Mitty Collier – 1966 – Shades of a Genius
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Having signed for Chess in 1961, Mitty spent the next eight years releasing fifteen singles and one album, Shades of A Genius. Although her debut single Gotta Get Away From It in 1961 failed to chart, by 1963 Mitty had her first hit single I’m Your Part Time Love,,which reached number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Her next big hit was a secular version of James Cleveland’s gospel song I Had A Talk With God Last Night, which was changed to I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night. This reached number forty-one in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. After the success of I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night, Mitty released her next single No Faith, No Love also written by James Cleveland. On its release in 1965, it reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100 and number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. Having had two successful singles, Chess decided that Mitty should record her debut album, Shades of A Genius.
A1 Come Back Baby 2:50
A2 I Had a Talk With My Man Last Night 2:35
A3 Would You Have Listened 2:35
A4 I Gotta Get Away From It All 3:05
A5 My Babe 2:20
A6 Hallelujah (I Love Him So) 2:45
B1 Drown in My Own Tears 2:50
B2 No Faith, No Love 3:30
B3 Together 2:30
B4 Let Them Talk 2:35
B5 Little Miss Loneliness 3:05
B6 Ain’t That Love 2:40
Review by Derek Anderson
Shades of A Genius was released in 1965, and featured twelve tracks. Three of the tracks were written by Ray Charles, while James Cleveland, Willie Dixon and Henry Glove contribute one apiece. The album was produced by Roquel Davis, while Riley Hampton, Bert Keyes and Phil Wright arranged the tracks. Sadly, Shades of A Genius wasn’t a commercial success, although there’s some wonderful music on the album. After this, Mitty had only one further hit single on Chess, Sharing You in 1966, which reached number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. Other singles were released, but failed to chart and after Mitty visit to Fame in 1968, where she worked with Rick Hall, rerecording Gotta Get Away From It All. However, this failed to revitalize her career, and shortly afterwards, Mitty left Chess.
Shades of A Genius opens with a song written by Ray Charles, Come Back Baby. It’s just the rhythm section and piano that accompany Mitty’s sad and powerful vocal. As the strings sweep in, she pleas with her lover to come back so “they can talk things over one more time.” Adding to the emotive and moving arrangement are the rasping horns, which cut in, punctuating the track, as Mitty’s voice soars, drenched in emotion and desperation. It’s a hugely moving track to open the album, demonstrating Mitty’s ability to bring lyrics to life, so much so that you almost become spellbound in her delivery.
Probably the best known track Mitty ever recorded was I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night, written by James Cleveland. From the first time I ever heard the track, I was smitten by both Mitty’s delivery and the arrangement. With an organ opening this beautiful ballad, while the rhythm section play subtly and a piano accompanies Mitty’s stunning vocal. Her vocal marries power, passion and emotion, while the arrangement floats along, at almost like a waltz. What really helps the track is the arrangement, which builds and builds, reaching a dramatic, spectacular and stirring crescendo, where Mitty’s delivery is totally peerless. Of all the songs she recorded, this will forever be synonymous with Mitty Collier. You only need to hear the song once to be uplifted, and become smitten with its beauty.
Lush strings dramatically sweep in as Would You Have Listened opens, while the rhythm section and subtle backing vocalists accompany Mitty. A combination of anger and frustration fill her voice, at the hurt caused to the man she loves, by “the other woman.” Adding to the sadness and drama of the track, are horns which blaze in, while the strings sadly sweep in and out of the track. I Gotta Get Away from It All was the song that Mitty would later rerecord with Rick Hall at Fame Studios in 1968, when she tried to reignite her career. However, this is the original version of the Lloyd Reese song. Shivering, quivering strings subtly enter adding a sense of sadness, as Mitty desperate vocal sings of a mistreating man, who “beats and scolds” her.
My Babe, just bursts into life with a swing. Horns rasp, cooing backing vocalists and the rhythm section are responsible for this, and we hear a very different Mitty hear. With the backing vocalists providing a contrast to her powerful vocal, Mitty takes the song by the scruff of its neck and makes it swing. Of all the Ray Charles songs there are to cover, what could be better that the joyous and uplifting Hallelujah (I Love Him So) to close side one of Shades of A Genius. With bursts of horns punctuating the track, strings sweeping in and a drums and piano playing an important part in the arrangement, Mitty’s gives a joyous rendition of Ray’s uplifting lyrics.
Side two of Shades of A Genius opens with the Henry Glover penned Drowned In My Own Tears. Horns play slowly, adding drama, before a hugely emotive vocal from Mitty enters. No Faith, No Love was another of Mitty’s hit singles, reaching number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100 and number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. As shimmering strings, horns and the rhythm section combine to create a dramatic and powerful opening, they give way to Mitty’s vocal, which is accompanied by piano, horns and sweeping strings.
Let Them Talk was written by Sonny Thompson and is a slow track, where rasping horns and rhythm section open the track, giving way to Mitty’s deep and emotive vocal. It’s a defiant vocal from Mitty, who doesn’t care who knows that she loves her man. With strings sweeping in, backing vocalists singing subtly, and horns and drums adding a dramatic element, which matches the power and passion in Mitty’s voice. This is an impressive, dramatic and quite beautiful song, sung with defiance and passion by Mitty.
Little Miss Loneliness opens with a slight, moody and dramatic combination of rasping horns and drums accompanying a thoughtful, sad vocal from Mitty. Shades of A Genius closes with Ain’t That Love written by Ray Charles.Swirling strings, piano and rhythm section accompany Mitty’s vocal, as horns punctuate the arrangement. Mitty delivers the song with aplomb, delivering the lyrics with a swagger, allowing the song to almost swing along. Later, a trumpet plays a solo, as Mitty’s vocal drops out. When it rejoins, the strings sweep in, as Mitty’s voice soars powerfully, as the song heads to its dramatic conclusion. This seems a good way to end what has been an album full of some wonderful music.
It seems remarkable that during the eight years Mitty Collier was with Chess Records, that she only released one album Shades of A Genius. This seems strange, given that Etta James released seven albums between 1961 to 1968. Maybe Chess wasn’t the right label for Mitty, as other artists, including Marlena Shaw discovered. She recorded some of her best music after leaving Chess. Mitty however, stuck with Chess for eight years, and during that time, released just fifteen singles and one album. Whether Mitty had changed labels she’d have found the success her talent deserved, we can only speculate. Sadly, after she left Chess, her career was cut short in 1971, when she developed polyps on her vocal chords.
Shades of A Genius is an album full of some wonderful music, from one of the most underrated and hugely talented soul singers Mitty Collier.