Barbara Howard – 1969 – On the Rise
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Only 500 copies were pressed of this sole LP by Ohio soul singer Barbara Howard. Barbara has a beautiful voice and her interpretations of several soul classics is breathtaking. “Welcome home” is supported by plaintive horns and surpasses all other known versions. She does Aretha’s “Oh me Oh my” as well as “My song”; other beauties include the Doors’ “Light my fire” and “It’s not unusual”. What makes this LP stand out is the heartfelt and charmingly primitive production sound overall achieved by producer Steven Reece.
A1 Light My Fire 2:40
A2 My Song 2:58
A3 You’ve Made Me So Happy 3:36
A4 I Need You 3:15
A5 Welcome Home 2:25
B1 Save Your Love For Me 2:30
B2 Oh Me Oh My, I’m A Fool 2:40
B3 The Man Above 2:30
B4 It’s Not Unusual 1:50
B5 For Once In My Life 3:30
It started, as all these things tend to, with an eager promotions man named Steven Reece. Reece was working for an organization called Operation Step-Up in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he had an idea to do a local talent search to maybe put out on a few concerts to promote Civil Rights. His search lead him to Barbara Howard, a young singer with a buttery voice like Dionne or Diana, but who could pack a punch like Mavis.
Reece became so entranced with Howard’s voice that he launched a record label solely to put out her records. The label lasted all of 18-ish months. It’s sole issues: three Barbara Howard singles, and her debut LP, On the Rise. The album basically came and went; Howard is not a name you probably know. She did not play the American Bandstand or hit the Top 40. In the meantime, Howard and Reece got married, had three kids, one of whom became a state congresswoman
That’s where this story would have ended if On The Rise didn’t become a crate-digging phenomenon. “Welcome Home” became a classic for soul DJs, and the LP itself — pressed in a very small quantity — usually sells for $250 in its original form on Discogs. It might have remained the province of crate-diggers only if not for a sealed copy walking into Plaid Room Records, the record store owned by the folks at Colemine Records, who tracked down the Reeces, and made a reissue happen.