Merry Clayton – 1970 – Gimme Shelter

Merry Clayton Gimme Shelter front

In order to understand the genuine class act you’re dealing with here – a potted-history of Merry Clayton’s past vocal glories will set the scene. She contributed to Neil Young‘s “The Old Laughing Lady” and “I’ve Loved Her So Long” on his self-titled debut album in 1968, sings on Joe Cocker‘s “Feelin’ Alright” from his “With A Little Help From My Friends” debut album from 1969 and is on Allen Toussaint‘s magical “From A Whisper To A Scream” (1970). Just as impressively Merry sings on “Way Over Yonder”, “Where You Lead” and “Smackwater Jack” on Carole King‘s magisterial “Tapestry” album (1971). Then there are sessions for B.B. King, Jesse Davis, Neil Diamond, Charles Wright, Jimmy Witherspoon, Billy Preston, Lee Michaels, Linda Ronstadt, Leon Russell, Ruth Copeland, Chi Coltrane, David T. Walker, Etta James, Rare Earth, The Who and even Ringo Starr.

But her most famous outing has to be her duet vocals with Mick Jagger on “Gimme Shelter” – one of the standout album tracks from “Let It Bleed” – the Rolling Stones masterpiece from 1969 (it was the first album produced by Jimmy Miller who suggested Merry for the vocals). She even turns up on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974 and “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos in 1994… So it’s hardly surprising that she signed to Lou Adler’s Ode Records in the late Sixties and quickly pushed out two solo albums – “Merry Clayton” from 1971 – and this – “Gimme Shelter” – her debut from 1970.

Tracks
A1 Country Road 3:35
A2 Tell All The People 2:44
A3 Bridge Over Troubled Water 5:50
A4 I’ve Got Life 3:18
A5 Gimme Shelter 3:00
B1 Here Come Those Heartaches Again 3:05
B2 Forget It I Got It 2:44
B3 You’ve Been Acting Strange 3:06
B4 I Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Away 4:06
B5 Good Girls 3:30
B6 Glad Tiding 2:41

Merry Clayton Gimme Shelter back

Review by Mark Barry

Released on Ode Records SP-77001 in the USA and on A&M Records AMLS 995 in the UK in late 1970 – the original vinyl album featured a world-class session band (Victor Feldman on Vibes, Joe Sample of The Crusaders on keyboards to name but two) and was top-heavy with contemporary cover versions of the time (but in a good way).

Musically this is uplifting Soul with organs, brass, girly backing singers and impassioned lead vocals – a sort of Atlantic Aretha Franklin one moment then United Artists Tina Turner the next. And right from her opening cover of James Taylor’s “Country Road” – the album hits you with one classy tune after another. Number 2 is another upbeat reinterpretation – a great variant of The Doors “Tell All The People“. But both are aced by a slowed-down and deeply soulful version of Simon and Garfunkel’s beautiful anthem “Bridge Over Troubled Waters“. Written by Galt McCormack “I’ve Got Life” started out in the “Hair” musical and was made famous by Nina Simone on her 1968 “Nuff ‘Said” album. Side 1 ends with her own superb guitar-and-brass take on “Gimme Shelter” with its “just a shot away…” lyrics (it was issued as the 1st of 2 singles off the album in the USA on Ode Records ODE-66003 with “Good Girls” as its flipside).

Merry Clayton Gimme Shelter label

Side Two opens with pure magic – a cover of the James Cleveland song “Here Comes Those Heartaches Again” done originally by Kim Weston on her 1970 album “Big Brass Four Poster” (on James Brown’s People label). It doesn’t say who added the strings but the song suddenly elevates into sublime Jimmy Webb territory – a little like “5:30 Plane” by The Supremes on their 1972 Motown LP “The Supremes Produced And Arranged By Jimmy Webb”. That gorgeous orchestration appears again on the album’s lone original “I Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Away” – a blistering Etta James type torch ballad that Merry co-wrote with Billy Preston.

The other superb Preston contribution here is “You’ve Been Acting Strange” – his own version surfaced on his September 1970 Apple Records album “Encouraging Words”. There’s a Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones Producer) and Gary Wright (of Spooky Tooth) song too called “Forget It, I Got It” which is so slinky and very cool. It was used as the B-side to “Country Road” issued as a 45 in the USA on Ode Records ODE-66007 (the 2nd and last single off the album). Things are brassed-up again with Billy Page’s “Good Girls” and rounded off with a crowd-in-the studio version of “Glad Tidings” – a Van Morrison cover from his 1970 “Moondance” album that doesn’t quite work for me. Others like it though as an upbeat finisher. Concluding – with so few clunkers and so many great song choices – this an absolute gem of an album from back in the day.

Get this gorgeous, uplifting and criminally forgotten goody in your life as soon as you can.

 

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22 Comments
  • Selma
    Posted at 16:21h, 20 October 2016 Reply

    Absolutely incredible voice.

  • Jill
    Posted at 22:57h, 20 October 2016 Reply

    Oh Merry. She has taken part to so many great songs.

  • Marlon
    Posted at 23:09h, 20 October 2016 Reply

    Straight fire.

  • Barry
    Posted at 08:57h, 21 October 2016 Reply

    Love it. Classic songs.

  • rich
    Posted at 19:45h, 21 October 2016 Reply

    thank you nikos

  • Sisse
    Posted at 23:33h, 21 October 2016 Reply

    One of the greatest singers ever. Thank u.

  • Noah
    Posted at 23:50h, 21 October 2016 Reply

    Nostalgia!

  • Frast89
    Posted at 00:06h, 22 October 2016 Reply

    Never get tired of listening to Gimme Shelter.

  • Roland
    Posted at 10:13h, 22 October 2016 Reply

    A must have.

  • Chinagirl
    Posted at 16:55h, 22 October 2016 Reply

    Wonderful LP

  • Jerome
    Posted at 18:58h, 22 October 2016 Reply

    Thumbs up ♥ ❤♥ ❤♥

  • Ferryman
    Posted at 11:57h, 23 October 2016 Reply

    Great way to begin my Sunday with a true classic and it’s um um good!

  • Christian
    Posted at 15:57h, 23 October 2016 Reply

    Un très bon album !

  • Beck
    Posted at 22:35h, 23 October 2016 Reply

    it’s just a shot away…
    What a timeless classic song.

  • Romano
    Posted at 09:01h, 25 October 2016 Reply

    Excellent work by Mrs Clayton

  • Drela
    Posted at 09:47h, 25 October 2016 Reply

    RESPECT! thanks for sharing.

  • Apollo
    Posted at 10:32h, 25 October 2016 Reply

    many thanks guys. never heard this record before.

  • Antonio
    Posted at 00:17h, 27 October 2016 Reply

    Brilliant music choice as ever and cheers for the diggin’ and uploading. Excellent stuff.

  • Dell
    Posted at 09:43h, 27 October 2016 Reply

    Much love from Boston. Great work.

  • Ian Oliveira
    Posted at 12:51h, 27 October 2016 Reply

    This is a MASSIVE bit of SOUL/ROCK POWER! Thanks so much!!!

  • Grumpy
    Posted at 10:25h, 14 December 2016 Reply

    Thank you!

  • Mut
    Posted at 18:41h, 03 February 2017 Reply

    Never heard of her until this post so I ran out to my local record shop and they had this album and her next one that is self titled. I grab the self titled for $45 and it is worth every penny. Thanks for turning me on to this!

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