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Monday, June 24, 2013

Audio Beaverhausen: "20 Feet from Stardom" Soundtrack CD

"And the colored girls go 'doo-da-doot-a-doot-doot-doo....'" So goes the famous chorus on Lou Reed's classic '70s glam rock song, "Walk on the Wild Side." It's the back-up singers who beautifully and artfully take over, ultimately delivering us to the hot sax fade-out. And so begins the soundtrack cd for the documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, now in selected theaters.

None other than a woman who most certainly paid her dues in the music industry as an uncredited girl-group singer for Phil Spector and one of the hardest working back-up girls in the industry, Ms Darlene Love, has been at the forefront of promoting this great movie about the unsung -- if I may say -- story of the voices that really can make or break a single.

Love has been on the tv talk-show circuit tirelessly to discuss 20 Feet, culminating with her moment on the couch with David Letterman. She has been all over the press, notably in a recent Rolling Stone interview and talking with The New York Times. The latest New Yorker article about Love on Letterman really serves as a great primer on her career if you need to know more. (He stole my "unsung" joke, I swear! I had it all prepared.)

Darlene Love was recently, and long-deservedly, inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. One of the best tracks on the album is the rare version of her recording of "Fine, Fine Boy," produced by Phil Spector, who surprisingly gave his permission for two Love tracks to be used in the film and on the soundtrack.  (The other is the girl-group classic, "He's a Rebel," which Spector released under the name, The Crystals.) The album track of "Fine, Fine Boy" differs from the one used in the film (showcasing Spector's obsessive perfectionism), as is the divine Merry Clayton's "Gimme Shelter," and these rare tracks are worth the price of the cd alone.

It is, indeed, when the back-up singers step into the spotlight, fronting songs, that the album's best, rarest and most valued tracks are found. Ms Clayton's soulful "Nobody's Fault But Mine" with back-ups by Oren Waters, Judith Hill, Tata Vega and ex-Harlette Charlotte Crosley is an amazing aural experience. But even better is her powerful rendition of "Southern Man."

Lisa Fischer's "Sure on this Shining Night" with its traditional church-choir back-ups highlights this always amazing singer's ability to carry a brief but classic hymn. Tata Vega and Judith Hill's "Let's Make a Better World" is a brightly buoyant pop-gospel number while Judith Hill's solo power ballad (with simple piano accompaniment), "Desperation," impresses as well. Not a single bum track on this album, people.

Back-up girls strongly carrying the iconic Bowie tune, "Young Americans," Talking Heads' "Slippery People" and Joe Cocker's "Space Captain" are also featured. Some of the star performers may have even felt the need to snarl, like Bette Midler to her Harlettes, "Ok, back-up girls! Back up!"

The album concludes with a sterling rendition by Darlene Love covering "Lean on Me," showcasing the range and power of her voice. She is a national treasure at this time.

Must-see movie (now in selected theaters) and must-have album. Each very highly recommended. Terrific remastering work; album produced by Morgan Neville. Available @

P.s.: You might best know Tata Vega from her 1979 disco smash posted below:

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