Sandra Wright – 1974 – Wounded Woman
Kept in the vaults for 15 years due to Stax Records going bankrupt at the time of its intended release, Sandra Wright’s 1974 album ‘Wounded Woman’ is one of those perfect hybrids the much-troubled label was putting out in its last years: Southern Soul with a dash of gloss and a hint of smoothness.
The romping title-track has the Memphis-born singer shaking down the house; a fervent hook-ridden groove immersed in old-time gospel backing vocals. That same greasy vibe radiates from the funky “A Man Can’t Be a Man (Without a Woman)“. Wright, who was trained in classical music and actually planned on becoming an opera singer, is at her most vulnerable on deep soul ballads such as “I’m Not Strong Enough to Love You Again” and the absolutely gorgeous “I’ll See You Through (I’ll Be Your Shelter)“, a fine interpretation of label-mate Luther Ingram’s original.
Most beautiful of all, however, is Wright’s take on Candi Staton’s “Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me“, a perfectly arranged, haunting ballad that was also Sandra’s first Stax single. Divine, mid-tempo grooves as “The Sha-La Bandit“, “I Come Running Back” and the snazzy, stylish “Midnight Affair” all are perfect showcases for Sandra’s sensitive soul stylization, and she shows her deep soul credentials one more time on the album closing weeper “Please Don’t Say Goodbye“.
A wonderful mid-70s Southern Soul album, retaining the grit of the glory days, adding just the right amount of sweetening.
A1 Wounded Woman 2:33
A2 The Sha-La Bandit 3:21
A3 I’m Not Strong Enough to Love You Again 3:11
A4 I Come Running Back 2:48
A5 Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me 3:23
B1 A Man Can’t Be a Man (Without a Woman) 3:05
B2 Midnight Affair 3:22
B3 I’ll See You Through (I’ll Be Your Shelter) 3:29
B4 Please Don’t Say Goodbye 3:12
With a voice that could just about have had her passing as the fourth singing Franklin sister (after Aretha, Erma and Carolyn) and a warm, honest and passionate delivery 100% on target on every one of these well-crafted southern soul songs, the late Sandra Wright should have gotten more opportunities to record and become a big name in soul.
Her only two real chances for a breakthrough came first with a pair of Coral-label singles recorded in Nashville in 1968 when she was twenty (they elicited no action) and then six years later for Stax Records in her native Memphis. Both sides of her two singles for Stax (issued on the company’s subsidiary Truth label in ’74 and early ’75 are here on this disc: the title track “Wounded Woman” b/w “Midnight Affair” and “Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me” b/w “Please Don’t Say Goodbye“. Again, no action, despite these being such strong soul tracks superbly produced and engineered by David Johnson at Broadway Sound in Sheffield, Alabama using a group of outstanding musicians mostly from Muscle Shoals (including a stellar horn section). Still, five more tracks were recorded with the intention of an LP being released in ’75. Following Shirley Brown’s huge soul/pop crossover success in late ’74 on this same Truth label with her single “Woman to Woman” [#1 soul / #22 pop], things still looked promising for this type of down-home Southern soul. But by ’75 Stax was struggling financially (en route to bankruptcy the following year), and there was no way at that point for them to be able to promote and work a distribution deal for a virtually unknown artist with zero hits to her credit. Thus, the LP was shelved and only first came out on the UK’s Demon label in 1989. And now it returns in 2015 on Soul Brother Records (thanks to the continuing British interest in traditional soul music), digitally remastered and sounding better than ever. The nine tracks total just 28 and a half minutes, but this is solid Southern soul that sounds fresh and won’t wear out its welcome.
I would estimate that I have seven or eight favorites out of the nine, so I’ll just mention a handful: “Wounded Woman” with its infectious mid-tempo groove makes it in my mind a cousin to Barbara Acklin’s “Love Makes a Woman” and “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright [no relation]; “Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me” adds some sensuality of the sort Millie Jackson was selling with at the time (albeit without any of the raunch occasionally associated with Ms. Jackson); “I Come Running Back” is an Aretha-style midtempo ballad fueled by the fantastic horn section; “I’m Not Strong Enough to Love You Again” (the briefer “Not Strong Enough” might have been a better title) is in the warm and confessional style of labelmate Shirley Brown; while “The Sha-La Bandit” is the one that fascinates me the most. It has somewhat of a soft and slinky Memphis Hi Records style that makes me think this had to be inspired by Al Green’s “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)“, which was just taking off around the time this was recorded. It almost seems like an “answer” record about having her “sha-la” (happiness) stolen from her. I could be way off here, but I’m enjoying it anyway, as I am this entire disc.
This is classic, traditional southern soul with a 1968-1974 flavor – with no funk or synthetic elements. Thanks again, Soul Brother, for giving us the real thing.