Spotlight on
BLUE LADY: The Nashville Sessions
TRACK LISTING
  1. It's Midnight (Do You Know Where Your Baby Is) (Emmons) 2:45
  2. Gimme a Smile (Wine) 2:43
  3. You're the Last Love (Bunch, Christipher) 3:04
  4. Charlie My Boy (Emmons, Moman) 2:30
  5. Pickin' Berries (Moman, Wine) 2:19
  6. If You Think You Know How to Love Me (Chapman, Chinn) 3:20
  7. Don't Make Me Over (Bacharach, David) 3:01
  8. It Amazes Me (Holyfield, Reynolds) 2:05
  9. Blue Lady (Petula Clark) 3:10
  10. The Twelfth of Never (Livingston, Webster) 3:06
  11. Loving Arms (Jans) 3:33
  12. I'm the Woman You Need (Petula Clark) 2:52
  13. Never Been a Horse That Couldn't Be Rode (Holler, Holler) 3:17

[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."

At this time in her career, Petula was living full time with her family in Los Angeles. While she was in Nashville recording "Blue Lady," a death threat was received by the authorities against actress Hope Lange. Since Petula and her family had rented the Westwood, California home of Lange, the threat was taken very seriously by the police and by Petula's husband, Claude Wolff.

In the biography "This Is My Song" by Andrea Kon, Petula recalls the "Blue Lady" recording sessions: "Towards the end of our time in Los Angeles, I went to Nashville, the home of Country and Western, to finish off an album. Claude had stayed in LA with the children and their nanny. Nashville is a very relaxed place to work in. Our studio was a beautiful converted old house where they had kept the lounge and dining room intact with all the lovely old American antiques. There was a kitchen too where the guy who did the engineering also did the cooking. In the middle of the session, he would say 'hang on a minute. I've got to see if the ham's OK' or 'I've got to do the beans.'"

From her comments, Petula thoroughly enjoyed her time with Chips at his American Sound Studios and the '827 Thomas Street Band' (American's rhythm section). Keep in mind Petula had been recording in Los Angeles and London for many years where all the production details were tightly monitored and executed. Chips and his family of musicians way of doing things was a complete departure from how she had recorded before. It must have suited her extremely well since her "Memphis" and "Blue Lady" albums are regarded by critics, fans, and Petula herself as some of her best work. She has mentioned these are her favorite recording experiences.


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.

"Don't Make Me Over" is a difficult song for any singer to tackle since Burt Bacharach/Hal David compositions are very complicated to sing and of course the comparisons to Dionne Warwick's original rendition could be intimidating. Petula brings new life into "Don't Make Me Over" and makes it her own. In fact a few years ago Petula's version was selected in a tribute album to Burt Bacharach.

"It Amazes Me" is a beautiful ballad with a haunting feel and leads in perfectly with the same style to the title track. Last, but certainly not least, of the original tracks for "Blue Lady" is her self-penned song and a gem it certainly is. A simple arrangement with very pensive and thought-provoking lyrics. Petula again delivers with her deep, introspective songwriting.


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.

It is perplexing to speculate why the outstanding "Blue Lady" album was recorded in 1975 but not released until 20 years later. No one involved seems to remember why it was shelved, though the sale of ABC/Dunhill to MCA Records around the time, and accompanying management shift, seems likely. It is a shame that it did not get issued on the ABC/Dot sister label, which featured country-pop material by artists such as Barbara Mandrell

Now that the album has been heard, belatedly, it can be confirmed as a creative triumph for Petula and her production team and musicians. Additionally, critics and fans alike have validated the accomplishment and appeal of the project.

Like many who read tidbits in the IPCS magazine ("Petula & Company") of this infamous recording, the speculation on the status of these songs was clouded in mystery for years. Desire to hear them was a top ten question on many fans' minds. Other than "Gimme a Smile" (which Petula sang on several TV shows such as "The Midnight Special" and "Perry Como's Hawaiian Holiday") and "The Twelfth Of Never" (which Petula sang on "The Mike Douglas Show") , Petula did not sing the songs from 'Blue Lady" in concerts so there was no real sense of how the album sounded.


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.

When the green light was given, Cary asked me to write the liner notes and provide photos that would fit the theme of the project. Jim Pierson got involved with locating the master tapes and the mastering process and also discovered a great photo that would make the perfect cover -- due to Petula's pensive expression and the rustic look of the background. For the booklet interior photos, I searched my photo albums and also had a ball in some of the Hollywood memorabilia shops to find other photos that fit that same mood. Although Petula had short curly hair at the time of the "Blue Lady" recording, there was not much photography available from that era that fit the style of the Nashville recordings. The idea was to include photos that complimented each other. So, images from the early 70s were utilized, which were only 4-5 year prior to the recordings and since the pictures had not been used for album art previously, everyone, including Petula, was pleased with the selections made. (The most important thing when doing CD artwork is to not use photographs taken years after the recordings being featured.)


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:


Blue Lady is a fascinating mix of Los Angeles and Nashville. In 1975, Petula Clark (who would have a Top 20 country hit in 1982) went to Nashville to again record with legendary producer Chips Moman for ABC-Dunhill, but nothing was ever released. Here it finally is with three singles from 1974 added on. The work with Moman is vintage Clark, with songs ranging from David-Bacharach to Nashville cats Moman and Bobby Emmons. Clark switches effortlessly from "The Twelfth of Never" to "It's Midnight (Do You Know Where Your Baby Is)."



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.

Michael Balzer
2004