Barbara Pennington – 1978 – Midnight Ride
Quite a wonderful 70s soul album with full orchestra and a glorious, soaring vocal by Barbara. The tunes are lovely and make for repeated listening. Highly recommended.
This album was sent by a new contributor Zero who runs a wonderful blog (here), I suggest you should visit it. You’ll find a lot of great music.
Barbara Pennington’s compelling, raise-the-dead voice is a cross between Chaka Khan’s and Gladys Knight’s, and is always exciting. Credit Ian Levine for sticking with the Chicago native he discovered in the ’70s on a mission to the Windy City. Levine’s at his best when he works with Pennington who delivers on the title track, “All Time Loser,” “Can’t Help Being Guilty,” and her first United Kingdom hits: “Running in Another Direction” and “Twenty-Four Hours a Day.”
This is a @320 vinyl rip (supplied by Zero) of the original LP including covers.
A1 Midnight Ride 4:47
A2 All Time Loser 6:33
A3 Trusted Friend 6:35
B1 Spend a Little Time With Me 6:15
B2 Can’t Help Being Guilty 5:30
B3 24 Hours a Day 3:22
B4 It’s so Hard Getting Over 4:05
B5 You Are the Music Within Me 3:31
In 1975, 22-year-old Englishman Ian Levine – already a successful Northern Soul DJ – wanted to start out as a producer and headed to Chicago to find some talented singers. Having worked with established soul group The Exciters, he held an audition and found three black singers he liked – Evelyn Thomas, L J Johnson and Barbara Pennington. He took them all to the studio in the summer of 1975, returned to England with the tapes and got them signed to 20th Century, Mercury and Island respectively. Barbara debuted with “Running in Another Direction” and went on a UK tour with Evelyn and L J to promote it but while her two colleagues had stronger promotion from their labels and both enjoyed Top 30 chart hits, Island wasn’t too supportive about Miss Pennington and the single sold a disappointing 5000 copies. After equally disappointing sales of the second single “…”, Levine went to the US and got her signed to United Artists. “24 Hours a Day” came out late 1976 and wasn’t geared towards the Northern Soul scene but rather to the rising disco market. The record with Barbara’s Chaka Khan-style vocals became a big hit on the American disco scene and remains one of Levine’s all-time favourites. Three more singles followed, all included in her first album Midnight Ride which was released 1978. Rather than being a disco record, this was a sophomore set of mellow soul.
Six years later, Levine sought her out again. He was now one of the leading producers of Hi-NRG, the electronic disco of the early 80s, and wanted to record with Barbara again. “All American Boy” who was “ready for action” and a “physical attraction” came out on Record Shack and became a big Hi-NRG hit and an obvious hit on the gay scene. Barbara herself, now residing in the UK, wasn’t too pleased with the record. She wasn’t into disco and rather wanted to do laid-back soul music instead. Consecuently, the intended follow-up single “Vanity” was instead given to Carol Jiani, and Barbara released “Way Down Deep in My Soul”, a mid-tempo soul track. It was, however, the next single “Fan the Flame” with doo-wop backing vocals and live brass which became a steady club and radio favourite and gave her a UK Top 40 hit. It was followed by “On a Crowded Street” which was equally popular, both tracks were taken from her 1985 album Out of the Darkest Night from which also the title track came out on single. By 1986, Levine had broken with Record Shack and formed his own Nightmare label, and “Don’t Stop the World” was the first single to come out on the label but it lacked the elegance of her previous singles and didn’t do well. Two more singles “There Are Brighter Days” and “I’ve Been a Bad Girl” followed over the next years but didn’t do that well either, and Barbara soon left show business for a 9-to-5 job by a phone company. The 90s saw increased interest in her works. “24 Hours a Day” was covered by DJ Nomad (aka Damon Rochefort) in 1992 and became a UK chart hit. Furthermore, Miami-based Hot Productions re-issued her two albums on CD with bonus tracks (including the previously unreleased “Vanity”) and also assembled a compilation, including her three Nightmare tracks.