Ashford and Simpson ‘Come As You Are’ (BBR) 4/5

ashford-simpsonArguably the least well known of any of the Warner releases for the duo, ‘Come as you are’ is fully deserving of a re-issue and was the third album the pair recorded for the label together in 1976, following on from ‘Gimme something real (1973) and ‘I wanna be selfish’ (1974). Up until then, they were primarily known as seriously talented songwriters who had delivered a number one pop hit for Ray Charles in ‘Let’s get stoned’ as well as major hits on Motown for Marvin Gaye, the latter in tandem with Tammi Terrell as well as the post-Supremes hit ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ for Diana Ross, and they would continue the collaboration with Ms Ross. In comparison to the other later albums, this recording has an unexpected gospel flavour to it and, judging by the comments from Valerie Simpson, it was quite unintended. Nonetheless, it adds a refreshingly different edge to proceedings and the glorious joint vocal harmonies complement this approach to perfection. A real left-field winner that has rapidly become a favourite with this reviewer is ‘Sell this house’ and it is a stunning flowing mid-tempo number with an atmospheric bass line that hints at Marvin’s ‘Inner City Blues’ period without ever being derivative, and the classy strings alongside the gospel-infused vocals make this a contender for the album’s strongest number. A modern soul stepper which only made it as B-side is Caretaker’ and, with nifty guitar licks courtesy of ace session guitarist Hugh McCracken and Eric Gale, this is another strong composition. While no single became a pop or R & B hit here, a new departure for Ashford and Simpson came in the form of a minor disco hit in ‘One more try’ and this would be the first of a series of more dance-oriented songs that would feature on subsequent albums and this particular one was co-written by Raymond Simpson, brother of Valerie, and Bobby Gene Hall. It stands out as a soulful interpretation of the disco idiom and nestled just outside the disco charts top ten at the time. As an extra bonus, and similar to Teddy Pendergrass, a new and younger generation has become familiar with Ashford and Simpson’s work via their more dance-oriented material and there is the very welcome inclusion of a re-edit by Dimitri of Paris of the vastly underrated disco number, ‘One more try’. This makes for an interesting contrast with the original 12″ cut that is also included, with the latter featuring a storming instrumental breakdown where the studio musicians are clearly having a ball and the isolated bass and rhythm guitar groove is a precursor to the classic Chic side that would emerge just a year later. As a first attempt at an outright disco sound, this was a pretty successful stab. For ballad fans, ‘Somebody told a lie’ is an interesting number in that both singers take solo leads and then join in on harmonies in the chorus and the song has continued to appeal since it was revisited by Valerie Simpson on the latest Terri Lyne Carrington album, ‘Mosaic project: love and soul’. Another ballad, ‘Believe in me’ was reprised by Cheryl Lynn and Luther Vandross in 1982 so that album was heard and respected by fellow musicians. Of note is the important contribution made by a bevvy of crème de la crème studio musicians with jazz keyboardists Don Grolnick and Richard Tee, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Ralph MacDonald along with the aforementioned guitarists all contributing to the quality accompaniment. Excellent and extended inner sleeve notes with graphics of various 45s and 12″ labels and full back cover sleeve lyrics.

Tim Stenhouse