Wednesday, March 23, 2005

That Gap Between Kraftwerk and Peggy Lee

Since I got my first CD player in 1985, I have been trying to replace all my LPs with CDs. I almost succeeded, then had to start again; and now the challenge of finding MP3s has been added to the mix. I now believe I will never replace all my vinyl with digital music.

Whenever I rifle through my CD collection I notice that missing gem between Kraftwerk Trans Europa Express and my Peggy Lee Greatest Hits, and I obsess about it missing! Why isn't it available on CD? The digital conversion that eludes me is the 1973 release Pressure Cookin' by Labelle.

The post-Blue Belles trio of Pattie Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, were transformed by Vicki Wickham from a basic all-girl R&B singing group to a full-fledged glam band in space suits and feathers that made David Bowie's act of the same era look like a high-school drama project.

Labelle's career as a trio began with Laura Nyro's Gonna Take A Miracle LP. In 1971, the self-named Labelle LP included covers of The Glimmer Twins' "Wild Horses" and Carole King's "You've Got A Friend." The second release, Moon Shadow included covers of the Cat Stevens title track and The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Pressure Cookin' was Labelle's third and rocking-est album, driven mainly by tunes written by Nona, the most musically diverse and talented of the trio. The ballad "Hollywood" showcased Patti's future diva-ness, and their cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was an indication that this trio was more than met the eye. And plenty met the eye!

I was lucky to see Labelle at The Music Hall, in Boston, in 1974. The crowd was riotous, the sound horrid, the band loud, the singers attirred in platforms, metallic spandex, and feather boas. If I wasn't loaded on Seconol that night I must have been tripping my brains out, because the entire evening is a ruch and a blur. I do remember a huge plate glass window on Tremont Street being smashed, such was my concert-going career in that decade.

Though Labelle's commercial success was fleeting, with the Allen Toussaint-produced "Lady Marmalade" showing the most commercial action, the band managed to stay together only until 1976.

After the break-up, Nona and Patti enjoyed solo careers while Sarah has worked primarily as a back-up singer working stints with The Rolling Stones and Keith Richards.

Last Saturday, a friend arrived with a CD of Pressure Cookin' and I ripped it to MP3 as soon as I found a moment. What a great record!

Get it on 8-Track here

The Artistry of Nona Hendryx

A Sarah Dash page

A History of the Blue Belles

VH1's History of Labelle

The Wikipedia entry for Labelle

Dick Mac Recommends:

Something Silver

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Milford said...

Yes I agree The Pressure Cookin' album was hot! I've been trying to locate it or the mp3's my favorite on it is Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

If an email address were to appear, then an MP3 of "Hollywood" might follow."