(4 / 5)
This is the “long lost” recording made by PP back in the day, produced by Bee Gee Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton, an album PP never thought would see the light of day after almost five decades locked away in the vaults.
These 13 tracks may have been unlucky for her up until now, but they are not any longer. An album well worthy of hearing for PP’s great voice is in top form. The material and production values may be a tad patchy, but her vocal skills and that down-to-her-bones natural soul, more than makes up for any issues.
Arriving in England as an Ikette with the Ike & Tina review in the mid-60’s, (that dude may have had his problems, but he sure could identify great female singers) PP was spotted by Mick Jagger who immediately convinced Andrew Loog Oldham to sign her to his label, Immediate Records. Several huge hits followed, ‘First Cut is The Deepest’, ‘Angel Of The Morning’, ‘If You Think You’re Groovy’ and more.
This year PP celebrates her 50-year anniversary as an artist, and sets out on an 11 date UK headline tour in October, to celebrate her milestone and the release of this album. St James Publishing House is releasing her autobiography ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ around the October tour, and a brand new solo album is slated for next year, produced by Ocean Colour Scene member and Paul Weller collaborator Steve Craddock.
It was around 1968 when Immediate Records folded and PP found herself at a crossroads, looking for a new label. Jim Morris, personal assistant to Robert Stigwood was the catalyst who encouraged Barry Gibb to work with PP. After introducing the pair, Gibb, who was already a fan of her music, was very keen to produce a record with her. She had already recorded ‘To Love Somebody’, on her second album ‘Kafunta’.
It was Barry who got PP a record deal with his manager Robert Stigwood (RSO Records) and consequently he also became her manager. She spent a lot of time rehearsing and learning the songs, and was well up for it when they went in to the studios to begin the recording process. Bill Shepherd (Bee Gees, Gene Vincent) created the arrangements on the record. PP and the players recorded ten tracks, eight of which made it onto “The Turning Tide.” The eight which feature on the album are, ‘Born’, ‘Bury Me Down By The River’, ‘Give A Hand, Take A Hand’, ‘Happiness’, ‘The Turning Tide’, ‘High And Windy Mountain’, a cover of ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’.
But due to Bee Gee’s commitments, only half the record was completed, and PP was heartbroken. But manager Robert Stigwood stepped in to save the day, and paired her up with Eric Clapton. He arranged for PP to be the opening act on the ‘Eric Clapton, Delaney, Bonnie and Friends tour, and she put together a top end rhythm section, which included Steve Howe (Yes) on guitar, Ashton, Gardner and Dyke with Leslie Duncan and Kaye Garner (Elton John, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach).
Mr Clapton was so impressed with PP’s live performance, he didn’t need asking twice when Robert approached him to go into the studio with PP to finish off the record. Eric called in his Delaney and Bonnie band, who later became Derek and The Dominos. Along with Rita Coolidge and PP’s dear friend, soul singer Doris Troy. They recorded songs written by Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Three covers, which are on this album: “Medicated Goo”, “Brand New Day” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. A further two tracks, “If This Were My World” and “Children Of The Last War”, were added to this collection with the talented guitarist Caleb Quaye (Mick Jagger, Hall & Oates, Pete Townsend, Elton John).
But despite the star dust of a Bee Gee and a Clapton associated with these recordings, they were left sitting on shelves for many years due to industry politics. It became PP’s mission to let these recordings see the light of day, and not let this unique piece of music history stay buried. With the help of PP’s current manager, Sally Cradock and music industry veteran Bill Levenson, whose past history includes putting together compilations for Bob Marley, Donna Summer and Jerry Lee Lewis, they began to recover these lost gems and fight for the right to release them, from various publishers who were not keen to part with them.
Steve Cradock called upon his old friend Paul Weller, who gladly allowed them to use his Black Barn Studio, and also his long time engineer Charles Rees, to finish mixing the album. So, after all these years, pieces of history were brought back to life again.
The album opens with “Medicated Goo”, written by Steve Winwood and Jimmy Miller, produced by Eric Clapton. Old school R&B, horn-soaked and driving. Harking back to the stuff she would have sung backup on with Ike and Tina, but here she deservedly takes the spotlight and delivers a great vocal. Bloody good song too; a snug fit. Then another rocker, “Born”, written and produced by Barry Gibb.
The pace then slows on the lovely ballad which features some tasteful piano, “If This Were My World,” written and produced by Caleb Quaye and PP Arnold, and taking us into Dusty territory. PP’s emotion-drenched vocal and superb control adds huge value to the song. “High And Windy Mountain”, written and produced by Barry Gibb, strips things back and gives a chilled vibe, again a song that suits her voice and style well. Understated strings adding to the Dionne Warwick and Dusty in Memphis flavours, the track building in intensity until she really soars. Really nice stuff.
This next cut, brings back great memories for me, of Coventry Apollo Theatre, circa 1978 or 79. Blood, Sweat & Tears and the band War, on a fabulous double bill. David Clayton Thomas, who penned this classic, “Spinning Wheel” was on fire vocally at that gig. I recall comedian Lenny Henry being in the audience and he got so carried away by the amazing music during War’s set, he jumped up and down on the seat, his legs slipped down the back and he got stuck, and had to be freed! This track here produced By Barry Gibb. An orchestral approach, big string and brass, and some annoying plinky plonk piano and tinny guitar. I yearned for the horn punctuation on the BS&T version, and I found PP’s vibrato and attack to be a bit OTT as the track built in volume and power.
A very nice gospel affair with “Bury Me Down By The River”, written by Barry and Maurice Gibb, and produced by Barry Gibb. A Fats Domino feel to the piano at the start of “Children Of The Last War,” and it’s one of those tunes and songs you may feel you have heard before. It has a familiar structure to it, which I cannot place. Written and produced by Caleb Quaye and PP Arnold, who delivers a very strong vocal, shades of Janis Joplin and the band Vinegar Joe perhaps.
“Brand New Day”, written by Van Morrison and produced by Eric Clapton. The piano track and chords at the beginning sound almost identical to The Beatles anthem “Let It Be”, to my ears. It again takes PP to church and gospel territory, and is a great song and a tight fit for her. She pulls right back, to give light and shade, before some sizzling and innate Aretha-style soul runs that send shivers down the spine. The dull guitar solo didn’t work for me, and to me, sounds out of tune in part. I do not have a name with the press blurb, but Mr Clapton produced it, so maybe he was having an off day if it was him playing! The stunning vocal – one of the best of the record, more than makes up for it.
The title track, written and produced by Barry Gibb, didn’t do it for me. A Cilla Black type ballad, with overblown strings and a dated sound. Not a strong song either to my ears. Even PP’s vocal talents didn’t save this one for me. Sorry. Another cut that Blood, Sweat & Tears did at that killer gig in Coventry; “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” is covered here by PP, written by Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway Frank Wilson & Berry Gordy, and produced by Barry Gibb. Slowed right down here, with a sultry, late night sound; PP’s husky vocal lending itself well to this dinner jazz vibe, showing yet another side to her voice.
Sticking to the slower tunes, “Give A Hand, Take A Hand” was written and produced by Barry Gibb. Sounding like a fit for The Righteous Brothers or the Walker Brothers, an epic sounding ballad with big strings and choir, nods to Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” style perhaps. PP’s voice again soars and swoops in controlled frenzy. Another Gibb track, “Happiness”, stays with the ballads, but is more stripped back than the previous cut. It didn’t hold my attention as much as the rest of the album, to be honest. The song just didn’t go anywhere.
There is a teenie bit of unevenness between the Gibb work and the Clapton work on this record; in as much as Eric gets down and dirty and taps into PP’s grit and groove, and likes the stripped back and more bluesy, rockin’ stuff. While Barry goes for the strings, the big ballads and the kitchen sink production. So we will hear the join between the two sessions.
But the album closes proceedings on a real high, with a fab version of the Stones classic, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, here produced by their pal Eric. PP makes it her own, vocally and with real attitude. Some tasteful brush strokes on guitar, which I assume is Mr Clapton at work. The track adds some brash brass as it proceeds, which clutters the track a tad for me and would not be missed. It rocks at a pace and nails a good groove. A great song and a great vocal. It would have been a crying shame if this one track on its own, had never been heard, let alone this entire album.
PP has always been very respected by her peers and the public alike, and has always had a Premier Divison voice. Here, we get to hear her at the top of her game and she really does not need the big names involved to make this an album of quality. The voice does that all on its own. This long overdue release contradicts the title of the final cut, too. She did get what she wants, eventually, and good on her.
By Simon Redley
PP Arnold’s UK Tour dates:
September 23rd -Northern Soul Weekender – Butlins Skegness
October 6TH – Opera House – Jersey
October 11th – 229 – London
October 14th – The Plough Arts Centre- Torrington
October 16th – The Wardrobe- Leeds
October 18th – Old Fire Station – Carlisle
October 19th – King Tuts – Glasgow
October 20 – Pleasant’s Theatre – Edinburgh
October 21st – Assembly Room – Aberdeen
October 23rd– The Riverside- Newcastle On Tyne
October 27th– Kenton Theatre- Henley on Thames
October 30th – New Vic Theatre – Newcastle Under Lyme
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’