(4 / 5)
UK label SoulMusic Records has produced the first-ever box set of the music of the late and great Phyllis Hyman, traversing the soul/R&B and jazz genres from the mid-1970s until her passing in the mid-1990s.
Her legacy on record for Buddah, Arista and Philadelphia International Records, is collated here on this lovely nine-CD box set of 128 tracks, along with a number of bonus tracks and guest appearances.
SoulMusic founder David Nathan in cooperation with Glenda Gracia, manager & executrix of the Phyllis Hyman estate, (who contributes a moving up-close-and-personal essay) have compiled this set, and brought in writer Janine Coveney to pen a heartfelt tribute with an overview of Phyllis’ music. SoulMusic Records’ Michael Lewis also offers his thoughts on Phyllis’ compelling live performances.
“Old Friend: The Deluxe Collection” commemorates the anniversary of what would have been Ms Hyman’s 72nd birthday, on 6th July 2021. She died in New York in June 1995, just before her 46th birthday, from an overdose of prescription pills and Vodka. Hours before she was due to perform at the famed Apollo Theatre. She left a poignant suicide note and had been diagnosed as bipolar and had previously talked about taking her own life.
Disc # one: “Phyllis Hyman” on Buddah, marked Phyllis’ official album debut and includes the US r&b/dance charted single, “Loving You, Losing You”, co-penned by Philly soul maestro Thom Bell, who also co-wrote “Betcha By Golly Wow”, which Phyllis recorded with jazz drummer Norman Connors in 1976, along with a duet with Michael Henderson (“We Both Need Each Other2), resulting in her first exposure to a wider audience. Also on this expanded edition, both sides of Phyllis’ 1976 single for Desert Moon Records.
Disc # two, “Somewhere In My Lifetime” marked Phyllis’ addition to the Arista Records’ roster, when Buddah Records was acquired by the Clive Davis-helmed label. The title cut was co-produced by Barry Manilow; six tracks are included from Phyllis’ 2nd Buddah LP, “Sing A Song” which only gained release outside the US in 1978.
This expanded edition features bonus tracks from “Sing A Song” and a guest appearance with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, “As You Are”, as well as 12” single versions of “Kiss You All Over” and “So Strange”.
Disc three: “You Know How To Love Me” teamed Phyllis with James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, hitmakers for Stephanie Mills; the result was Phyllis’ biggest r&b/dance hit with the now-classic title track. This expanded edition includes the Thom Bell-produced “Magic Mona”, three tracks on which Phyllis guested with jazz pianist McCoy Tyner; and “In A Sentimental Mood” from the Duke Ellington Broadway musical “Sophisticated Ladies”, in which Phyllis starred and was nominated for a Tony award.
Disc four: 1981’s “Can’t We fall In Love Again”, featured Phyllis’ highest-charting r&b hit, the title track features a duet with Michael Henderson. Other tracks included production by Norman Connors and Natalie Cole’s co-producer Chuck Jackson. This expanded edition features three tracks not on the original LP.
Disc five: “Goddess Of Love”, was Phyllis’ final LP for Arista, with production from Narada Michael Walden (the r&b/dance hit “Riding The Tiger”) and Thom Bell, with a bonus track from the Bell sessions, “I’m Not Asking You To Stay” on this expanded edition.
Disc six: “Living All Alone”, marks Phyllis’ 1986 teaming up with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records’ label, delivering immediate success with two Top 20 r&b hits, the title track and the perennial “Old Friend”, which remained a staple of Phyllis’ live shows. This expanded edition features guest appearances with Barry Manilow and Grover Washington Jr.
Disc seven: 1991’s “Prime Of My Life”, brought Phyllis her first r&b chart-topping single, “Don’t Wanna Change The World”, (with the rare non-rap version included on this expanded edition), and included notable tracks “Living In Confusion” and “Meet Me On The Moon”. Additional bonus track: “Hottest Love Around” was only previously available on a CD single.
Disc eight: “I Refuse To be Lonely”, with primary production by Nick Martinelli, (who had worked on Phyllis’ 1991 CD), was released after her death, and features five tracks co-written by Phyllis, including the title track and standout “It’s Not About You (It’s About Me)”.
Disc nine: “Forever With You”, consists of a collection of previously-unreleased recordings that Phyllis had recorded for Philadelphia International Records, including four she co-wrote, notably “The Strength Of A Woman”, as well as a memorable version of “Hurry Up This Way Again”, a 1980 r&b hit for The Stylistics.
By Sally Fox
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’