Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lulu - New Routes

Lulu, is such an established, straight down the middle of the road family entertainer that it's easy to disregard her voice and sheer talent. This is slightly unfair as she's put out some great records down the years. Mostly singles of course but also this, released in 1970 from her brief stint on Atco Records.

Recorded in September and October of '69 at the Muscle Shoals Studio produced by Tom Dowd, Arif Martin and Jeff Wexler. The most obvious comparison to be made is probably to Dusty in Memphis, or I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, and though Lulu is no Dusty or Aretha she still puts on a good show and the record is certainly a small find.

To my mind Lulu was at her best when she cut loose as in Feelin' Alright here and backed up by Stax horns and orchestrations she becomes a force to be reckoned with. On slower numbers her range is stretched somewhat which is where she's found wanting in comparison with the true greats.

Performing a great set of songs, written by the Bee Gees, (she was married at this point to Maurice Gibb), Delaney Bramlett, Donnie Fritts and others, and with Duane Allman and a whole host of top rank backing session musicians, the record certainly had a peerless cast. An attempt to push Lulu into prominence in the American market, it fell short, reaching # 88 in the Billboard, though the single that preceded it, Oh Me Oh My, brushed the Top Thirty of the singles charts.

Still it's a diverting listen and an interesting example of how one record or artist comes to stand for the whole with time to represent a moment or type of record. So, Dusty in Memphis is the 'great white soul reinvention', Nick Drake, the 'plaintive, introverted early seventies folk musician' and Carole King's Tapestry the 'landmark Californian singer-songwriting triumph', though there were actually plenty of other similar attempts and offerings clustered around these at the time. New Routes is no classic but it is a notable period piece and eternally a source of attraction to collectors like me looking to add just one more record to their already heaving shelves.

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