Alice Clark ‘Alice Clark’ LP-RSD (WEWANTSOUNDS) 5/5

An album that surfaced originally in 1972 and made little impression anywhere until in the early 80s when the fledgling modern soul scene in this country got behind two stunning dancers; “Don’t You Care” and “Never Did I Stop Loving You”, both of which have been the primary driving force behind its rise as a grail piece and increased three figure price tag of acquiring an original copy. It’s been a few years since I danced to either, so we need to put that right. Before this it got spasmodic plays mainly in the London area on the Rare Groove scene. In fact comparisons can be made with Sandra Wright’s equally wonderful album, “Wounded Woman”, with one notable difference in that at least Alice got her album out when it was scheduled, unlike Sandra, who had to wait for Demon to come along years later and plunder the vaults. It’s reported that due to lack of sales in Alice’s case and the fact that Stax were forced out of business before Sandra’s album release, both became disenchanted with the music business and went onto other things, leaving us, admittedly, with 45s to treasure.

This album spans the jazz, soul and RnB genres comfortably, and the one constant is that beautiful voice. A few years ago a complete retrospective look at Alice’s work was released, so I was really surprised to hear that this is scheduled for an official Record Store Day release this April – well done to WEWANTSOUNDS. The original label, Mainstream, were based in New York, but this has none of the big city sound, in fact, bearing in mind this was 1972, you can only wonder who this was originally aimed at. Jazz was huge, soul was recovering from its 60s excesses, and so a hybrid wouldn’t have had much of a chance in the market place. What does become clear however, is that the production is vast, so there was no expense spared, so it would seem, as just about every instrument you care to mention gets in on the act, and the the mighty production skills of founder, Bob Shad, is elaborated by the orchestra under the watchful eye of conductor/arranger Ernie Wilkins. We have twelve glorious tracks, all with individual sharm, with the highlight, and the track that captured my attention when I first got the album some 40 years ago, “It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone”, as she paints a despairing picture of loneliness over a sea of mocking horns – it still grabs me today. And when she sings “I thought I was free of you”, you just know you’re in the presence of class.

Way back in the day at my Munster Arms soul nights, I gave “Hard Hard Promises” several spins in an effort to get it off the ground. It’s a frantic dancer that should be regarded as highly as the aforementioned two. It may not have the finesse, but it is one hell of a song. The other track that I’ve always thought might get picked up is “Hey Girl” – another classy dancer. So, who knows, with the album about to reach a whole new audience there is promising hope, and now, some 47 years on, demand outstrips the availability, so get yourself out to your independent record shop and make the purchase, as you’re in for a real treat. Welcome back Alice.

Brian Goucher