Betty Harris – 1969 – Soul Perfection

Renowned in deep soul circles for the devastating ballad ‘Cry to Me,’ Betty Harris left home at 17 to pursue a career on secular music, briefly apprenticing under R&B star Big Maybelle before eventually landing in California. In 1960 she cut the single ‘Taking Care of Business’ for the Douglas label.

Record promoter Babe Chivian recommended that Harris relocate to New York City, promising her an audition with Brill Building producer Bert Berns. 

Tracks
A1 Ride Your Pony 3:05
A2 What a Sad Feeling 2:19
A3 Bad Luck 2:23
A4 I’m Gonna Git Ya 2:28
A5 Show It 2:54
A6 Can’t Last Much Longer 2:44
A7 I Don’t Wanna Hear It 2:20
A8 Sometime 2:23
B1 Mean Man 2:35
B2 Lonely Hearts 3:02
B3 Hook Line ‘N’ Sinker 2:35
B4 What’d I Do Wrong 2:46
B5 Trouble With My Lover 2:41
B6 Nearer to You 2:31
B7 I’m Evil Tonight 2:19
B8 12 Red Roses 2:28

He immediately dispatched Harris to the recording studio, and in just three takes she turned ‘Cry to Me’, into a top 10 R&B hit (#23 Pop) and a Deep Soul classic.

Two further singles were released on Jubilee, with ‘His Kiss’making the lower part of Billboard Pop and R&B charts. When ‘Mo Jo Hannah’ met a similar fate, Berns opted to cut his losses. During a 1965 tour, Harris met New Orleans composer and producer Allen Toussaint, and with the superbly slinky ‘I’m Evil Tonight’ she became the first artist to record for his fledgling Sansu label. The bluesy balladry of Harris’ Jubilee sides gave way to a funky, sensual dynamic that heralded a new era of New Orleans R&B.

The 1966 ballad ‘Sometime’ was backed by the brilliant ‘I Don’t Want to Hear It’, Toussaint’s edgiest and most aggressive production to date. The subsequent ‘12 Red Roses’ further refined the approach, and with 1967’s ‘Nearer to You’ Harris finally returned to the R&B Top 20, delivering another sublimely emotional performance. ‘Love Lots of Lovin’’, a duet with Lee Dorsey, closed out the year.

 

Harris forged on, with 1968’s ‘Mean Man’ delivering her grittiest effort to date. She then ended her Sansu tenure with the fierce Trouble with My Lover’, reuniting with Toussaint for one final collaboration, the 1969 funk cult classic ‘There’s a Break in the Road’.

This out of print set contains all of the Jubilee, Sansu & SSS International works (including first-time stereo mixes and previously unissued material) recorded by one of soul music’s most talented yet underrated singers.