Millie Jackson – 1972 – Millie Jackson
This Millie Jackson’s tremendous debut album – and the work here is completely different from later records that have her more in a bitchy mode! Here, Millie’s a heartbroken southern diva – right in the vein of Ann Sexton, Doris Duke, or Shirley Brown – and even though the arrangements are done north of the Mason/Dixon line (in New York by Bert DeCoteaux, and in DC by Tony Camillo), the record feels like it was lifted off the pressing plant in Muscle Shoals or Jackson!
A1 If This Is Love 3:37
A2 I Ain’t Giving Up 2:34
A3 I Miss You Baby 2:54
A4 A Child Of God (It’s Hard To Believe)3:37
A5 Ask Me What You Want 2:49
B1 My Man, A Sweet Man 2:30
B2 You’re The Joy Of My Life 3:08
B3 I Gotta Get Away (From My Own Self)2:42
B4 I Just Can’t Stand It 3:01
B5 Strange Things 2:25
Millie Jackson‘s debut is one of the freshest albums of her career, her style remarkably mature and the sound an infectious blend of ’60s soul influences (from Motown to Stax to early Philly soul). Jackson’s just as tough and aggressively honest here as she would be on her breakout, 1974’s Caught Up, and songs like “I Ain’t Giving Up” and “I Miss You Baby” are of the same high caliber. She injects the perfect measure of anger and genuine confusion into the hypocrisy fable “A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe)” (her first R&B hit) and has no trouble switching gears for the affectionate “My Man, a Sweet Man“, with a driving bassline and handclaps making direct connections to the classic Motown sound. The biggest hit here was another love song, the swinging “Ask Me What You Want“, her second R&B Top Ten entry. Even though it never came together quite like Caught Up, Jackson’s first LP introduced a major talent to the R&B world.
So this is where it all began and no, she’s not really vulgar or anything yet. There is no real gimmick here, just her voice. She’s still got her unmistakably powerful, aggressive and commanding vocals, full of passion and honesty. It’s just purely good soul music, not too different than some of the later Motown stuff really, it does have some pepper to it though (which I like) but there is a load of sweetness too to balance things. I’m actually really surprised that she has such a confidence to her, even on her first album she sounds like she’s been doing this forever, it makes me feel confident that any Millie album I try I’m going to love. “I Ain’t Giving Up” is pretty wonderful and groovy, love the congo solo in this, it’s actually got a great arrangement. “A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe)” was her first real hit, it’s a rather political number about hardships and such. It even features a spoken word beginning which became a real characteristic of her style later on. Sometimes when the album gets a little too “Motown” it loses something as Millie’s grit seems out of place. It’s never bad or something just maybe not the best choices sometimes in songs like “My Man, A Sweet Man” and “You’re the Joy of My Life” for example. It ends on a high note with the lively and fun “Strange Things“, but the cd version contains unreleased demos and alternate takes that are quite a treat for fans. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty darned good start to one heck of a memorable career (Goregirl from Rateyourmusic).