Esther Phillips – 1975 – What A Diff’rence A Day Makes
it has timeless cool all over it, from the musical arrangement, the great writing context, and most of all the dynamic and strong vocal delivery of Ms.Esther Phillips!
A1 One Night Affair (5:48)
A2 What A Diff’rence A Day Makes (4:28)
A3 Mister Magic (4:22)
A4 You’re Coming Home (3:24)
B1 I Can Stand A Little Rain (3:21)
B2 Hurtin’ House (5:00)
B3 Oh Papa (4:18)
B4 Turn Around, Look At Me (3:57)
Esther Phillips recorded her first work with Johnny Otis in 1949 at the grand age of 13 years old, then in 1950 became the youngest R&B singer to have a #1 US R&B hit (“Double Crossing Blues”). The following year yielded six more Top Ten R&B hits, although from 1952 success dried up with Phillips then moving on from Johnny Otis and Savoy to new label Lenox (and in 1962 scoring her first hit in ten years with “Release Me”). In 1964 Lenox went bust and Phillips moved on to Atlantic where she made some great records (including two great live albums ‘Confessin’ The Blues’ and ‘Burnin’ – both with King Curtis) but garnered little real chart success (although ‘Burnin’ did reach #7 on the R&B Album charts in late 1970). Apart from a brief stint with Roulette (1968-1970) Phillips stayed with Atlantic until joining Kudu in 1972.
By this time (despite the occasional heroin relapse – a habit she had picked up when with the Johnny Otis Band – which would plague her until her death in 1984 at the age of 48), Phillips was in dynamic vocal form, and with Pee Wee Ellis serving as arranger, released three stunning soul albums by the end of 1973 (‘From A Whisper To A Scream’, ‘Alone Again, Naturally’, ‘Black-Eyed Blues’). On the back of these recordings Phillips garnered some serious mainstream praise in 1974 – Rolling Stone Magazine’s Best R&B Singer award, Ebony Magazine’s Best Female Blues Singer (which she one again in 1975), Downbeat Magazine praise, NAACO Image Award and a French Academie du Jazz Award. However as the decade progressed and disco became more prevalent (and perhaps more importantly Pee Wee Ellis was replaced), things became slicker, and although Phillips scored her biggest international hit single with her disco remake of Dinah Washington’s “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes”, (and Great Records with Joe Beck) by the end of 1977 Phillips had moved on from Kudu to her own production company ESTO (and arranger Pee Wee Ellis again).
Reading the credits of What a Diff’rence a Day Makes, one could easily assume that it is a jazz album. This 1975 LP was produced by Creed Taylor and arrangedby guitarist Joe Beck Esther Phillips could have easily delivered a first-class jazz album. But What a Diff’rence a Day Makes doesn’t contain any jazz — not even jazz-funk or soul-jazz. It is, however, an excellent soul/disco outing. This LP is best known for its hit title song, an inspired disco version of a standard that has usually been heard in jazz and pre-rock pop settings. But the song works surprisingly well as disco, and the other tracks are equally impressive. Phillips is as soulful and convincing on the bluesy “I Can Stand a Little Rain” as she is on Gamble Huff’s “One Night Affair” (a Philadelphia soul classic that was recorded by Jerry Butler in 1972 and the O’Jays in 1969) and Ralph MacDonald’s “Mister Magic.”The latter is the gem that Grover Washington Jr. is best remembered for; while his famous version was instrumental jazz-funk, Phillips’ is vocal-oriented soul. It should be noted that most of the jazz musicians who back Phillips on What a Diff’rence a Day Makes are not jazz snobs. The Brecker Brothers and Sanborn, for example, have done their share of RB sessions, and they would probably be the first to tell you that this LP needs to be judged by RB standards instead of jazz standards. And when RB standards are applied, it is easy to conclude that What a Diff’rence a Day Makes is among Phillips’ finest releases.
It’s a strange one this it suggests R&B but turns out to be disco/Jazz. It is however a great funky 70’s up beat album which is all the more strange when you consider her personal situation, which wasn’t that good. The stand out track here is her interpretation of “What a Difference a day makes” by Dinah Washington she funks it up a little and it has me dancing every time I hear it.