November 18, 2004

Been Down with Margie

"I Been Down"
Margie Joseph, from Margie Joseph, Atlantic, 1973

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Born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf coast and discovered in New Orleans as a college student,Margie Joseph has had a recording career outside of the Home of the Groove, for the most part. As I have said before, compared to the male vocalists of the region, there weren't nearly as many women making records. The two I am featuring for the next few days are great singers from the Crescent City or thereabouts, who are not often associated with it. And while neither broke through with a massive hit, they deserve recognition and appreciation for what they did accomplish as entertainers and recording artists.

By the time Margie Joseph signed with Atlantic in 1972 and made Margie Joseph with producer, Arif Mardin, she had already recorded for Okeh, which released her first two 45s, and Volt, where she enjoyed several good-sized hit singles and had two albums, the first of which sold quite well.. Her compelling voice, possessing an impressive range, has often been compared to that of Aretha Franklin, who also worked with Mardin.

I've picked "I Been Down" as an example of the funky side of her material; but she had plenty of soulful depth, too. While Joseph's voice may not be quite as resonant or spine-tingling as Aretha's, it's a fine instrument and can stand by itself. This well-produced track with tastefully used strings had a host of top-flight New York session players.

Much of her later work suffered perhaps from too much arranging, smoothing out many of the interesting rough edges; but her albums have great moments. I'll try to give more examples somewhere down (or maybe that's up) the blog. Her two Stax albums have been re-issued on CD; and Ichiban/Soul Classics did a compilation CD of selected Atlantic sides [as of 2010, all of her Atlantic CDs have been re-issued on CD and much of her back catalog is downloadable]. Most of the vinyl is available and affordable. In short, her music is not hard to find and well worth having.


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