Esther Phillips

Home Is Where the Hatred Is: The Kudu Years 1971-1977

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The Rhino double-CD The Best of Esther Phillips (1962-1970) covered the period that most would agree was the singer's most artistically successful. As an 18-song disc that covers the period immediately following what was documented on the Rhino collection, Home Is Where the Hatred Is: The Kudu Years 1971-1977 is a valuable supplement for those who want more. However, as was the case with another idiosyncratic soul-pop singer who moved to CTI in the 1970s (Nina Simone), Phillips' '70s output was decidedly inferior to her '60s work, even if her vocal skills remained intact. It's respectable enough 1970s soul, with a slicker and funkier feel than her earlier sides, in keeping with the trends sweeping the world of R&B during the decade, getting into disco on her 1975 hit "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes." But while several major writers are covered on the songs selected for this anthology -- Marvin Gaye, Allen Toussaint, Bill Withers, Joe Cocker, Jackie DeShannon, Gil Scott-Heron, and Gene McDaniels -- not many of the selections are above average, leaving the most distinctive thing about them Phillips' odd if appealing pinched, slinky vocal tone. Songs really are necessary to raise singers who rely on cover material to a higher level, and the shortage of ace numbers is what separates Phillips' '70s records from those of someone like, say, Gladys Knight. The record's only disappointing, however, in that it doesn't show Phillips at the point where she was getting the most out of her abilities in the studio. It's mildly likable period '70s soul for the most part, if dull in places.

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