Lavern Baker – 1970 – Let Me Belong to You
Brilliant later work from Lavern Baker – material recorded years after her bigger fame at Atlantic Records, but with vocals that are still equally sublime! The set’s got a very different feel than the blusier styles of before – and features wonderful Chicago soul production by Carl Davis and Eugene Record, but mixed with more uptown New York-styled arrangements from Teacho Wiltshire and Bert DeCoteaux – who mix strings and a bit of backing vocals with the harder rhythmic punch you’d expect from Brunswick. Some of the best cuts have a groovy groovy sound that really points the way to a whole new direction for Lavern.
A1 Pledging My Love 2:33
A2 Let Me Belong To You 2:14
A3 I’m The One To Do It 2:50
A4 Baby 2:46
A5 Born To Lose 2:48
B1 Call Me Darling 2:40
B2 Love Is Ending 2:45
B3 Baby Don’t You Do It 2:23
B4 I Need You So 2:08
B5 Play It Fair 2:13
Review by Soulmakossa
The legendary Lavern Baker, one of the founding mothers of R&B and all it stood for scored a string of hits between 1955 and 1963, but she had been ‘in the biz’ a good while longer, starting out in the 1940s as Little Miss Sharecropper. Her blues-based wailing and belting eventually graced such Top 10 R&B smashes as “Play It Fair” (1955), “Tra La La” (1956), “Jim Dandy” (1957), “I Cried a Tear” (1959) and “See See Rider” (1963).
This Rock & Roll diva with a rough Rhytm & Blues core saw her popularity decline in the mid 1960s, and she left Atlantic Records for Chicago-based Brunswick in 1964, where she would remain until 1969, aiming for a more soul-oriented sound. It would take the company six years to release this full-length album.
In the mid ’60s, Brunswick had the unfortunate habit of cloying its roster of artists with syruppy arrangements, out-of-place and old-timey orchestration and battalions of backing vocalists (case in point: the early to mid ’60s output of the aforementioned Wilson) and Lavern gets the same treatment on a overblown rendition of Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love“. “Baby” is just as over-produced, Mantovani strings and everything.
Luckily, that’s about the only tunes here that suffer from that approach. In fact, Lavern churns out a nice, sizzlin’ slice of Hammond-infested bluesy funk with a cover of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Need You So” and the snazzy, fast-paced beater “Love Is Ending” – from the pen of labelmate Fred Hughes – is Chicago Soul at its best.
The title-cut, recorded in 1965, is refreshingly ‘low-fi’ for Brunswick standards of the time. “Let Me Belong to You” is a superb ballad driven home by Lavern’s pleading, passionate vocal. The ghostly, string-laden ending is especially intense. “Born to Lose“, recorded around the same time, is of the same quality, although more lavishly orchestrated. The last tune from the 1965 session included here, “Call Me Darling“, is pleasant vocal jazz with some heavy blues guitar licks.
Baker also dips her toes in the Jackie Wilson songbook, churning out a funky cover of “I’m the One to Do It“, and is brilliantly gettin’ down on another Fred Hughes original especially written for her, the insatiably gritty, horn-driven “Baby Don’t You Do It” – check those congas! To add even more soul to that, Lavern also delivers a souled up version of her 1955 hit “Play It Fair“.
A mixed bag, but for the most part truly rewarding. It’s strange, though, that Brunswick opted to leave out far more contemporary cuts from this LP, like the single-only releases “One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show“, “Wrapped, Tied and Tangled” and “Nothing Like Falling in Love“. Oh, and Lavern’s 1966 single “Batman to the Rescue“, needs to be heard to be believed.
(Don’t worry, those singles are included in the file as bonus, enjoy!)