talent, REAL musicians and thank heavens that someone somewhere knows that these albums are deserving of a release. The industry may long have gone down the toilet, but some there still know a good thing when they hear it and Big Break know the right connections.

I cannot fault this album. It, like all Marlena's albums, simply flows. It doesn't plod, it flows like a sweet river and when we take the ride we get lots of ebb and flow, plenty of scenery and different textures. The vehicle for this is a great singer who understands pitch and phrase and a steward such as Bert DeCoteaux. Need any reassurance of this? Hit play, and by the time you reach "Places" you will turn to 2011's R&B laughingly-called divas, shake your head and laugh. Or cry, as I am wont to do. "Dreamin" with it's warm, summery flavour and rhythm guitar sounds so beautiful in this lovingly remastered state, and Marlena is so at home on this kind of groove.

The SUPERB "I'm Back For More" strides as confidently today as it did back in 1978 and although Marlena's vocals are smooth, one should be in no doubt that she is ready to tear a shred of you should you put a step wrong. A confident singer can play with you, can lead you to check yourself and to relax... welcome to the world of a REAL singer! What a great track anyway! Where artists such as Marlena Shaw are concerned I will ALWAYS be back for more.
-Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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