Gladys Night & The Pips: A Furious Beginning

26th May 2017

Title: Letter Full of Tears

Label: Soul Jam

Well, this is a surprise and very welcome it is too: the group’s debut from 1962 on the Fury label packed full of regional American hits such as the title track plus Room in Your Heart, Operator and Every Beat of My Heart (a Johnny Otis original that the group initially recorded for the even smaller Huntom label).

The group were initially formed in 1952 and consisted of brother, sister and cousins including Gladys, of course. They called themselves the Pips, after their cousin James ‘Pips’ Woods. The line-up changed but the family connections remained as they recorded this album which reflects a ‘period sound’ but, even here, the quality of the songs and their performances offers hints of what was to come. Knight’s vocal has that 60s compressed vocal delivery familiar of the time yet her voice offers a rich extension at times that hints of the deep soul approach to her performances that would arrive during the group’s peak. The general performances on this CD are lively, sparky, quick footed yet always musical and rhythmic.

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The mastering is excellent. The original recording may have lacked the broad and open soundstage of more recent recordings but this reissue provides a tonal balance that never moves into the red line. Actually, one or two of the tracks excel themselves in terms of sonic quality. Every Beat of My Heart is one of those highlights, as is Room in Your Heart. I wonder if either the original recording quality varied or whether Soul Jam was able to access varying sources for this CD?

This release also includes 10 bonus tracks of rarities from the Fury era plus the Brunswick and Vee-Jay eras including Come See About Me, I Want That Kind of Love and A Love Like Mine.