Yvonne Fair – 1975 – The Bitch Is Black
Heavy heavy funk from the mighty Yvonne Fair – a 70s bad soul sister that we’d rank right up there with Betty Davis! Yvonne got her start working with James Brown in a sweeter mode, but by the time of this mid 70s debut, she’d hit a really hard-wailing sort of style – one that had the righteous vocal lead of singers like Davis, Maxayn, or a rare few others – and which gets support here from some really full, rich production from Norman Whitfield! Whitfield brings in bits of strings alongside the heavier bass, drums, and keyboards – and makes for a unique mix that almost goes a bit southern soul, while still staying in the hipper styles of 70s Motown – letting Yvonne get a bit personal on a few tear-jerking numbers, and come wailing back with full force on the funkier ones.
A1 Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On 3.05
A2 It Should Have Been Me 3.34
A3 Stay a Little Longer 3.30
A4 It’s Bad for Me to See You 3.31
A5 Tell Me Something Good 3.31
B1 Let Your Hair Down 4.23
B2 Love Ain’t No Toy 3.23
B3 I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More) 3.18
B4 Walk Out the Door If You Wanna 2.17
B5 You Can’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover 2.17
By Rose Banks
This is one of my top two favourite Motown albums from the `70’s and I’m thrilled that it’s now been recognised for the classic that it is. The music is timeless earth shaking soul delivered in Yvonne’s own inimitable style. She weaves her magic spell covering songs like `Tell Me Something Good‘, `Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On‘ with an non-credited Marvin Gaye & `Let Your Hair Down‘ making them sound like they were written just for her. No one could ignore Yvonne’s plea to `Stay A Little Longer‘. I love all 10 tracks but if I had to pick just one it would have be the gut wrenching `It’s Bad For Me To See You‘ which never fails to reduce me to tears as it’s a song with which I can personally identify.
`The Bitch Is Black’ has been a part of my life since Yvonne’s definitive version of `It Should Have Been Me‘ started its journey up the UK charts in ’76 where it peaked at #5. As a result of that hit I bought the album and fell in love with Yvonne’s voice and longed for her to release a follow up which sadly never happened. However `The Bitch Is Black’ has become her enduring legacy and now with this release on Reel Music I’m sure that Yvonne will gain many more fans.
As Alice Clark‘s eponymous 1972 epic on Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records label is a thing of beauty deserving a wider audience, so is Norman Whitfield’s 1975 supervision of Yvonne Fair entitled The Bitch Is Black. A title that shocked and grabbed attention upon its release, it may also have played a part in not revealing the majestic voice and soul-stirring ballads within. If you can’t tell a book by its cover, be careful if the title throws you off base as well. Sure, Harvey Fuqua’s “Stay a Little Longer” has some gutsy vocals reflecting that title — and stunning production by Fuqua as Whitfield had collaborators in that department on this disc — Pam Sawyer, Gloria Jones, and Clay McMurray also chipping in, but this is Yvonne Fair’s moment in the sun and her big U.K. hit, “It Should Have Been Me“, should have been a monster in the U.S. as well. There’s a hilarious parody of it on YouTube under the name Vicar of Dibley, a British TV sitcom with a comedienne, Dawn French, doing the lip sync to Fair’s popular rendition. Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good“, a Top Three hit for Chaka Khan in the summer of 1974, is absolutely grand here, with bubbling guitar and sweet horns that give it an entirely different perspective. A cover of Barbara George’s 1962 hit “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” moves with authority, and is a great selection on one of those albums that not only doesn’t have a bad track, it’s one that you wish would just keep on going.