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Dorothy Moore CD review of Stay Close To Home (her 1993 album) and an interview with her

Originally published on Deep Column, Soul Express 2/1993

Dorothy Moore

With Dorothy I had a long chat not only because she's a very warm and friendly person but also because I wanted to have a closer look at her career. But we started from her album, Stay Close To Home (Malaco 7466), which, by the way, is her career's 10th album (if we don't include any Greatest Hits compilations).

  The album kicks off with a familiar Delbert McClinton song, Read Me My Rights (Ann Peebles, Dalton Reed), which was chosen also to be the first single. Dorothy's approach is a little funkier than the others'. ”That song was suggested by my producer, Tommy Couch. I already loved the song because I had heard it before by Ann Peebles, and I'm a big fan of Ann. And yes, we did kind of get a little funkier on that tune, and had a lot of fun cutting it too.”

  The next song, Blues In The Night, was co-written by George Jackson, and it's not the blues at all but a catchy bouncer with a Tyrone Davis beat. ”You would think with the title like that you'd be expecting maybe the blues but it's not. It was a uptight song and I enjoyed that one too.”

  I'll Always Love You is a heavy, deepish ballad with very intensive singing. ”I want you to know that ballads are my first love. I guess because it's slower I can really dig deep into my soul.”

  Swinging Do Ya? is heavy orchestrated and the approach reminds me of something Denise LaSalle might do. ”It is country & western. Kay T. Oslin recorded it and wrote it also. And she won many country music awards.”

  Then a very airy and smooth, Thomas & Taylor contemporary midtempo tune, You Can't Blame Love. Not a very obvious choice? ”Again, back to my producer. He knows me, he has been producing me since Misty Blue. That particular song I would say is sort of a dance market type, and it really was a challenge for me. When he suggested this song at first I really had difficulties trying to get in with the song.”

  Next we have a quartet of Frederick Knight tunes, which were also produced by Frederick, a dramatic ballad Till The End Of Time, light and lilting Stay Close To Home (the new single), Frederick's own '75 hit I Betcha Didn't Know That and a poignant, deep ballad It's Rainin' On My Side Of The Bed, which was co-written by Sam Dees. Besides Betcha these probably are new tunes? ”Frederick told me that he wrote Stay Close To Home and It's Rainin' On My Side Of The Bed just before the session. I don't know about 'Till The End Of Time'. He probably wrote for me that one too, at least I would like to think so, because with him writing songs especially for me he knows that I would be in love with those songs.”

  Another familiar one, an old Bobby Caldwell '79 hit What You Won't Do For Love. ”I've loved the song since it was recorded, and I love it's moderate type of tempo because it isn't too fast or too slow.”

  The album finalises with what Dorothy does best, two melodic country-flavoured ballads, A Woman Without Love and a George Jackson co-written poignant beauty, Before I Fall In Love Again. ”Yeah, again it's the ballads. That's my first love.”

  After the album we decided to go through Dorothy's earlier career, because it's not that very well documented (unlike for instance Irma Thomas' career).

  Dorothy was born in Jackson (not Florence), Mississippi in 1946 (not '47). ”You know what I usually say when asked about my age? I'm older than Michael Jackson and younger than Tina Turner.”

  As usual, there's a gospel background. ”I have been singing gospel practically all my life, and I never have really left it. I really love singing gospel. I was brought up in a church choir. My mother told me that she recognized that I had a voice at the age of three.  My mother is a lead singer in a church choir, and father is a lead singer of a gospel group, The Soul Consolators (which is still recording), so there was no way I could've got out of it.

  I was raised by my great-grandmother, who used to chaperon me when I was singing around town locally, in different talent shows.”

  So, was there anything else besides gospel in a little girl's music world? ”Yes, Aretha Franklin when she was singing Baby I Love You and Chain Of Fools (at the end of the 60's) and Today I Sing The Blues (Aretha's hit in '60). As a matter of fact, I won many talent shows with that particular song. Of course I was so young at the time I was singing it that I really hadn't experienced any of that.”

  The music world got to know Dorothy better for the first time as a member of a sweet and innocent group called The Poppies.

  “I believe the group was founded in '66. I had just been in high school and entering college. The other girls were Rosemary Taylor and Patsye McCune. I think Rosemary is teaching now, she was a French major at the time. Patsye was doing some back-up work for Helen Reddy in the 70's. We met up when I did 'Midnight Special'. As a matter of fact I think 'Midnight Special' had her to do back-up on a song that I was singing live. After that I heard that she was doing some Broadway.”

  There's also a rumour that Fern Kinney was a member of the group. ”We only did a couple of dates together. She wasn't a regular member of the group.”

  For die-hard dilettanti there's going to be some serious searching to do. ”I did some solo recording before The Poppies, but I can't remember the songs. I remember the Poppies songs because they went on to become successful, but the ones I did solo before that I don't even have copies myself. They were on local Nashville labels but they didn't do all that well, because at that time it was mainly the group singing like The Supremes.”

  Is it only singing? ”I play a little bit of piano, a little gospel, one or two songs. I don't know why it's much more simpler to play gospel songs than r&b.”

  But back to The Poppies, who were also a part of the ensemble, The Mid-South Review. ”When we would come home off the road to Jackson, Mississippi, as The Poppies, we then would work with the group called The Mid-South Review. At that time it was a very large band. It had horns, two drummers, the rhythm section, a couple of keyboards.”

  The Poppies released four singles on Epic (Lullaby Of Love/I Wonder Why, He's Ready/He's Got Real Love, Do It With Soul/He Means So Much To Me, My Love And I/There's A Pain In My Heart) and one album titled The Lullaby Of Love.

  After two pop hits (Lullaby Of Love, He's Ready) no show in the charts and finally a break-up. ”The group and I we stayed together for only two and a half years, and in my opinion less than that. I had that problem that every time we would have to go on the road one girl would stay at home, couldn't go. And it probably hurts you more than helps you if you're not on the road.”

  After the Poppies Dorothy went solo and also did a lot of back-up work for many artists (King Floyd, Jean Knight, Eddie Floyd, Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson, Irma Thomas) in the beginning of the 70's. But besides music there was also a family and a husband in the business, too. ”He really wasn't and I'm no longer with him. He just went out there with me, because I wanted someone closer to me so that I could feel a little more protected.

  My two children – Formeka, Donald Jr. – are not involved in music business. My daughter, though, was on one of my songs, 'With Pen In Hand'. If they had wanted to pursue a career I would have been happy, but since they didn't choose to sing, you know, I'm still very happy at their choice.”

  First solo work after The Poppies was done on Avco label (See How They've Done My Love, Same Old Feeling), after which Dorothy moved on to the GSF label to record her first solo chart single in '73, Cry Like A Baby, which is also the first time Dorothy worked together with Couch and Stephenson (with a little help from James Stroud and Jerry Puckett).

  On Chimneyville she recorded Don't Let Go and a duet with King Floyd, We Can Love. ”With him, King Floyd, being number one, and at that time I wasn't known, it was a great opportunity for me.”

  Now we are approaching the peak of Dorothy's career, Misty Blue, a song that had already been recorded by Wilma Burgess, Eddie Arnold and Joe Simon. ”Tommy Couch gave the song to me. I knew it by Joe Simon, and I heard about the others after the song became huge for me. It was originally the b-side to 'Here It Is', and it was also on the shelf for over a year and a half before they released it. At that time we used to record maybe three or four sides and choose the forty-five out of those songs. `Misty Blue' was one of the songs they put on the shelf. They wanted to go with a faster tune, 'Here It Is'. After it got out there, the public started to buy it. They took it home, flipped it over to see what the b-side was like, and that's where it started. People also started calling the radio stations to play `Misty Blue'.”

  Misty Blue is still the biggest seller in Dorothy's career, and there's also a rumour that the record saved Malaco from bankruptcy, but that is something Dorothy doesn't know anything about. Anyway, after Misty Blue in '76 there was a constant flow of hits (Funny How Time Slips Away, For Old Time's Sake, We Should Really Be In Love – a duet with Eddie Floyd – I Believe You, With Pen In Hand, Let The Music Play, Special Occasion, Loving Time, Talk To Me), and many of those by famous writers, Frederick Knight, Bobby Goldsboro, Sam Dees, Jim Weatherly.

  ”I know Frederick well. I've never met Sam Dees but I know of his work and I've recorded his songs. I know Bob Montgomery who wrote `Misty Blue', and I know Jim Weatherly well, because he's done a lot of writing for me, too. He's doing a lot of country writing now.”

  During the disco era Dorothy released mainly country-flavoured soul ballads, but in the beginning of the 80's gave in to disco a little bit on her Talk To Me album. ”One thing I can say about Malaco is that they always want to record a nice variety on me, and it really makes my sessions very interesting. We don't really focus on only one type of music, and it's a great challenge to sing a lot of types, and especially with me being alien to disco, techno, pop or whatever you call it.”

  There were altogether five fine Malaco albums (Misty Blue, Dorothy Moore, Once Moore With Feeling, Definitely Dorothy, Talk To Me) in 1976-80, all produced by Couch-Stroud-Stephenson with the exception of Definitely Dorothy, which was produced by Tom Collins. ”I've been knowing Tom for a long time. I thought it would be a great challenge him to produce me, and Malaco gave in, so that was it.”

  After the first Malaco period Dorothy appears on Handshake label in '82 with a Nashville recorded single, What's Forever For. ”That was a Michael Murphy song, and we used the Chips Moman studio. It's just friends over the years that I've met, so I just gave them a call, and I wanted to keep recording something.”

  The next single was two years later on Streetking, Just Another Broken Heart, which was more or less for dancefloors. ”I was visiting Nashville, because I have a lot of friends over there, and I met Bob Montgomery at one restaurant and he wanted to know what I was doing in town. At that time I was a free agent. And knowing him as a producer and who he was and that he had written Misty Blue – hey! – something clicked. So I told him I'm trying to get a record deal, and he said `hey listen, give me a call', and that was it.

  That was a dance market song, and I went into the mid-thirties on dance charts, and I thought that was really good for me especially me being an alien in that type of music.”

  Dorothy returned to the more traditional sound with the next single, We Just Came Apart At The Dreams, produced by James Stroud in '85, and after that back to her real roots with the Rejoice album, Givin' It Straight To You (in '86), which was also recorded in Nashville. Was Dorothy thinking about moving permanently back to gospel?

 ˙”Well, not really. Gospel is really where I came from. Steve Glassmeyer, the producer, asked me if I have ever thought about doing a gospel album, and that was another great opportunity for me, something I've always wanted to do. I said `no, I haven't thought about it but I'd loved to do it' and we went from there, and what he did with that album amazed me.

  One thing was the opportunity to be on Rejoice, where they had Shirley Caesar and Al Green, and me being at the time a free agent and to get the opportunity to jump on a label like this, gee!”

  Dorothy's next step was to join the Volt label in California for two albums, Time Out For Me and Winner (in '88 and '89). ”I got a call from Mr. F.L. Pittman. I was between labels again, and that's how it happened.”

  The wonderful Feel The Love album in '90 was the mark of a happy reunion – back to Malaco! ”I live here, number one. You can hop in a car and get here within thirty minutes from Hazlehurst where I'm staying now. And considering the state Malaco has in the business and `Misty Blue' and all the other songs I've had here, I thought why not. I might as well go back home. That was also a call from Tommy Couch and Wolf Stephenson.”

  With a career spanning over three decades one wonders if there's any unreleased material on some label that might come out unexpectedly. ”I can't recall any. I know Malaco has some in the can, because in the studio we'd record a few extra songs just to have a select.”

  And finally the usual concluding questions about the favourite artists at the moment, favourite own recordings and future plans.

  ”My favourites are Aretha Franklin, Johnnie Taylor, Luther Vandross and Mahalia Jackson from gospel. Of my own recordings I've always loved `Funny How Time Slips Away' from the past. On my latest album I enjoy `Stay Close To Home'.

  I would love to do a soundtrack, and I've always wanted to do Broadway. And I would love to do a duet maybe with a country artist.”

Heikki Suosalo

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