Carol Williams ‘Lectric Lady’ (BBR/Cherry Red) 4/5

Carol-WilliamsRewind to 1976 when the disco revolution was then in full swing. Factor in Philadelphia’s top soul orchestra, MFSB, rebranded the Salsoul Orchestra, and add one soulful vocalist in Carol Williams who had enjoyed a previous career in the 1960s as lead singer for groups such as the Geminis and Fantasia. For a final coup de grâce factor in the considerable arranging, conducting and production talents of one Vince Montana Jr. and you have a potentially interesting project well underway. So it proved with the release of ‘Lectric Lady’. The killer track that has been sampled subsequently and was a hit all over again when Spillers’ ‘Groovejet’ climbed the pop charts is of course ‘Love is you’ which is quite simply a classic disco anthem and here you have the original album version, the extended 12″ Tom Moulton remix and a shorter single companion. A left-field contender is ‘Rattlesnake’ which actually differs from the rest of the album in that it was produced, not by Montana, but by Herb Rooney and the vocals were therefore laid down in New York rather than Philadelphia and it is a real sleeper of a tune that grows with repeated listens. However, this album is primarily about dancefloor action and a second slice of the cake comes in a reprise of the standard ‘More’ which is also included here in both album and 12″ formats. Based on the classic instrumental soundtrack version on the 1962 film ‘Mondo Cane’, the track originally became a top ten hit in 1963 for jazz trombonist Kai Windig and has been covered by no less than ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Who would have thought that thirteen years later the tune would be a hit all over again in the disco idiom? Williams’ vocal delivery here has more than a hint of Aretha Franklin’s influence and paradoxically the latter’s career would temporarily suffer when disco reigned supreme for the latter half of the 1970s. Carol Williams, however, is a versatile singer and the jazzy intro with fine percussion on ‘Come back’ indicates that she could easily adapt to other genres as and when required, and this also became a top thirty disco chart mover at the time. Released in the same year as both the epic ‘The Bottle’ by Joe Bataan and Double Exposure’s ‘Ten Per Cent’, ‘Lectric Lady’ now stands the test of time and at the same time defines an era in modern music history. Its evocative dancefloor front and back cover speaks volumes of of the hedonism and escapist nature of the 1970s club scene and with no less than five pages of interviews with the singer and excellent photos, album and single cover graphics, this project could not have been brought to life again any better.

Tim Stenhouse