Every singer/ songwriter, that is every performer who writes songs, as opposed to those artists who fall under the new-fangled genre of singer/songwriter, seems to make a cover album. And it's often a revealing, amusing, and impressive project.
The Bluebelles were a girl-group of soul singers comprised of Patti Labelle, Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, and Cindy Birdsong. They're biggest hit was "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman"; and when Birdsong left in 1967 to replace Flo Ballard in The Supremes, The Bluebelles struggled to find their niche in the world of pop music.
In 1970, during her supporting tour for the "Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat" album, Laura Nyro performed soul standards "Spanish Harlem" and others. It was during that tour that she decided to do an album of soul covers.
Having met Patti Labelle during the tour, and hiring Labelle as part of her entourage, Nyro asked her Labelle to sing backing vocals for the project. Labelle contacted former Bluebelles Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, and the three formed the singing group that became Labelle.
The newly formed singing group was so integral to the creation of the record that Nyro actually gave them credit on the release, which was titled "Gonna Take A Miracle," Laura Nyro and Labelle. Sure, Labelle's name was smaller than Nyro, but having their name on the cover gave the group a credibility that most back-up singers cannot even imagine.
The band and the singers spent a week at Sigma Sound Studio, in Philadelphia, home of the Philly soul sound, and created one of the most wonderful soul records ever recorded.
Covering songs by Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Lieber, Phil Spector, and singing some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, Nyro and Labelle transformed these compositions into their own.
If you have never heard "Gonna Take A Miracle," I recommend you get it today and spend all of Memorial Day Weekend listening to it over and over again. It is brilliant and sublime.
Here is a recording of the cover song, which was originally sung by The Royalettes, in 1965:
Gonna Take a Miracle