Masterworks

Ann Peebles: Never Leaves Home Without An Umbrella

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Title: I Can’t Stand The Rain

Label: Hi Records

Ann Peebles continues to make an impact on the music scene: due both to her strong soul musical legacy and her attitude. She was the epitome of girl power. Although this ‘girl power’ was more Aretha Franklin than Spice Girls. The best female singer on the Hi Records label, she came from a gospel background. With her father, a minister and her mother a singer Ann Peebles sang at a young age in her father’s church choir and on the gospel circuit with her father’s group, the Peebles Choir.

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Ann Peebles will always be associated firstly with this album and the title track from the same by music fans…and professionals. For example, former Free and Bad Company frontman, Paul Rodgers covered the song on his  album, The Royal Sessions.

“The reason we recorded that song was because I saw the master in the studio and I asked about it. [Peebles’ organist] Charles Hodges said ‘Oh, yeah. She recorded that song right here in this studio and we were the band.’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, can we try that one?’ and he said ‘Absolutely.’ So, we did our own version and it made it onto the album.”

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John Lennon famously quoted the song as one of his favourites. In fact, he was in the audience for an Ann Peebles gig, in the early 70s, with Harry Nilsson at the Troubadour Club, during his infamous Lost Weekend of drink and drug jaunts. The pair were witnessed singing the song in barbershop quartet harmony fashion.

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Released in 1974 on the Memphis-based Hi Records label, much of the album was co-written by Peebles, mostly with her husband, Don Bryant. In fact, seven of the 10 tracks on this album have Ann Peebles’ name down as a song credit. The music itself was based upon a sparse, laid back funk with the characteristic Hi rhythm section that integrated both the brass and string sections to their best effect. Peebles’ own vocal combined bubbling emotion, suppressed to a steaming potential. After all, this is a song and an album that examines the dark side of love.

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I Can’t Stand The Rain may have been the stand-out song and most popular single from the album but three more singles were taken from the LP. Joe Simon’s (You Keep Me) Hangin’ On which was the only cover on the entire LP, had been a hit for Simon in 1968. It was followed by Do I Need You, which went to No 57 in the R&B charts. The third single release was a ballad supported by a string section. Until You Came Into My Life didn’t chart and was written by Ann and Don Bryant.

The rest of the album was just as effusive and as effective and was recorded at the Hi studios, an old converted cinema filled with basic studio equipment. Until 1973, that was, when a new gadget arrived in town that set minds wondering, “That was an electric timbale”, said Peebles. This would be the machine that would create those raindrop effects on the title track. “We were the first people to use it, at least in that order. When we were recording something, we usually played the tape back and maybe we’d take something off, like the first bars and listen to it. Then we’d take the bass off and listen to it and so on. Sometimes we’d take off everything and just listen to the voice to see if we had every note that we wanted. At first, we had the timbales all the way through the song but as we played the tape, Willie Mitchell (producer and engineer) said ‘What about if the timbales were in front before anything else comes in?’ So we did that and when we listened back I said ‘I love it, let’s do that’.”

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The result is a classic soul album full of dark, vivacious yet gorgeous soul.

For those looking to grab a well mastered and pressed digital edition then look no further than the US-based Fat Possum record label. Known for their hardcore blues recordings and reissues, Fat Possum still has five Ann Peebles albums, previously on the Hi record label. I Can’t Stand The Rain is joined by: Part Time Love (1971); Tellin It (1976); If This Is Heaven (1978), The Handwriting Is On The Wall (1979). All CDs are released with their original artwork and tracklistings.

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