BLUE LADY: The Nashville Sessions
[Click on image for liner notes]
The BLUE LADY Story |
With a career filled with hits songs full of optimism and uplifting lyrics, Petula embarked on a labor of love with her more subdued, moodier album called "Blue Lady". To fully understand the genesis of "Blue Lady" one needs to understand the musical history of famed producer, Chips Moman, who was at the
helm of the recording. Chips Moman started in the music business as a session guitarist in the famed Gold Star Studio in Hollywood, the studio made famous by the Phil Spector and his "Wall Of Sound". Along with writing songs for Aretha Franklin and other R&B legends, he produced renown recordings for Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas, and many other legendary singers. His first collaboration with Petula came in 1969 with her highly-regarded "Memphis" album released by Warner Brothers Records in America in 1970. (Issued on Pye in the U.K.) Petula is often quoted about that experience as one of her most memorable due to the laid-back, spontaneously creative feeling of the sessions.
After being signed to ABC-Dunhill Records in 1974, Petula was eager to find the right direction and style for recording a new album. Country music was creeping into the pop charts and singers like Olivia Newton-John and Anne Murray were having enormous cross-over success with hit singles and albums. Petula's thoughts drifted back to the "Memphis" sessions and soon arrangements were made for a recording session once again with Chips, this time in Nashville. The trick was how to squeeze this recording project into her hectic schedule. In the mid 70s, Petula was in great demand on the showroom circuit of Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City and other top venues in New York City and London. Equally demanding were her numerous TV appearances on programs like the "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, "The Mike Douglas Show" (including as week as co-host), "Dinah!," "The Midnight Special," and others. She debuted the intended debut single from the sessions, "Gimme A Smile" on Dinah Shore's daytime talk show "Dinah!" November 12, 1975 and later performed the song on other programs such as "Perry Como's Hawaiian Holiday" and "The Bobby Vinton Show."
Claude Wolff, Chips Moman, Petula Clark
"Blue Lady" showcases her many facets and explores so many different nuances in her voice. "It's Midnight (Do You Know Where Your Baby Is)" is Petula in full control and sassier than we have heard her before. "Gimme a Smile" was penned by Toni Wine, Chips' former wife, and was intended as the first single of the album (backed with "Pickin' Berries"). It's a perfectly constructed pop song complete with a lulling melody and hook. (It was subsequently recorded by Ray Stevens.) "Charlie My Boy" sounds like a updated vintage vaudeville song and "Pickin' Berries" is a pure country song with a story ala "Son Of A Preacher Man." "You're the Last Love" and "The Twelfth of Never" are classic ballads and Petula smolders on both.
Some may argue that Johnny Mathis' original hit version may be definitive, but Petula sings "The Twelfth of Never" with such heartfelt sincerity it should become a classic recording for weddings. (Petula's "The Twelfth Of Never" has more recently been included on the Sanctuary double disc "Petula Clark - The Ultimate Collection.") "If You Think You Know How to Love Me" sounds like the intended second single of the album with its strong contemporary '70s sound.
Three other, unrelated, selections --"Loving Arms" (a Billboard Adult Contemporary hit for Petula), "I'm the Woman You Need", "Never Been a Horse That Couldn't Be Rode") -- were produced by others and released on ABC-Dunhill as singles and were included as bonus tracks on the CD release of "Blue Lady" in 1995 (titled "Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions") by the Varese Sarabande subsidiary label, Varese Vintage.
Flash forward to 1995 when the Varese Sarabande label began their Vintage imprint
and started releasing CDs of material by many of my favorite artists. I noticed that several of the CDs were courtesy of MCA Universal which now owned the rights to ABC-Dunhill recordings. I also noted that Cary Mansfield was the VP in charge of the reissues and I had spoken to him when he was with Motown Records. Being fearless (after my luck in getting Petula's 'Live At Royal Albert Hall' issued on CD a short time earlier on another label), I gave Cary a call and spoke to him at length about the "lost" Petula album. Cary was immediately interested and quickly made some inquiries about the licensing possibility.
After a lot of work by everyone involved, the CD was ready for release. I was off to
London to see Petula again in "Sunset Boulevard" and thought I could give her an advance copy of the CD personally. Cary had also asked me to have her sign a copy for him. In his office he now proudly displays the autographed CD that he produced. When Petula first held the CD in her hand I was a bit nervous since I was involved in the project. What if she hated it? To my delight she was very pleased about the CD saying it was one of her favorite albums and that she had enjoyed a very satisfying experience recording it. (Petula's daughter Barbara has declared "Blue Lady" as her favorite album of her mother's!) |
Petula also commented on how much she liked the photos that were included. However, to my horror she started reading the liner notes. I quickly told her it would make me too nervous if she read them in front of me. Can you imagine if she corrected me on something? I would be in a puddle at her feet. It was a personal high for me to present the CD to her and see the approval back from her. With all the work Richard Harries, Jim Pierson, David Hadzis and others have done with CD reissues over the years, it felt good to be in that company for a few moments.
When the album was at last released in 1995, Billboard gave it a glowing review:
Since the CD was released, another song from the same sessions was discovered. The outtake, written by Toni Wine, is called "Another Major Tragedy". Since "Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions" is now out-of-print, hopefully it will be issued again with this newly-found additional track.