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Music Review: Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman (Original Recording Remastered)

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The Concord Music Group has been reissuing original albums from the legendary Stax catalogue. The idea to reissue these rather than compilation albums is sound, as it gives the listener a look into the mind and music of the individual artists at a certain point in time, rather than just an overview of their careers. Shirley Brown’s classic album Woman To Woman is one of the latest releases in the ongoing series.

Brown was discovered at the age of 14 by blues legend Albert King. She would go on to tour with his band for nine years. After beginning her recording career with the small Abet label during 1972, upon King’s recommendation, she was signed to the Stax label during 1974.

The Stax label of 1974 was on the verge of bankruptcy, and it would shortly be gone. Brown’s single, “Woman To Woman” was the last big hit for the label, or to be more correct, for their subsidiary Truth label as it reached the top of the Billboard Magazine Rhythm & Blues Chart and number 22 on their Pop Charts. It sold over one million copies during the first eight weeks of its release.

Woman To Woman was an emotional experience from the first to last track. The title song (and single) remains the centerpiece of the album. There is a spoken word introduction that immediately demands your attention. The song is a conversation from one woman to another about infidelity. It included a sparse rhythm track that kept the focus squarely on the vocal.

The rest of the album’s nine tracks all have something to recommend them. “It Ain’t No Fun” would have been right at home in a smoky blues lounge. “So Glad To Have You” is a song that has just about a perfect groove. “Passion” and “I Need You Tonight” ramped up the album’s emotional level.

In addition to the music undergoing a 24-bit remastering process, it also comes with new liner notes and five bonus tracks. The best of the extra material was a previously unreleased cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” Other bonus tracks included “Yes Sir Bother,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Respect,” and “Rock Steady.”

She surrounded herself with some of the best session musicans that the Stax label had to offer. Drummer Al Jackson Junior, guitarist Bobby Manuel, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, pianist Marvell Thomas, organist Lester Snell, and The Memphis Horns provided the instrumental backing.

Brown remains popular on the southern soul circuit, but her studio album output has been limited to seven during the course of her almost 40-year recording career. The highlight remains Woman To Woman, which was also one of the best R&B albums of its era.

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