Merrilee Rush / Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts

Angel of the Morning: The Complete Bell Recordings

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Although a classically trained pianist, Merrilee Rush's (vocals) greatest exposure came in the form of Angel of the Morning (1968). Previously, she had been in several American northwest R&B combos in the early-to-mid-'60s -- including the Aztecs, Merrilee & Her Men, and a stint with Tiny Tony & the Statics. By 1965, Rush settled into her own band, Merrilee & the Turnabouts, who quickly became local teen dancehall favorites. Their success garnered them a spot supporting Paul Revere & the Raiders during their 1967 tour, resulting in head Raider Mark Lindsay introducing Rush to Memphis-based producer Chips Moman. While credited on the original album jacket, Moman replaced the Turnabouts with a handpicked coterie of seasoned studio veterans, ultimately yielding this dozen-song long-player. The effort consists mostly of lightweight pop with slight C&W and folk-rock nuances, although there are a few tunes that stand as powerfully as the affective Chip Taylor-inked "Angel of the Morning." Rush's uniformly strong leads recall the effervescence of Melanie -- thankfully without the annoying warble -- and the honey-toned Jackie DeShannon. The laid-back opener, "It's Worth It All," sets the pace with an affable, but insipid delivery. The moodier "Sandcastles" -- one of two cuts co-written by Moman with Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn -- is a step in the right direction, especially when the tempo picks up and Rush is given a chance to express herself. The optimistic "Billy Sunshine" and the cover of Joe South's "Hush" follow that edgier path. Conversely, the Mark Lindsay composition "Do Unto Others" and the subsequent Moman/Oldham/Penn side "Handy" are little more than imponderous filler. The 2004 CD reissue from Collectors' Choice Music supplements the contents with an additional nine non-LP selections, notably Rush's reading of "What the World Needs Now" from the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) as well as a trippy remake of the Motown staple "Reach Out" -- supposedly inspired by the Vanilla Fudge's overhaul of "You Keep Me Hanging On."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:40
2 2:49
3 3:14
4 2:50
5 2:34
6 3:10
7 2:37
8 3:15
9 2:29
10 2:36
11 2:38
12 2:22
13 2:21
14 4:44
15 2:25
16 3:04
17 2:15
18 3:04
19 2:44
20 2:52
21 3:52
blue highlight denotes track pick