An overlooked gem on Stax Records – one of the only records ever cut by Bettye Crutcher – also a songwriter with the label, but a hell of a singer on her own! Bettye’s got a style here that’s very unique – still in a Stax mode, but a bit more sophisticated too – with a subtle groove that almost feels like some of the best female soul singers coming out of the Chicago scene at the time! Sir Mack Rice co-wrote most of the tunes with Bettye – and they’ve got a vibe that’s really great – and which has made the record a real standout from Stax over the years – really unified, and really deep – in a way that goes past any easy hit modes or cliches. It includes the sublime track “Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us In Love” (Dusty Groove).
A1 Long As You Love Me 2.52
A2 When We’re Together 3.38
A3 Passion 4.20
A4 A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt 4.08
A5 Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us In Love 4.55
B1 Sugar Daddy 3.48
B2 Call Me When All Else Fails 5.01
B3 Up For A Let Down 3.24
B4 So Lonely Without You 2.59
B5 Sleepy People 4.27
So Glad To Have You
Don’t You Think It’s About Time?
Make A Joyful Noise
We’ve Got Love On Our Side
Walk On To Your New Love
I Forgive You
Review by RDTEN1
Sadly her name doesn’t attract the attention it deserves given the late Bettye Crutcher was an immensely talented singer, songwriter and producer. Unfortunately good luck finding any real information on the woman, let along her wonderful solo LP.
The mid-1960s found Crutcher living in Memphis. A single parent raising three boys on her own, she paid her bills working as a full time nurse, but had a driving desire to make it in the music business. As a result she worked her medical job all day; fed and put her kids to bed, and then would write and record material into the early hours of the morning. A prolific songwriter she initially tried to score a contract with Hi Records but was turned down by the label. A 1966 audition with Stax didn’t go much better with David Porter supposedly telling Crutcher that her material wasn’t bluesy enough. A week later Crutcher returned with a slew of bluesy material and was signed on as a staff writer.
Teamed with Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson (known collectively as We Three), the trio almost immediately scored a massive hit in the form of Johnny Taylor‘s cover of ‘Who’s Making Love‘ and over the next three years became one of the biggest sources of hit material for Stax. following the breakup of the We Three writing team Crutcher continued to enjoy successes on her own. Those successes eventually saw Crutcher given an opportunity to record on her own.
Co-produced by Crutcher and longtime writing partner Mack Rice, 1974’s “Long As You Love Me” was a pleasant surprise to me ears. Many folks make their names as songwriters due to the fact they simply couldn’t cut it as performers, but it turns out Crutcher was an exception to the rule. Blessed with an attractive, if slightly underpowered voice Crutcher proved herself a more than capable performer on this set. While it wasn’t a perfect comparison, on songs like ‘Up for a Little Down‘ Crutcher came off sounding like a tougher Dionne Warwick – imagine Warwick with Memphis soul roots rather than her MOR orientation and you’d be in the ballpark … Showcasing ten original songs (most co-written with Rice), the set was equally divided between ballads and more up tempo numbers. While ballads like ‘Long As You Love Me‘ and ‘Passion‘ were quite enjoyable, Crutcher was actually at her best on up tempo and slinkier numbers like the funky groover ‘When We’re Together‘, ‘A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt‘ and the top 40-ready ‘Sugar Dady‘.
That said the set certainly had some limitations. Crutcher lacked the chops to handle a truly gritty song – check out her ragged performance on ‘Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us In Love’ and the heavy orchestration occasionally threatened to drown her out (blame arranger Johnny Allen). Maybe not one of the best Stax albums, but well worth checking out. Elsewhere Enterprise tapped the album for a single in the form of:
- 1974’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ b/w ‘As Long As You Love Me’ (Enterprise catalog number 2031)
Unfortunately with little promotional support from Stax the album didn’t do much commercially.
Readily admitting that she undertook it to make some money, Crutcher also contributed to the soundtrack for the blaxploitation flick “The Klansman”.
The CD reissue except the original 10-track album is now supplemented by 6 bonus tracks, one of which is that excellent “Make a Joyful Noise“. The CD also comes with a thin booklet that includes an essay about Bettye, written by noted Soul historian Tony Rounce.
For fans of southern soul, especially the early to mid ’70s stylings, this album is a very pleasant discovery.
An interview with Bettye Crutcher