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Bettye Lavette - Worthy

  by Dave Goodwin

published: 22 / 2 / 2015

Bettye Lavette - Worthy
Label: Cherry Red Records
Format: CD


Fabulous new album , which includes tracks by Bob Dylan, James Brown, Paul McCartney and Jagger and Richards, from gritty-voiced soul legend, Bettye Lavette

It was my wife who stirred up my interest in soul music about twenty years ago. Before that I had had brief encounters with it courtesy of my dad’s record boxes, which housed various Tamla singles and albums, and I then went on to buy albums by the Stylistics and other soul gems of that time. But when I remarried I got heavily into the Northern Soul scene which is where I discovered the brilliant Bettye Lavette. Since then I recognised that if I wanted smooth soul it had to be Gladys, if I wanted danceable commercial soul it had to be the Four Tops but if I wanted real honesty and down and dirty gritty soul it had to be Bettye without a shadow of a doubt. Her husky, sorrowful vocals brought pleading to a new level in my book. No other soulstress in my eyes could sing a lyric with such meaning and expression. Born Betty Jo Haskins in January 1946, in Muskegon, Michigan, her family moved to Detroit when she was six and sold corn liquor. It was in her own living room, often visited by travelling gospel groups of the day and also where there was a jukebox filled with the blues, country & western, and R&B records of the time, that Bettye actually got her big break singing along to the "5" Royales, Dinah Washington, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Red Foley. By 16, Betty Jo had changed her name to Sherma Lavett, and then to, Betty LaVette. Bettye's first single was ‘My Man - He’s a Loving Man’, on Atlantic in the fall of 1962 after being introduced to Johnnie Mae Matthews, a notorious Motor City record producer. The record was quickly picked up by Atlantic for national distribution. The record charted at number 7 in the R&B charts and sent her on her first national tour, with Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter, and another then newcomer, Otis Redding. She then had a brief spell at Detroit's Lupine label, before her next hit on the Calla label ‘Let Me Down Easy’, and a one off single on Big Wheel. After that she had a string of singles for Ollie McLaughlin's Karen label including ‘Hey Love’ and ‘What My Condition My Condition Was In’. She then moved to Silver Fox where she had the hits with ‘He Made a Woman Out of Me’ and ‘Do Your Duty’. In 1972, she was once again signed to Atlantic, through its Atco subsidiary, but then, strangely after she had made a few recordings in LA , her first full length album was pulled without explanation just before release. In 1978 she cut a disco record, ‘Doin' the Best that I Can’ which became a huge dance floor hit, selling over 100,000 copies after unfortunately she had signed her rights away just before release. In 1979 she starred in the Broadway musical, ‘Bubbling Brown Sugar’, after she learned to tap dance, and in 1982 Bettye got a call from Motown president Lee Young, Sr and went to Nashville to record the ‘Tell Me a Lie ‘album which spawned the ‘Right in the Middle (Of Falling in Love)’. Since then she has worked on projects with likes of Dennis Walker, Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. 2012 saw the release of her album, ‘Thankful N' Thoughtful’, and her autobiography ‘A Woman Like Me’, co-written with recent Pennyblackmusic interviewee David Ritz, who is author of books on Aerosmith’s Joe Perryt, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. Bettye has always been a big player in singing live at various Northern Soul venues around the country and Europe. This new album consists of covers of tracks such as Bob Dylan’s ‘Unbelievable’, Jagger and Richards’ ‘Complicated’, James Brown’s ‘Just Between You and Me’ and Lennon/McCartney’s ‘Wait’. Bettye has stripped all the tracks down on this great soul album stitch by stitch and intricately embroidered them back together again with her own voice as the sewing machine. Although her voice is showing signs of age, it has a voice any eighteen year old would-be Bettye would love to own and still has that gritty edge that brought it the attention way back then. This is Bettye at her most glorious. There are still areas of sadness and yearning and deep down heartfelt honesty reminiscent of the Bettye we saw a long time ago. It all comes packaged in a beautiful case, with notes inside by Joe Henry regarding some of Bettye's past and a stunning photo portrait on the back cover by Carol Friedman. Wonderful!

Track Listing:-
1 Unbelievable
2 When I Was a Young Girl
3 Bless Us All...
4 Stop
5 Undamned
6 Complicated
7 Where a Life Goes
8 Just Between You Me and the Wall You
9 Wait
10 Step Away
11 Worthy

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