Saturday, December 10, 2011

For the Ladies ... said Esther

Esther Phillips lets her hair down once more on this blog! And she did it back in January 1970 when she recorded her live album Burnin' Live at Freddie Jett's Pied Piper, L.A. (Atlantic LP # SD 1565). The album was released in August '70 after some overdubs (flute, trumpet and tenor sax) had been added in New York. The album was both listed on the Best Selling Jazz and Soul LPs charts; it stayed for some 6 months on the Soul LPs charts (beginning Nov. 14, 1970) and peaked at # 07 in January 1971.

From Billboard, Sept. 5, 1970, p. 72
The LP suscitated many reviews and comments in the contemporary press, and her frequent live performances in late 1969 and early 1970 were covered regularly in the California newspapers. (The back cover of the Burnin' album shows facsimiles of three such reviews plus short liner notes by singer Carmen McRae.) Even Ebony Magazine (in the December '70 issue, p. 28) run a review.

Ad from Ebony, Dec. 1970 issue
Interestingly, the variety of songs on the album made the critics differ as to which songs they preferred ... the Billboard writer singled out »Cry Me A River Blues«, while Carmen McRae in her liner notes chose to mention as favorites »Don't Let Me Lose This Dream« and »Please Send Me Someone To Love«. Nice thing is that you can hear the latter song (a Percy Mayfield composition) over on BB's Magic Jukebox blogspot. The Ebony writer preferred to call attention to Esther's version of »I'm Gettin' 'Long Alright«, and this is just fine with me. So get ready for a 6-minute version of that tune! Actually, the song starts only at about 02:10 into the recording, after Esther has done some introductory talking ... I do most of my blues songs for the ladies because we always have the blues, you see ...

Esther Phillips: »I'm Gettin' 'Long Alright« from the Atlantic LP # SD 1565 (1970):

AND ... I couldn't resist the temptation to post another recording of this song along with Esther's live version of it. It's a raw-cut, almost archaic version recorded by the Raelettes (with Ray Charles on the piano) which has never stopped haunting me. Compared to Esther's rather jazzy version (which is marvelous in its own right) you get here the modern version of somewhat like a hollering worksong of old, stripped bare to the basic harmonies and the insisting rhythm. Man, it tears me apart every time I hear it!

The Raelettes (feat. Ray Charles): »I Get Along All Right« from the Tangerine LP # TRCS 1511:

Note: On Tangerine LP # 1511 (Souled Out) the song title is given as »I Get Along All Right«. On the single release (TRC # 984, April 1968) of the same recording the title runs »I'm Gett'n Long Alright«.


  1. Wonderful Raelettes tune! They call a name out - is that Merry Clayton on lead?

  2. The name called out in the song (at around 00:56) surely seems to be "Merry" as you've noticed. The documented line-up of the Raelettes in April 1967 and again in Oct 1968 comprises: Gwen(dolyn) Berry, Alex(andra) Brown, Merry Clayton & Clydie King (info taken from So this would be fitting and covers the period during which this song was recorded and released, for all we know. Other sources on the net say differently, however. I'm still waiting for the day somebody produces a truly reliable Raelettes discography ... Thanks for pointing it out though! I just skipped the question of the lead vcls here because it's often hard to tell with the Raelettes (and some lead voices are not as easily recognizable as some people like to think). But Merry it seems to be here.