Saturday, October 22, 2011

Feeling All Right

Recently, in another blog (here: Catch That Train And Testify!), the question of the mutual influence and the relations between country and soul was touched upon. This finally made me spin Maxine Weldon's first album today, after I have been thinking for weeks now to post something about her.
     Maxine Weldon is a singers' singer, no doubt. She could sing it all, and she did. First problem though, this made her difficult to handle for the music industry when the pro- motion & sales responsibles wouldn't know whether to put her into the soul, jazz, blues or still another field. Second problem, she didn't record much. Most of her career she was busy gigging and touring, starting 1967 in California. Before that she had been performing in Hawaii for some 2 years, then moved to Japan and Seoul. But only when she came back to California, her career began in earnest. You can read a detailed account of her life and career here. I cannot add anything to what you find there.

Mainstream LP # MRL 319 Right On was her first album. 1970 is commonly given as its release date, but for all I know it was only released in 1971; the recording sessions, however, took place in '70. Maxine's debut album is little-known today, although there seem to be no valid reasons for this: apart from Maxine's stellar performance you will note that the tunes are wonderfully arranged and lavishly orchestrated; special praise certainly merits the horn section. Even the Billboard critic was looking for superlatives when he wrote the following (July 3, 1971): There is a fresh feeling here. One which is seldom heard from a female vocalist. No Aretha, No Nina Simone. All Maxine Weldon and a voracity and attack of a fresh new singing sensation.

Mainstream LP 319 back cover
So what about soul and country? Well, listening to Maxine's debut LP you'll find that a number of songs are much in the country vein, with some folksy undertones. And it's less in the instrumentation or the arrangements, more in the choice of songs (that is, in the harmonies) and the inflection of Maxine's voice. Other songs, however, are clearly in the r&b mould, with funky undertones. So I posted two songs each below that to me seem typical for both trends. The interesting thing is that the tunes are arranged similarly in regard to orchestra- tion - and of course the vocalist is the same -, but the overall effect of the respect- ive tunes is quite different. This is some sign showing the genius of the arranger! (For the record, it was Artie Butler's creative work).

Interesting also that Maxine Weldon didn't live in the South. She was born in Oklahoma but at an early age moved with her family to Califor- nia; and she even spent most of the '60s outside the States. Thus hers is not the bio- graphy of, say, Denise LaSalle who was reared on C&W radio in Mississippi or that of many others growing up around Memphis, Nashville, Macon or New Orleans. But, and this is the marvel of it, you cannot hear that on her debut album. I first put the tunes that are on the countryish-folksy side: Bob Dylan's »It Ain't Me Babe« and »Tomorrow On My Mind«. And we also have the near-country-version of Loretta Lynn's »Johnny One Time« on this LP which I didn't include below. Then, there are the r&b viz. soul tunes, »Right On« and Joe Cocker's 1969 »Feeling All Right«:

Maxine Weldon: »It Ain't Me Babe« / »Tomorrow On My Mind« from the Mainstream LP # MRL 319 (1971):

From Maxine Weldon's personal webpage
Maxine Weldon: »Right On« / »Feeling All Right« from the Mainstream LP # MRL 319 (1971):

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this posting. I can't believe that more people haven't heard this amazing voice before! The covers are certainly not slavish copies, but unique interpretations of the originals - especially Feeling Alright.

    Thanks also for the mention of 'Catch That Train' - it's much appreciated.