Abbey Lincoln

Golden Lady

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Abbey Lincoln's follow-up album to People in Me retains her wise and somewhat defiant attitude, while expressing deep-seated feelings of womanhood, personal growth, and freedom. This recording departs from the prior effort in that only half of the tracks are originals, while saxophonist Archie Shepp and trumpeter Roy Burrowes take over for Dave Liebman when he was with a primarily Japanese/American mix of bandmates. Here it's an all-U.S.-based group with drummer Freddie Waits, bassist Jack Gregg, and the exceptional pianist Hilton Ruiz joining Shepp, Burrowes, and Lincoln. During this time period, she took her African roots seriously, adopting the name Aminata Moseka as conferred upon her by the Minister of Culture in Zaire, but the music is all mainstream jazz and ballads. This album -- which has been thankfully released on CD -- contains three of her all-time definitive statements. "Throw It Away" is a ballad-blues, a quintessential song outlining how people would rather dispose of things, possessions, and more importantly relationships rather than positively work on solving issues and finding common ground. It represents the poignant epitome of how American society has degenerated into selective memory mode. The other two tracks are more personalized statements, but also geared to how the general public is more interested in imagery than substance. "Painted Lady" is a self-portrait on stage acting, and how the performer is viewed as an easy target in a jaunty swing-blues, spoken rather than sung at times with some vocal overdubbing. On occasion using "la la las" or shouted-out "hah hah hah" anguished screams, Lincoln-Moseka expresses her frustration with hypocritical people who boast and crow about their freedom while constricting their domesticated pet creatures, which fly during the lilting waltz "Caged Bird," with Shepp on soprano sax. Revisiting this song originally done in 1973, her line "I know why the caged bird sings" is a personal defense as well as a grand statement to the stratosphere. Also included are the sad refrain of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," with Shepp's toothy tenor and the burnished brass of Burrowes looking over the singer's shoulders; a pure melancholy version of Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady"; and a nearly ten-minute take of Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," a strong and supple but open-ended statement reinforced by the horns, taking few emotional chances for fear of a rejected reply. During this late-'70s/early-'80s period, Lincoln-Moseka asserted herself in ways that made her stand out from the crowded arena of female jazz vocalists, and -- as always -- she had something to say to society. Golden Lady is not her very best, but should be considered as one of her better albums.