Claudia Lennear – 1973 – Phew

What can we say about the personality of this woman, when two of the greatest artits of all time (Mick Jigger and David Bowie) wrote two of their best songs for her?

She made Jagger weak at the knees “Brown Sugar” she hitched up with David Bowie and that “Lady Grinning Soul” was in honour of her allure the foxy funky diva that she was “PHEW”!!

In the 70′s as a session and back up singer for Ike & Tina Turner where she met Mick Jagger on the Infamous Stones tour of 1969 she also sang with Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Al Kooper and can be seen in The Concert For Bangla Desh Film. Over in Wolfgangs Vault there is a Leon Russell Gig where she and Kathi McDonald (Another Great Voice) are singing back up vocals in his band worth checking out. There is also footage of her shaking her funky stuff with Tina Turner on Playboy After Dark in 1971.

Claudia Lennear’s 1973 album, Phew, produced by Ian Samwell, had an interesting collection of songs and players, using a different set of musicians on each side.

Side one with Ry Cooder on guitar and several members of the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (Jim Dickinson and Tommy McClure). Side two under the supervision of Allen Toussaint who wrote all the compositions, plays the piano and doing the horn arrangements. Together with some of the best musicians, like Chuck Rainey on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Spooner Oldham on electric piano.

This is a @320 vinyl rip

Warners Bros LP BS2654

Side one
A1. It Ain’t Easy (Ry Cooder : electric guitar)
A2. Sing With The Children (Ry Cooder : electric bottleneck guitar)
A3. Sister Angela
A4. Not At All (Ry Cooder : electric bottleneck guitar)
A5. Casey Jones

Side two
B1. Going Down
B2. From A Whisper To A Scream
B3. Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky
B4. What’d I Do Wrong
B5. Going Down (reprise)

Produced by : Ian Samwell (tracks 1-5), Allen Toussaint (tracks 6-10)

Musicians (tracks 1-5)
Ry Cooder – electric bottleneck guitar, electric guitar (where shown), John Craviotto – drums
Jim Dickinson – piano, guitar, Charles Grimes – guitar, Milt Holland – percussion
Tommy McClure – bass guitar, Mike Utley – hammond organ

Musicians (tracks 6-10)
Arthur Adams – guitar, Harold Battiste, Jr. – alto sax, Tessie Calderon – congas
Gene Cipriano – baritone sax, Marlin Greene – guitar, Paul Hubinon – trumpet
Dick Hyde – trombone , Jim Keltner – drums, Rick Littlefield – guitar
Warren Luening, Jr. – trumpet, Lew McReary – trombone, Don Menza – tenor sax, flute
Spooner Oldham – electric piano, Chuck Rainey – bass guitar, William Smith – hammond organ,
Allen Toussaint – piano

1

Claudia Lennear should have been huge! She had a great pedigree that was a publicists dream ( Ikette, One of Leon Russell’s Shelter People and Jagger wrote Brown Sugar about her). Warner Brothers threw lots of money at this album, top session players, gate fold sleeve, very sexy photo inside. The album is split into two halves. The first side is the ‘Rock’ side with definite Stones vibe with Ry Cooder, Mike Utley, Milt Holland and Jim Dickinson all putting their talents into the mix; the second side is a suite of four (minor) Allain Toussaint songs with the great man in charge of musical direction and on piano, and another set of top sessioner’s at work. They all work their up a fine funky sound, but unfortunately CL bottled it. This is most peculiar singing style, she can start a line as if she is going to go all out for it only to pull out. If Chaka Khan or Tina Turner had had the vocal duties then this could have been huge, unfortunately, it is just average. I was fortunate to get a press release in my copy. In it Claudia tell the world that “It’s a whole different feeling being in the spotlight instead of hidden in a chorus of nine people. I like it, but I’m just beginning to discover who the real Claudia Lennear is, myself” It would seem that she wasn’t comfortable in front, as this is the only album she ever got the chance to make.
2

It was only a couple of weeks ago that while saying Thanx for a cool Grant Green album in comments that I made my humble request through a Merlot haze for this long lost solo effort from 1973.I remember always seeing and drooling over this gorgeous album cover in the cut out bins at Virgin Records, but as Prog and Kraut was my main tastes back in the day the funk had yet to creep into my soul. It was only recently while listening to a rare funk soul comp that had the track “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” on it did I put 2 & 2 together Doh!!!!
That in turn started the quest to track it down and ended up where we are today. The danger has always been that you start to crave hearing the album so much that you build it into a masterpiece of proportions so high that by the time you actually track it down and get to play it you are left disappointed!!! After playing it twice here’s what I think. The first thing I noticed was Ry Cooder’s guitar is pure Keef riffage on the opening track, now that has to be good right? shame that Claudia seems a bit uninvolved and that her vocal could be stronger cause I know she can belt it out anytime she needs to, Also the song seemed very familiar then it clicked this is the Ron Davies track that David Bowie covered and made his own on ZIGGY STARDUST, She sang back up on Davies 2nd Album U.F.O. from 1971.
Track two is also a Ron Davies song and from where I stand the rest of side 1 is just going through the motions soul by numbers vocally and the songs aren’t that memorable, Jimmy Miller could have done wonders with these musicians me thinks. Not a bad first side but just not that great and I agree with Nikos when he said average.
Side two is a different story altogether, Now we’re talking the funk. Allen Toussaint’s production has a nice open live feel and Miss Lennear seems more at home dressed in the squelchy wah wah guitar funky bass and brass he envelopes her in. This is more like it, in fact I would suggest renumber Nikos tracks and put the 2nd side long track first followed by side one tracks and you will enjoy the album a lot more, in the days of vinyl I would have had side 2 on first every time. Not the funk masterpiece I had always hoped it would be but a fine album for the Funk Blog Downloads Folder on the PC. Anyone wanting to hear more should check out in no particular order……Ike & Tina Turner
Humble Pie – Rock on , Leon Russell – Leon Russell (Claudia and Kathi McDonald)
Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Ron Davies – U.F.O.
The Dependables – Klatu Berrada Niktu 1971, Gene Clarke – No Other
and countless other sessions too many to mention (by Kundalini69)

Note
Side two is a suite with no gap among the songs. So i give two opportunities. The whole album with the songs split (the best way i could) and side two as one song (suite) as Allen Toussaint probably wanted.

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Comments

  1. deafone says:

    Funk my mind and bless my soul, much thanks, and keep funkin the world into a state of soul

  2. DJ Abe says:

    Thank you…..

  3. jerome green says:

    Thank you, Nikos

    And I thought Betty Davis was interesting! Excellent!
    Extra special thanks for smooth side 2.

    Peace, Jerome Green

  4. Dot says:

    Does anyone know where Claudia is? I’m intrested in possibly writing a book about her.

  5. Mr sam says:

    Claudia Lennear is great and I am very happy to know her now. But sorry Mr J. Green. Betty Davis is unreachable…

  6. Todd says:

    Does anyone out there have any info to share on Claduia Lennear beyond the few pcs. out there in cyberspace? I recently watched the move Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and saw her but didn’t know who she was. So I waited for the credits, got her name and have been looking online for info about her but there’s so little info out there. Did she continue to work in the music biz? If not, why did she get out? When was she born and where?Did she marry, have kids, etc? I cannot find any recent write-ups, pics or “where are they now” type of information on her. Her “Wikipedia” page is pathetic at best. Any recent information on her would be most appreciated. Todd

  7. rare_vinyl_records says:

    Does anyone know the value of this album? I’m selling a copy on E-bay and really would appreciate a guide
    Thanks in anticipation
    David

  8. Greg Sereda says:

    In the early 80′s at the el mocambo in Toronto I met a girl who used the stage name Coco Dejour. She was doing back up vocals for Long John Baldry along with Kathi McDonald. Could this of been Claudia? I know Claudia and Kathi did other jobs together (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi0ot4GD2_w).

    This is driving me nuts,
    Greg

  9. badabing says:

    I worked with Claudia recently. She’s thinking about going back into the “biz” but wasn’t sure. She’s a mystery, didn’t find out about her till I found her record at a vintage store. She still has the pipes though and her smile is contageous.

  10. Scot says:

    Saw Claudia live accompanying Leon Russell in Toronto, a week after GH Bangladesh Concert. She didn’t need a mike.

  11. wsgf822 says:

    I was lucky enough to see Claudia perform many times with Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge and Joe Cocker, incl. the GH concert for Bangladesh (minus JC and Rita). I still have her LP and wouldn’t part with it. I’ll never forget how she’d lean back and throw her whole body into the song. I’d love to see Claudia and Rita together again or separately. Leon was in the LA area recently, but I missed his concert. I did see an amazing Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood concert at the Hollywood Bowl this month and they had some great backup singers but I couldn’t help wishing that it was Claudia & Rita! I would love some recent info!

  12. andrew chavez says:

    i worked with Claudia at Albertsons. She actually hired me there. trip!!!

  13. Tom Semoili says:

    I asked Leon regardig Claudia’s whereabouts in 2008 after his set at BB King’s. Stopped him dead in his tracks! The search continues –Andrew Chavez -give us more details! And what about this Coco Dejour?

  14. Mr.E says:

    She’s doing great. Actually a really close friend of mine. She owns the largest collection of my artwork. WShe’s a mystery though, didn’t know she was big until a coworker told me to google her. She doesn’t talk about her past, although by the little info Iv’ve gathered, she should talk about it. She’s really humble and still belts out the tunes. I hope she does go back to the industry…I will definately support her.

  15. Kiambu AbdulMalik Akhdarr says:

    I first became aware of Claudia Lennear at the time “PHEW” debut,at that time I was in the early begings of studying Rock guitar. I was immediately struck by her sheer beauty,the flawless ebonskin,lengthy dark hair and her undeniable sensuality–Who Is This Woman??? I had to buy her album and find out. Regretably PHEW didnt rise to my expectations but despite this for reasons I cant explain I was a constant listener of this work and Im sorry she never released a second LP, it would’ve been intresting to see if she developed musicly. Perhaps my favorite track on the album is ‘NOT AT ALL” for some reason it reminded me of the Jimi Hendrix tune “Can You See Me/” I guess largely because of its similar drive. [ I will incorporate her tune into my repitore of songs on my guitar] There was no information about her on her album about herself and I learned overtime she played with various artists

  16. Kiambu AbdulMalik Akhdarr says:

    P.S. Apart from her being one of the most beautiful darken ebon-skin actress on comparisson with Aziz Johari and Judy Pace, I have to agree with Mr.E “I hope she goes back to the industry” and I will definately be supporting her from the sidelines when/if she does. Love You Claudia,take care

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks much … and also for doing side 2 separately. Thant helped.

  18. Christian says:

    Nice…I was intrigued by the review which said she was the inspiration for a few songs from some heavyweights, had to check this one out and I am right there with the opening line, Why wasn’t she huge? Aside from being stunning, I love the voice. I’m listening to it right now and I’m loving it…Thank you FUNKMYSOUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am learning, a good education…….

  19. Steve Ingham says:

    I played drums for Claudia in a “back-up” band we had in Hollywood in 1973 called Bump City. We then went on the road for about 15 dates….which included opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the Schaeffer Beer Festival in NYC – Central Park on my 21st Birthday. Got to sneak into a club with Claudia in NYC – Max’s Kansas City and saw Bruce Springsteen and Bob Marley and the Whalers on the same stage….GREAT night. We then played up the East Coast winding up in her home town of Providence, Rhode Island where soon after we had no more gigs. That was the last we saw of Claudia. Hope she is doing well.

  20. Jim says:

    I got Phew the week it debuted, and have been listening to it ever since. It’s strange to me now to hear the samme tracks without all the pops and ticks from 37+ years of use. I CAN”T THANK YOU ENOUGH!
    I caught tour in NYC at Carnegie Hall, she was the opening act for the headliner Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band (Garden Party). I did not go to see Rick Nelson (although it as a pleasant enough performanc). I was there for Claudia, stayed for the Rick Nelson opening number than ran out to be sure to catch Claudia exiting for a autograph.
    A while later the stagedoor opens and She walks out all by herself carrying her stuff (a boa etc…).
    The performance was great she even did some Billy Holiday.
    Thanks again.

  21. Angus Wynne says:

    I met Claudia in ’67 at my club, Soul City, in Dallas, where she was an Ikette–and at times actually overshadowed the fabulous lead singer in the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Claudia always stood out for her uncanny beauty and awesome pipes, and was a sweetheart to boot, friendly and open, always approachable and unassuming for someone so stunningly gorgeous.

    I would run into her subsequently with more appearances with the Revue and later on the Mad Dogs tour and we always had a great time together. I last got together with Claudia in ’70 as she and Kathi backed Leon at a mini-festival in Austin at the University of Texas baseball field. She came down off the stage soaking wet, that beautiful skin just glowing! An incredible singer…

    I I’ve always wondered where and how she was and can only surmise that the road got the best of her and that wanted a different life. I’d love to get in touch with her if anyone has an inkling of where she might be found.

  22. Dan Claffey says:

    I have discover a dozen hand written songs of Clauida many she co-wrote with other artist this mate dates from 1966-1975 Guess I’m Read For Love, Go Ahead On, .you can’t miss nothing you never had, Rege, i need him now, contact me if anyone has her contact info I found her note books from he London Tour with Leonard Cohen 1972 ..Dan Claffey cell 1-661-466-3562 Los Angeles

  23. I recall reading someplace that her one and only solo album (above) will be re-released on CD in ’13 or 2014. Keep watching the skies…

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