The Sweet Inspirations – 1968 – What The World Needs Now
If one was cutting a soul, R&B, pop, rock, or girl group record in New York in the ’60s and needed female backup vocals, chances are they’d try to get the Sweet Inspirations first.
The group found their way onto numerous recordings, including hits by the Drifters, Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Garnett Mimms, and most famously, Aretha Franklin (with whom they sometimes toured). The group evolved from the ’50s gospel group the Drinkard Singers. At various points soul singers Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick, and sister Dee Dee Warwick were members.
By the time they began to record on their own in 1967, their leader was Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney), and the women were renamed the Sweet Inspirations. As an Atlantic recording act, the group cut some fine sides that rank among the clearest illustrations of the close links between soul music and gospel harmony. Usually sticking to material by famed soul and pop songwriters, they had about a half-dozen moderate R&B hits in the late ’60s; the biggest, “Sweet Inspiration,” was a Top 20 pop single. Houston left the group at the end of the ’60s and the Inspirations left Atlantic in the early ’70s, sometimes working with Elvis Presley and recording the album Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia for Stax in 1973.
A1. Alfie 3:19
A2. What The World Needs Now Is Love 2:58
A3. To Love Somebody 2:42
A4. Watch The One Who Brings You The News 2:38
A5. Am I Ever Gonna See My Baby Again 2:55
A6. Unchained Melody 3:25
B1. You Really Didn’t Mean It 2:58
B2. Walk In My Shoes 2:21
B3. Where Did It Go 2:41
B4. I Could Leave You Alone 2:16
B5. That’s How Strong My Love Is 2:13
B6. I Don’t Want To Go On Without You 2:57
By Kent Browning
Hailed as one of the greatest ensemble groups in R&B history The Sweet Inspirations (CISSY HOUSTON, ESTELLE BROWN, MYRNA SMITH, AND SYLVIA SHEMWELL) were not as big as they should have been in terms of popularity. Compared to album sales for MARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS, THE SUPREMES or THE RONNETTES they were not at the top. But with one listen you become aware that they were by far more talented and polished. The main reason could be that ATLANTIC records employed them as session vocalists for every big act or solo performer at that time. If one markets their album really well maybe they are not available to perform on everyone else’s record? (Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Esther Phillips, Wilson Pickett)
Be that as it may that didnt stop them from releasing some stellar soul music.
The title track is slammed from beginning to end with the vocal power and mesmorizing harmonies this group can provide. One of the best versions of the great song ever! Their version of “Alfie” clearly overshadows Dionne Warwick’s version. The whole release is consistent with first class production and special readings of classics by THE BEE GEES “To love somebody” and even OTIS REDDING “Thats how strong my love is“.
The original “You really didnt mean it” is pure soul balladry as Cissy again takes lead on a song about a love that wasnt meant to be.
One of soul music’s institutional groups deserves better recognition then they got when they were together.
A great release. Pick it up and enjoy. There is so much to savor!