Wed. Oct. 20, 2021

Patti LaBelle – The Spirit’s In It (P.I.R.)

Lost but not least! Patti LaBelle – The Spirit’s In It (Philadelphia International Records)

There’s no way how we coud ever deny the impact of Philadelphia International Records back in the mid 70’s. However, I guess I’ll never understand how Patti LaBelle‘s title track of her 1981 ‘The Spirit’s In It’ album never got to higher recognition at the time.

You can feel there’s definitely something special if not unique in it. With the singer not only bringin’ her spirit, but also her heart and soul in it. From the introduction sounding like a (deep) Southern Blues incantation. To its stellar jazzy production courtesy of Cecil Womack and Kenny Gamble bringing the Philadelphia Sound to an unequalled level. Not to mention its trumpet parts courtesy of Kool & The Gang‘s Broderick Gittens goin’ psychedelic. In a way somehow reminding how Norman Whitfield‘s productions such as Undisputed Truth‘s ‘You + Me’ = Love’.

The spirit’s in it , as it may not have been anywhere else before…

What’s the value of your vinyl record?

Philadelphia, PA-born Patti LaBelle got into singing while at high school. She then became a soloist with the Beulah Baptist Church Choir. While a teenager, she teamed up with Cindy Birdsong in The Ordettes. In the meantime, their friends, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash would be singing in The Del Capris. The two groups went on to merge forces as The Bluebelles to later become Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles, then simply Labelle.

One will most likely remember Labelle for their cover version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ on Epic Records.. A song which first appeared back in 1974, by the likes of Eleventh Hour. It made quite a sensation with its sexually suggestive chorus of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”. Some French words which translated into English, give something like as “Do you want to have sex with me (tonight)?” Written by Kenny Nolan and Bob Crewe, it took its inspiration from the latter’s experiences in New Orleans and the sex workers in the area. It didn’t chart though. Crewe suggested it then to Allen Toussaint who decided to record it with Labelle soon after. With the rest being history…

By 1977, Patti LaBelle signed as a solo artist with Epic. She recorded 2 albums – ‘Patti Labelle’ and ‘Tasty’ – before hitting the Disco scene with producer Skip Scarborough. This along with the memorable ‘Music Is My Way Of Life’ from her third LP – ‘It’s Alright With Me’ – for the label. Her 1980 ‘Released’ album marking the end of her liaison with Epic.

Switching to Philadelphia International Records the year after, she gave another timeless illustration of her unique talent. Meanwhile delivering a standout jazzy rendition of the classic ‘Over The Rainbow’ along with Sam Peake on sax and MFSB on strings and horns. One of the definitive highlights from her 1981 ‘The Spirit’s In It’ album. Strangely enough, its title track didn’t get that much attention at the time despite its killer arrangements. With the same happening to ‘I’ll Never, Never Give Up’ from her following album – ‘I’m In Love Again’ the year after.

Patti LaBelle would nevertheless reach the status of a mainstream solo star in 1984 further to the success of the singles, “If Only You Knew”, ‘New Attitude’ and ‘Stir It Up’. Gaining extra following 2 years later with the release of ‘Winner In You’. An album featuring the #1 duet single ‘On My Own’ along with Michael McDonald. She would also collaborate with Grover Washington, Jr. takin’ the lead on The Best Is Yet To Come’, from his 1982 eponymous album. And she also sang a couple of duets with Bobby Womack.

More recently (in 2004), she had a couple of gems – ‘More Than Material’ and ‘New Day’ – which both received the remixing treatment of House heads. With the first by the likes of Darryl James and Fred McFarlane. And the second courtesy of Louie Vega among others. Not to mention ‘When You Smile’ along with Carlos Santana. A song which resurfaced the year after Fall Out Records, as brilliantly remixed here as well by Darryl James and Fred McFarlane.

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