Title: : The Queens Of Rhythm & Blues
Label: Fantastic Voyage
Inspiration is a powerful thing, as much in music as anywhere else and as much for women as for men (maybe more so because music has always been such a male dominated business). Take the blues and jazz genres. Successful female singers such as Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, Ida Fox, Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Sharpe, Billy Holiday and Dinah Washington would spawn a new generation of top quality singers that would move beyond those singing styles to R&B and soul, spawning such greats as Etta James, Aretha Franklin, LaVern Baker, Betty Everett and Big Maybelle.
Hearing these famous voices on CD is always a joy. For music fans, though, there is also the perverse aspect of the hobby that attracts them to the obscure. Such artists and songs tend to get the heart racing just that little bit quicker, basically because they are, indeed, so rare. The entire Northern soul genre is based on this one premise, for example.
Running with the Northern soul metaphor for a little bit longer, fans may be attracted to such singers but their inherent rarity doesn’t always denote a lack of quality, far from it. You’ll often find that songs of the more obscure variety have not become so because the quality of the song or the performer. In such a busy market as existed in those days, however, many great records suffered from bad luck, bad timing and bad marketing. That’s what this compilation is basically all about. Three CDs and 76 tracks that with have any R&B fan drooling.
So, yes, you will see the likes of Aretha Franklin, Dakota Staton, Big Maybelle and LaVern Baker here but you will also stumble across gems from the likes of Lula Reed, Ruth Durand, Baby Washington and Varetta Dillard.
Take the former gospel singer and Speciality artist, Wynona Carr and her song, Till The Well Runs Dry, a R&B track recorded because of her lack of success as a gospel artist. The change of genre didn’t help a great deal, however. Neither did her contracting tuberculosis soon after. Yet the track is an excellent one.
Then there’s the wonderfully named Tiny Topsy who recorded Come On, Come On, Come On for the Federal label. It was well received at the time but failed to elevate her to the top rank of performers. Very little is known about this singer. The single is well worth a listen, though.
A lively collection and one that combines popular, legendary singers with more obscure artists to provide a compilation of varying pace and insight.