Esther Phillips - 1972 – From A Whisper To A Scream
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Esther Phillips had a long and storied career and all of her recordings for KUDU have something nice on them, but this is probably the best one.
The credits for “From A Whisper To A Scream“, Esther’s 1972 Kudu debut – considered by many to be her finest album for the label – lists such renowned players as Hank Crawford on sax, Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree on guitar, Bernard Purdie on drums, Richard Tee on keyboards and Gordon Edwards on bass. Also enlisting the cream of background singers (Joshie Armstead, Hilda Harris and Tasha Thomas) giving Esther just the right vocal cushion for her blues-tinged interpretations of works by everyone from poet/singer Gil Scott-Heron and the great Marvin Gaye to New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and soul man Eddie Floyd.
A1 Home Is Where the Hatred Is 3:25
A2 From a Whisper to a Scream 4:15
A3 To Lay Down Beside You 5:00
A4 That’s All Right With Me 3:20
A5 ‘Til My Back Ain’t Got No Bone 3:15
B1 Sweet Touch of Love 3:15
B2 Baby, I’m for Real 4:20
B3 Your Love is So Doggone Good 3:55
B4 Scarred Knees 6:15
One of our favorite-ever albums from Esther Phillips – an album that really helped her transform her sound for the 70s! The approach here is a lot more jazzy than before – served up with a good dose of funk, thanks to arrangements from Pee Wee Ellis – fresh from his work with James Brown, but even more electrically-oriented here! The groove is great – and the album’s one of the best Kudu sides from the early 70s – a perfect blend of soul, jazz, and funk – all wrapped up with a new level of sophistication that benefits all parties involved. Other players include Richard Tee on keyboards, Eric Gale on guitar, Bernard Purdie on drums, Airto on percussion, and Hank Crawford on alto sax. Titles include an incredible cover of Gil Scott Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”(Dusty Groove).
One of Esther Phillips finest ’70s releases, “From a Whisper to a Scream” is the first of seven albums the singer recorded for CTI offshoot Kudu. Arranged and conducted by Pee Wee Ellis, the December 1971 session also involved principal players such as bassist Gordon Edwards, drummer Bernard Purdie, percussionist Airto, guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale, keyboardist Richard Tee, and saxophonists Hank Crawford and David Liebman. Setting the tone for Phillips’ Kudu era, Whisper offers a series of spacious, yet fully arranged ballads of burning heartache, along with a handful of relatively funky numbers that do nothing to compromise her talent, dishing out loads of classy grit. It’s a definite point of departure from the likes of Esther Phillips Sings and And I Love Him, her field of contemporaries closer to Al Green and Aretha Franklin than before. She grabs onto “Home Is Where the Hatred Is“, Gil Scott-Heron’s most harrowing rumination on drug dependency — which, at that point, wasn’t even a year old — as if it were her very own, and it’s all the more poignant given its parallels with her own life. (Its meaning was only compounded by her death in 1984.) Though there is absolutely nothing lacking in the album’s more energetic moments, it’s still the ballads that shine brightest, like the alternately fragile and explosive “From a Whisper to a Scream” (Allen Toussaint) and a staggering “Baby, I’m for Real” (Marvin and Anna Gordy, made popular by the Originals) so vulnerable yet commanding that it really should’ve closed the album.
Enjoy her 1975 album “What A Diff’erence A Day Makes” on our back pages here.