(4 / 5)
A first-of-its kind two disc Labelle anthology that includes key tracks from the pioneering group recorded between 1973-1976 for RCA and Epic; and solo recordings by Sarah Dash (1978-1981, for Kirshner); Nona Hendryx (1979 for Arista and 1983-1986 for RCA); and Patti LaBelle (1977-1980 for Epic Records).
Among the 36 tracks are three by Nona Hendryx that were only released in Europe, single edits of charted hits by the group, and by Nona and Patti and key album cuts by Sarah, Patti and the trio.
Formed in the early 60s in Philadelphia as Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles (with a line-up that included Cindy Birdsong, who went on to join The Supremes in 1967 to replace Florence Ballard), original members Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash morphed into Labelle, described in the liner notes here by US author Rashod Ollison as ‘intergalactic divas’, with the guidance of British music industry guru Vicki Wickham.
Known for their powerhouse performances and futuristic outfits, Labelle enjoyed an international breakthrough in 1975 with the often covered and timeless slice of funk, “Lady Marmalade” from one of the three albums recorded for Epic Records; the ten cuts by the trio featured here include ‘Something In The Air/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (from the one-off RCA 1973 LP, “Pressure Cookin’”) and three key album cuts (‘Are You Lonely?,’ ‘You Turn Me On’ and ‘Who’s Watching The Watcher’.
Following Labelle’s 1976 breakup, Patti began recording for Epic Records and in addition to US charted singles, included here are two soulful LP cuts drawn from her four solo LPs for the label. Sarah started recording for Kirshner Records in 1978 and included here is her big club hit, ‘Sinner Man’ and selections from her three LPs for the label.
Nona’s ten cuts featured on the anthology include three tracks recorded for Arista Records in 1979, getting their first release outside Europe; and her seven US charted singles from the three LPs she recorded for RCA in the early to mid-80s.
In addition to notes by Ollison, with 2017 quotes from Sarah and Nona, an additional essay by label owner and soul expert David Nathan on the solo recordings, also includes comments from both.
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’