Lalomie Washburn ‘My Music Is Hot – Expanded Edition’ CD (Robinsong) 5/5

Memphis born (1942) and a classic tale of the singer-songwriter, Lalomie Washburn was already thirty years of age when she released her debut album, but five years later came her masterpiece, ‘My Music Is Hot’ (1977), and the title was a fitting description of the musical pleasures contained within. It certainly helped that she was surrounded by some of the industry’s top session musicians. That began with arranger/conductor Gene Page, and included the who’s who of instrumentalists from guitarists Michael Sembello (work with Stevie Wonder), Melvin “Wah Wah” Watson, keyboardists Greg Phillinganes (Michael Jackson) and Joe Sample (Crusaders), to master percussionists Paulinho da Costa and Jack Ashford (one of the Funk Brothers at Motown).

What makes this album so memorable is that it dissects the field of black music, with heavy doses of soul-blues (which you might expect from a Memphis born singer), gospel, funk and even Latin, yet it still sounds distinctively like Lalomie and the percussive, on the edge production is both timeless and exhilarating. As a singer-songwriter, Washburn by the mid-1970s was regularly writing or co-writing (especially with guitarist Tony Maiden) for Rufus and Chaka Khan. An instant classic was born with, ‘Give me love’, which is the kind of soulful groove that contains elements of disco and funk with gorgeous gospel harmonies, yet is never contrived. Sounding as though it could have been penned and performed by War, the mid-tempo Latin-funk flavoured, ‘My Love Is Hot (caliente)’, is a personal favourite of this writer and Patti Labelle would struggle to communicate more convincingly than this. For an album with just seven original songs, there is an awful lot to admire and the lovely mid-tempo percussive, ‘Shade Of Blue’, is worthy of mention, with flute and those blissful gospel harmonies that once again come to the fore, Among the bevvy of extras, largely 7″ versions of the album songs, pride of place goes to the 12″ take of, ‘Man Power (can do it)’, which in its extended format has an extended introduction with guitar and keyboards in tandem over a rippling percussive beat. Heavy on the bass line and heavy on the funk in general. ‘My Music Is Hot’; this album most certainly is, and a well deserved re-issue on CD.

In-depth and lengthy historical sleeve notes are courtesy of journalist/writer Charles Donovan are accompanied by photos of the singer early in her career. Lalomie Washburn passed away in 2004, aged sixty-three.

Tim Stenhouse