Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gwen McCrae - Rockin' Chair - Something So Right

These two albums happen to fall right in between the two albums of the previous post. Gwen was another Southern Soul diva existing in a world where funk and disco were making the money. While there are increasing influences from these pop veins injected into her music by her producers throughout the 70's, somehow McCrae always overpowers all the silliness by just belting out the song no matter what is around her.

1975's Rockin' Chair is one of the best unknown albums of that fine year. I recall being stopped in my tracks the first time I heard the title song, it just oozed sex like nothing I'd heard other than her label-mate Latimore. Henry Stone had quite a sound and quite a stable going down at TK - Betty Wright, Latimore, Gwen and George McCrae, certainly a rich chapter in Miami Soul.

"Gwen McCrae (born Gwen Mosley, December 21, 1943, Pensacola, Florida, United States is an American R&B singer, best known for her 1975 hit "Rockin' Chair".

Gwen was the youngest of five children (three sisters: one called Delores, and one brother Herman), She grew up singing in her Pentecostal church and later discovered secular singers like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin. She began performing in local clubs as a teenager, and singing with local groups like the Lafayettes and the Independents. In 1963, she met a young sailor named George McCrae who she married within a week.

From 1963, she recorded as a duo with her husband George, and was first to receive a solo recording contract, with Henry Stone's TK Records. George and Gwen were discovered in 1967 by singer Betty Wright, who helped get them signed to Stone's Alston record label. Their debut single, "Three Hearts in a Tangle", was released in 1969; the follow-up, "Like Yesterday Our Love Is Gone", marked the first time they worked with the writing team of Clarence Reid (who would later morph into the bawdy comic Blowfly) and Willie Clarke. Both were regional hits, as was third single, "No One Left to Come Home", although none of those records broke nationally; meanwhile, the McCraes and Wright were collectively earning a reputation as stellar session vocalists.

Signed to TK subsidiary, Cat as a solo artist, she found success on the U.S. R&B charts with her cover version of Bobby Bland's "Lead Me On" in 1970, followed by "For Your Love". Following husband George’s unexpected solo success with "Rock Your Baby", Gwen went on to have a major hit of her own in March 1975 with "Rockin' Chair", a #1 R&B hit which also reached number 9 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up "Love Insurance" also made the R&B chart (#16).

By this time, the separate successes were taking their toll on the McCraes' marriage (Gwen has since alleged that her husband beat her frequently). A 1976 duet single, "Winners Together, Losers Apart", fell short of the R&B Top 40, and a full album of duets failed to improve matters. The couple split later that year, and Gwen scored what turned out to be her last chart hit for Cat, "Damn Right It's Good".

After TK Records collapsed, McCrae moved to New Jersey and signed with Atlantic Records, recording two albums and having another hit with "Funky Sensation" in 1981, (#22 R&B). She continued to record and the success of some of her earlier recordings on the UK's Northern Soul scene maintained her popularity as a live act in Europe. McCrae moved back to Florida, recorded a one-off single for the small Black Jack label in 1984 called "Do You Know What I Mean", and then temporarily retired from the music industry.

She travelled to the UK to record a couple of singles for Rhythm King in 1987. Pleased with her enduring popularity in the UK, McCrae eventually recorded an entire album for the British Homegrown Records label in 1996, titled Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Upon returning to the U.S., she signed with the revived Goldwax label, distributed by Ichiban Records, and recorded another album later that year, Psychic Hot Line. In 1998, Ichiban reissued Girlfriend's Boyfriend in the U.S. and McCrae returned in 1999 with Still Rockin', which received favorable reviews in blues and classic soul circles.

In 1999, the French house music duo Cassius released the single "Feeling for You", which sampled the vocals of McCrae's "All This Love That I'm Giving". It was a Top 20 hit in the UK Singles Chart. The track also appeared on Cassius' album, 1999.

In 2004 McCrae released her first gospel album. In 2008, rap DJ/producer Madlib released his album, WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip which includes the song "Gamble on Ya Boy", based on a "I Found Love" sample, from McCrae's album, Melody of Life.

In the summer of 2005, McCrae teamed up with the Soulpower organization, which is also responsible for the comebacks of Marva Whitney, Lyn Collins, Martha High, Bobby Byrd and RAMP. McCrae's two-year collaboration with Soulpower resulted in more than five dozen live performances with The Soulpower Allstars all over Europe, and the 2005 release of her album Live in Paris (Hi&Fly Records.)

Gwen McCrae released her latest single "Now I Found Love" in December 2010, released through Plain Truth Entertainment. "Now I Found Love" was mixed and produced by Steve Sola and composed by David Seagal. Also in 2010, her single "Funky Sensation" was heavily sampled in the German Language single "Get Up," by DJ Thomilla featuring Afrob." wikipedia


KingCake said...

Jazzjet said...

Excellent post, KC. More soul education from this site.

flatspin said...

Thanks for this (otherwise I would have missed hearing the classic 'Rockin' Chair' by the oh so fine Gwen McCrae)!

fmules said...

Thank you!!

Jahel said...

hi kingcake,
thx for this queen of soul's music, your blog is making this sad day shining,

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