June 29, 2006

Margie Joseph's Sweet Surrender

"Come Lay Some Lovin' On Me" (Paul Kelly)
Margie Joseph, from Sweet Surrender, Atlantic, 1974

I was on the road this past weekend and the first part of the week, giving not a thought to my next post. Then, listening to NPR somewhere in Mississippi on the way home, I heard that Arif Mardin had passed away. I had been meaning to get to another song by Margie Joseph; and, since she worked with the influential producer and arranger on three of her albums in the 1970’s (Margie Joseph, Sweet Surrender, and Margie), the time seemed right.

While Mardin successfully guided recordings by a number of white acts with soul leanings over the years, some of his most impressive associations (to me) were with high caliber women of soul, including Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, and Chaka Khan. For whatever reason, though, none of his mid-Seventies sessions with Margie Joseph lead to a breakthrough in her career that would elevate her towards their status. The producer had her covering all sorts material from the likes of Al Green and Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton and Bread (!); and she made those tunes soulfully her own, with a few single sides getting into R&B charts. Still, she was eclipsed by others artists of the era and remains overlooked and under-rated by soul fans and collectors. Although the albums she and Mardin delivered were consistently high quality, it is generally acknowledged that Atlantic did not promote them or Joseph properly. Read
more about her career in David Nathan’s fine CD notes to the Ichiban CD compilation, Margie Joseph: The Atlantic Sessions/The Best Of Margie Joseph.

I’ve chosen Margie doing an otherwise unexceptional Paul Kelly composition, “Come Lay Some Lovin’ On Me” from 1974’s Sweet Surrender, because I think it’s both a good example of Mardin’s skills at production/arrangement and Joseph’s vocal chops. Though certainly a rung down from Aretha’s power and technique (but that’s still way up), this woman can sing, having a distinctive, recognizable style, in which you can often hear her gospel foundation. That’s evident on Kelly’s song. Riding on the groove and sweep of Mardin’s arrangement, with it’s syncopated interplay of parts, Margie rises above the lyrical limitations and let’s loose what she’s got.

As with her other LP’s with Arif Mardin, Sweet Surrender was cut in New York City, drawing from the deep pool of session talent available there. In general, I don’t find the material on this album quite up to Margie Joseph (1973), or Margie (1975), but, to each his/her own. I much prefer her funkier, more bare-bone material to the lushly orchestrated pieces; but I’m certainly glad to have all of them. As I’ve said before, in
one post or another, I think Ms Joseph is a singer well-worth further investigation and listening. She’s still recording and performing today, having gone back to her roots in the church. So, put this forgotten New Orleans soul diva on your want lists and see what else you can find.

Arif Mardin demonsrates the rare 'palms up' approach to fader
sliding. Hands up or down, he was one of the in-studio greats. RIP.


Blogger Red Kelly said...

absolutely excellent,


12:20 AM, July 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and very informative, too!
Thanks, Dan!


4:11 AM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Tuwa said...

This is very good.

12:54 AM, July 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a Margie Joseph since I heard Riding High from The Sweet Surrender album. I thought I was only one that LOVED her sound. It is great to know that she has a following. I would very much like to get Sweet Surrender on CD.

5:40 AM, March 22, 2007  

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