This week we are pleased to showcase one of soul’s most endearing leading ladies. This is the wonderful debut of Barbara Mason at the tender age of just eighteen. The post comes courtesy of another loyal reader to Funk My Soul, Ricardo, who has generously provided this hard-to-find, but important musical inclusion to these pages. It contains probably her most defining moment, the glorious title track, ‘Yes, I’m ready’. Barbara of course went on to become an important and influential singer all through the seventies and into the early eighties with her sassy, bold and effervescent style. Here we find Barbara still grooming those traits, and yet just as alluring because of it. See what you think.
This is a @192 vinyl rip of the original Arctic Records LP including covers.
A1. Yes, I’m Ready 3.03
A2. Come to Me 2.20
A3. You Got What It Takes 2.19
A4. Misty 2.24
A5. Something You Got 2.50
A6. Come See About Me 2.38
B1. Sad, Sad Girl 2.51
B2. Got to Get You off My Mind 2.07
B3. Keep Him 2.01
B4. Girls Have Feelings Too 2.57
B5. Moon River 3.02
B6. Trouble Child 2.43
Review by Trakbuv
Barbara Mason has become instantly identifiable as a ‘woman with attitude’, a phrase that has come to represent the fairer sex in these modern times. She is not readily associated with an image of brittleness or uncertainty in her track record of provocative records with in-your-face lyrics, such as ‘Shackin’ up’, ‘From his woman to you’, or the outrageous ‘Another man’. Nor in her sultry, evocative vocal delivery. However, there was a time when she was vulnerable and starry-eyed, and that sweetness is beautifully captured on her debut album. Born in Philadelphia in 1947, she first began developing her art while playing on Grandma’s piano. Several victorious talent shows later, she got the chance to perform occasional spots for The Larks, at the behest of her next-door neighbour who just happened to be a band member. He also introduced her to a local DJ, Jimmy Bishop, who part-financed her debut single, ‘Trouble Child’ on Crusader Records. It introduced that impetuous girly approach of hers to the world on a slightly dawdling, but pleasant release nonetheless. Jimmy became a critical element in her early success, and a personal relationship that produced a son. He secured a contract with Arctic Records which provided her first hit in ‘Girl’s have feelings too’, reaching #31 on the R&B charts – another track that sounds like there weren’t enough lyrics for each verse – but with a very catchy chorus line.
Her follow-up Arctic single was ‘Yes, I’m ready’ – and what must the company have been thinking upon its release to unsuspecting radio listeners ? With its lush opening, sweet harmonies and Barbara strolling through the lyrics with a cutesy, whimsical sway, they must have got blisters from rubbing their hands. Arguably, the most perfect frame for Barbara’s unique vocal approach, and one of the most adorable songs ever to be waxed. Well, it sure ‘nuff cracked big time, reaching #2 and #5 in the R&B and Pop Charts, respectively, in 1965 (what record stopped it reaching number 1 in the R&B charts, I wonder ?). It is sometimes regarded as the first ‘Philly’ record, boasting such luminaries as Bobby Eli, Earl Young and Jack Faith in session, and one Kenny Gamble on background vocals. Also of interest is that the legendary PIR guitarist, Norman Harris, toured as her music director in the 60s, but was largely not allowed in the studio because he could not read music. Using a similar formula for her all important third Arctic single, ‘Sad sad girl’ was a wonderful choice – those forlorn simple words delivered perfectly with Barbara’s slurred charm. The song duly peaked at #12 on the R&B Billboard.
All four aforementioned tracks were penned by Barbara herself and were included on the 12-tracker LP that followed, entitled ‘Yes, I’m Ready’. Examining the back cover suggests that she also wrote two further tracks on the album, as indicated by possessing the same publisher details. These are ‘Come to me’ and ‘Keep him’, the latter being surprisingly fresh with its intriguing keyboard intro/hook and double tracked vocals. The remainder of the LP consists of a mix of standards and tracks unfamiliar to me. Her versions of ‘Moon river’ and especially ‘Come see about me’ are strangely flat, and unnecessary inclusions for me. However, ‘Misty’ does give a nice jazzy edge to Barbara that was a pleasant change of pace. On the more meaty ‘Got to get you off my mind’, Barbara takes the opportunity to further develop those sassy phrasings we later came to expect. Very mature. ‘You got what it takes’ is a very nice track too, and a definite 45 contender if they had chosen to lift another track.
Clearly still finding her style – but to a large extent, her future vocal phrasings and diction were already there. So in the closing words of the liner notes : ‘Listen and enjoy the most refreshing new female singer to come along in quite some time. At the tender age of 18, Barbara Mason is a most unusual writer and vocalist’. Run-of-the mill, she certainly ain’t !!
For those interested, there is an excellent interview with the delectable lady here. There was a 1997 CD with all her Arctics releases (two albums and singles) but is deleted from everywhere I checked, except one used copy, which is still available on ebay . Original vinyl is hard to find and always goes more that 50 USD, so I guess it’s gonna take me a long time to buy it. Finally enjoy live the classic “Yes, I’m Ready”.
Ricardo, thank you for this rare excellent contribution. You can also enjoy in our back pages here, my fav of Barbara Mason’s albums “Lady Love” with the great cover of “Me and Mrs Jones” among others.