Betty Padgett

Betty Padgett

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The 2000s-era soul resurgence has seen a bumper crop of rediscovered and/or rehabilitated "lost" R&B records, gushed-over, too-good-to-be-true reissues of vintage sides that, surprisingly often, have in fact turned out to be that good and that true. Luv N' Haight's re-pressing of this Floridian find from 1975 feels archetypal of these regularly scheduled revelations to an almost unbelievable extent, from the smorgasbord of rare groove styles on offer (sweet Southern soul, groovy proto-disco, Latin-tinged funk) right down to the given name its unheralded titular diva shares with Mmes. Wright, Davis, Swann, LaVette, Harris, and Everett. But believe it, baby: Padgett's pipes are as potent as any of her fellow Bettys (or Bettyes); on the smoother, sweeter side of the spectrum, but soulful to be sure (and uncannily belying her shy 21 years when this was recorded), while the grooves, cut by a crack team of South Florida funk cats, make for grail-worthy gravy. Marquee two-parter "Sugar Daddy," a regionally successful disco single laden with congas, flutes, ear-candy party patter, and some particularly fluffy gold-digging lyrics, is serviceably fresh and funky, if not necessarily Padgett's greatest vocal turn (mostly thanks to its middling melody). The jazzy, sultry, and subtly synth-laced groover "Gypsy of Love" promises a goofy good time as well, but the album's true highlights tend to be those that de-emphasize the disco elements in favor of timeless, backward-looking soul, like the pained but punchy "It Would Be a Shame" and string-laden ballad "Love Me Forever." Best of all is the quartet of cuts that rest, somewhat surprisingly, on an impeccably fluid foundation of Jamaican reggae and rocksteady, over which Padgett croons her romantic pleas and plaints like a Stax/Volt Marcia Aitken, or perhaps one of her U.K. contemporaries in the nascent lovers rock scene. Just a listen to the unrequited schoolgirl love saga of "My Eyes Adore You," with its beautifully self-harmonized chorus, is enough to remind listeners, yet again, that crate-digging dreams really do come true.

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