Rosetta Hightower – 1971 – Rosetta Hightower

Rosetta Highower was lead voice with the Orlons, the prime US girl group who scored several top 10 US hits between 1962-1964. Their full Cameo Parkway releases and sessions have just been reissued by Abkco.

Rosetta first recorded in England in the late sixties , and joined the ranks of the then all conquering female sessions singers who seemed to back every hit going: Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan, Kay Garner , Kiki Dee, Liza Strike, Sue and Sunny.

Moving permanently to England in 1970 Rosetta married musician producer Ian Green and recorded an album for CBS, which was then swiftly followed by this one for Rediffusion. There are some truly fine arrangements of Motown songs complete with orchestration by Martyn Ford, and backing vocals from Kay Garner and Liza Strike .

With Rosettas powerful and strident vocals this album has a great pop soul crossover sound; in all, a widescreen approach to music.

Tracks
A1 Abraham Martin and John 4:40
A2 River Deep and Mountain High 3:17
A3 I Don’t Blame You at All 2:54
A4 Stoned Love 2:58
A5 Never Can Say Goodbye 2:36
A6 Friendship Train 3:51
B1 Ain’t No Mountain High Enough 2:52
B2 Tracks of My Tears 2:54
B3 Remember Me 3:08
B4 Signed Sealed Delivered 2:32
B5 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 2:41
B6 Every Little Bit Hurts 2:52

This wonderful recording – what basically amounts to a collection of Motown flavoured covers – slipped out, largely ignored, on the budget Rediffusion label sharing rack space with ‘TOTP’ and ‘Hot Hits’ compilations of the day. It always did deserve more attention, and its good to see RPM finally getting round to a welcome reissue. Ex-Orlons (“Don’t Hang Up”, “Spinning Top”) vocalist, Rosetta Hightower came to the UK in the late 60s, recording two 45s for Vicki Wickham’s short lived Toast label under the supervision of ace producer/arranger (and husband to be) Ian Green. Both 45s are included here as extra tracks, most notable being a fuzzy cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Big Bird” which blows the original off the dancefloor even to this day.

An LP for CBS followed, before a bevy of session work (alongside soul stalwarts such as Madeline Bell and Doris Troy) and this resulting LP followed in the early 70s. All interpretations wrap the originals in warm, soulful kisses but in a couple of instances – “I Don’t Blame You At All” (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) and “Every Little Bit Hurts” (Brenda Holloway) – go in for the big snog and actually surpass them. 

Although the song selection leans far too heavily on familiar recent soul hits like “Tracks of My Tears” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine“, her vocal prowess is undeniable: rather than showy over-souled histrionics, Hightower’s restraint becomes her trademark, lending an elegance to these smartly arranged pop-soul interpretations. It’s the four pre-album single sides that are a revelation, however: in particular, the energetic “Pretty Red Balloons” is a lost classic with a killer chorus featuring a swooping string section in the classic bubblegum tradition, and her version of Eddie Floyd’s “Big Bird” goes gritty and psychedelic in the manner of contemporaneous Temptations singles. 

Bonus

Rosetta Hightower ‎- 1970 – Hightowe

 Highly collectable album, originally released in 1970. Produced by the unsung and talented arranger/producer Ian Green, this album contains more unique material including three songs written by Rosetta, four by Family/Blind Faith’s Rich Grech, and two by Labi Siffre.

Very soulful, very powerful, very moving. 

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