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Soul Express Classic Soul CD of the Month - January 2009

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Savoir Faire Plus
UK Shout! CD, 2009
The original release on Venture, 1981
1) Tell 'Em That I Heard It 2) Butterfly [Bonus track] 3) Leaving This Time 4) Living With Someone 5) Fade Away 6) Let The Roses Die 7) Who's Making Love 8) Here, Now 9) Betcha 10) You Won My Heart 11) Just To Be Close To You 12) Choking Kind [Bonus track] 13) If You Want It You Got It [Bonus track] 14) Expressway To Your Heart [Bonus track] 15) Love To Be Your Woman [Bonus track]

Produced by Tony Camillo & Cecile Barker

Last month, our classic album of the month was the excellent Phyllis Hyman album Can't We fall in Love Again, and now we have an even better reissue by a female soul artist from the same year: Sandra Feva's Savoir Faire – and again with no less than five bonus tracks!

I listed this album as the number two soul LP of the year at the time of its release, and I think it has not lost any of its magic in nearly 30 years. What makes this such a strong album is that both the ballads and the funky upbeat numbers are equally powerful. On the ballads, Sandra reminds me of Gladys Knight, while on the funkier cuts Gwen McCrae at her very best is a close point of comparison. If you like the music of Gladys and Gwen, don't hesitate a second, just click and buy the CD.

Sandra Feva may be an unfamiliar name to those who didn't follow indie soul scene in the early 80s, but she certainly was not unknown to real soul enthusiasts at the time. On the contrary, it seemed that every connoisseur rated her very high, and compared her to Gladys Knight, Betty Wright, Margie Joseph and other songstresses of the same calibre. Fellow Soul Express scribe Heikki Suosalo wrote in early 1983 that he "hasn't heard a better album by a female singer this decade", John Abbey in Blues & Soul considered Sandra on a par with Gladys, and Clive Richardson cites in the liner notes of this reissue release that "here was a new voice to match the newly-solo Gladys Knight and the vibrant Patti LaBelle".

So who am I to disagree! Sandra really shines here, and ballads such as Here Now, Leaving This Time, Tell 'Em That I Heard It, You Won My Heart and Let the Roses Die represent 80s female soul at its very best – or actually the best soul of any decade, since these tracks are timeless soul masterpieces with real instrumentation. The Gladys comparisons were inevitable, not only because Sandra's impressive vocals, but also because of producer Tony Camillo who was had been the producer on Gladys' Imagination album (from 1973) that spawned classics like Midnight Train to Georgia, I've Got to Use My Imagination and Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.

Tony's and Sandra's collaboration had actually begun even before 1973, because Sandra's first recording was in 1971 (as Sandra Richardson, her then-married name) on the Buddah label, the original version of I Feel a Song (in My Heart), written and produced by Camillo. The same song was later recorded by Gladys, resulting in another number one soul hit for her in 1974.

But as I mentioned, the reason why I liked this album so much was that you didn't have to skip tracks between the quality ballads, because the mid-tempo and faster numbers were equally enjoyable. I especially love Betcha, a melodic, bouncy mid-pacer with funky bass and real horns, and Just to Be Close to You, a Mtume & Lucas type of mid-swayer. And unlike some other reviewers, I even liked Sandra's rendition of Johnnie Taylor's funky mover Who's Making Love, since the arrangement reminds me of Gwen McCrae's funky cuts of the same period.

The five bonus cuts do not match the quality of the original album, but they are a worthwhile addition to the collection. They include Sandra's Venture debut single Chokin Kind (originally a country song that Joe Simon turned a number one smash in 1969), and the original B-side of the single hit Tell 'Em, a song titled Butterfly, which is a beautiful country-tinged soul ballad very much in the Jim Weatherly / Gladys mould. If You Want It You Got It is the weakest track on this CD, a second-rate disco jogger from 1978, originally the B-side of Chokin Kind. The CD closes with two tracks from Sandra's earlier Need to Be album, a gutsy cover version of the Soul Survivors hit from 1967, Expressway to Your Heart, and the bassy funker Love to Be Your Woman.

Read about Sandra's recent recordings and contributions from the 12-page CD leaflet, written by Clive Richardson.

- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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Sandra Feva: Tell 'Em That I Heard It

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