Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Sweet Inspirations - Let It Be Me (The Atlantic Recordings 1967-1970)

Initially know for their incredible work backing the likes of Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison on songs like "You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)" and “Brown Eyed Girl”, Cissy Houston (Whitney’s Mother), Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shemwell, and Estelle Brown hit the studio in April 1967 to record their first session as The Sweet Inspirations.  Over the next three years they recorded five albums for Atlantic Records, all of which can be found on Let It Be Me (The Atlantic Recordings 1967-1970). Listen to any of the sixty-six songs found on these three discs and you would be hard pressed to find anything remotely close to a weak cut, which makes it even more surprising that while they had eight songs that charted on the R&B charts, they only had one that was a top 20 pop tune (“Sweet Inspirations”).  Included amongst the songs that they tackle are a wide variety of covers, like “To Love Somebody”, “Knock On Wood”,  “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”,  “Unchained Melody” “Alfie” and “Make It Easy On Yourself” and whether it’s one of these or other lesser known covers, a gospel hymn or an original written for them, they always give it their own spin with their rich, soulful lead vocals and stellar harmonies.  Along with the album tracks there are also twelve non-album cuts, including eight that were recorded with Ann Williams replacing Cissy Houston after she left the group.  These were originally intended for release as an entire LP, but were never released in full until their appearance here.  The package is rounded out with a CD booklet containing an outstanding essay on the band’s history and numerous photos of the group and album and single sleeves.  

(Soul Music Records)

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