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Freda Payne - "Payne & Pleasure" (LP)

Freda Payne - "Payne & Pleasure" (LP)

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Genre: soul
Rating: ** (2 stars)
Title:  Payne & Pleasure
Company: ABC Dunhill
Catalog: DSX-
Year: 1971
Country/State: Detroit, Michigan
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6244
Price: $20.00

I guess this will show a certain bias, but to my ears Freda Payne had one of the best voices in popular music. She simultaneously managed to sound soulful and classy (I can only imagine that contemporaries like Millie Jackson and Dionne Warwick would have killed to have been blessed with her chops - to say nothing of her devastating good lucks). All of those talents were aptly displayed on 1974's "Payne & Pleasure". (Compared to some of the stuff you see in this day and age the cover on was downright tame, but it still made for pleasant viewing ... Regardless, I'd rather spend time looking at Ms. Payne as opposed to some band of dweebs in leather pants any day of the week.)

With the collapse of Invictus Records, Freda Payne found herself signed to ABC Dunhill (which would shortly collapse itself). Teamed with producer McKinley Jackson, "Payne & Pleasure" wasn't a major departure from her earlier work. Tracks like 'It's Yours To Have', 'Didn't I Tell You' and 'Run For Your Life' offered up a likeable mixture of soul and pop moves that sounded very much like the Invictus signature sound ('course producer Jackson had been a big part of that label's sound). Unfortunately, rather than sticking with that approach, the second side of the album seemingly sought to broaden Payne's audience to an older, more mainstream audience. Like those hideous Motown albums that forced classic soul acts like The Supremes and The Temptations to cover lame MOR and Broadway tracks, a similar fate struck Payne. Starting with the MOR ballad 'Shadow On The Wall' things only got worse with the next three performances - a Paul Williams song, followed by a Marvin Hamlisch number, and then a lame Leon Russell cover. Payne's performances on these tracks weren't bad, but there was simply no way to recover from these fatal covers.
- With an infection melody and a wonderful vocal, 'It's Yours To Have' opened the album with a song that would have sounded right at home on one of Payne's Invictus albums. Like the best of the Invictus catalog the song melded an infectious, heavily orchestrated melody with some surprisingly gritty vocals. Released as the leadoff single, it's hard to believe this one didn't do better on the charts. rating: **** stars
- 'Didn't I Tell You' slowed things down, but wrapped the results in an even stronger hook. This one was a perfect example of Payne's ability to simultaneously sound sultry, soulful, and in prime payback form. Shouldn't have ticked her off ... One of my favorites songs on the album; for goodness skae, one of my favorite Payne performances ever. rating: **** stars
- A pretty, but rather pedestrian ballad, 'I Get Carried Away' would have been stronger had Jackson scaled back the backing orchestration. For some reason, this was tapped as a single. Shame since there were several far better choices. rating: ** stars
- I'm a sucker for soul songs that incorporate gimmicks and 'Run For Your Life' managed to meld a 'Shaft'-styled sense of urgency and arrangement with an Indian war dance beat. Payne's in-your-face vocal was simply fantastic and the only thing wrong with the song was that it faded out too soon. rating: **** stars
- 'Don't Wanna Be Left Out' opened with an extended orchestral arrangement which led you to wonder if this was actually an instrumental. It the morphed into another big ballad, but Payne actually managed to transform the song into a driving up-tempo number. Most other singers would have simply drown in the arrangement. rating: **** stars
- Penned by producer Jackson, 'Shadow On The Wall' was another pretty, but forgettable ballad. 'Course compared to the rest of side two, it was fantastic. rating: ** stars
- The first couple of times I heard this version of Paul Williams' 'I Won't Last A Day' I thought it was being sung by Lulu. To be honest, Payne gave it her best shot, but the song was just way too MOR to salvage. rating: ** stars
- C'mon, as if opening up with a pretty harpsichord segment was going to save 'The Way We Were' ... bad song and once again there simply wasn't anything Payne could have done to fix this one. Pure elevator music. Dreadful. rating: * star
- Congratulations for winning the lame song trifecta with this cover of Leon Russell's 'A Song For You' ... By the time Payne kicked the song into gear, it was simply too late to recover. Part of the problem may have to do with the fact Donny Hathaways cover is simply the classic version of the song. rating: * star

The album was tapped for a couple of singles, though they failed to match earlier successes:

- 1974's ' It's Yours To Have' b/w 'Run For Your Life' (ABC Dunhill catalog number D-15108)
- 1974's ' I Get Carried Away' b/w 'Shadows On the Wall' (ABC Dunhill catalog number 12079)

This one remains a major puzzle to me. How could anyone manage to record one side of material that was so good (I'd give it four stars) and a second side that was sooooo bad (I'd be charitable giving it one star) ? Split the difference and you end up with two stars.

"Payne & Pleasure" track listing:
(side 1)1.) It's Yours To Have (R. Dozer - McKinley Jackson) - 2:50
2.) Didn't I Tell You (R. Dozer - A. King) - 3:15
3.) I Get Carried Away (R. Dozer - A. King) - 4:19
4.) Run For Your Life (McKinley Jackson - B. Perkins) - 3:32
5.) Don't Wanna Be Left Out (R. Dozer - McKinley Jackson) - 5:40

(side 1)
1.) Shadow On The Wall (McKinley Jackson - B. Perkins) - 5:09
2.) I Won't Last A Day (Paul Williams - B. Nichols) - 4:27
3.) The Way We Were (Marvin Hamlisch - Peter Allen - M. Bergman) - 3:52
4.) A Song For You (Leon Russell) - 5:40
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