Rita Coolidge

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With Steve Cropper recording Mitch Ryder and Yvonne Elliman, the great Booker T. Jones and A&M exec David Anderle counter with a shimmering production for Rita Coolidge, emerging from her underground status with Mad Dogs & Englishmen to unleash her fifth Top 40 hit here: Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager's "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love." With an array of fine players, the Delta Lady weaves an album that is up there with Dusty in Memphis, though it never got the similar acclaim, with the stigma of adult contemporary pop not giving this wonderful effort the hip luster it deserves. A breathy and seductive cover of "One Fine Day" is another gem; it was being released by Jimmy and Kristy McNichol and Jane Oliver as well, with songwriter Carole King winning the race in 1980, going Top 15 with the 1963 Chiffons hit she composed. That's OK, titles like Dave Loggins' co-write, "The Fool in Me," and Donna Weiss/Lenny Macaluso's "Trust It All to Somebody" are perfectly structured adult contemporary with more than a touch of the Philly sound created by Gamble & Huff; indeed, "Trust It All to Somebody" could have fit on an album by the O'Jays or the Three Degrees, the strings just needed to be brought up a notch. Donna Weiss, of course, was riding high, having co-written the biggest hit of 1980 with Jackie DeShannon, "Bette Davis Eyes," the inner circle that Yvonne Elliman, Kim Carnes, and Coolidge walked so obvious when one looks at the same players showing up on their respective discs: Mike Utley on keyboards and Jim Keltner on drums (Keltner and Anderle are on 1975's Kim Carnes, Keltner is also on 1977's Night Flight by Elliman). What all this work comprises are the girl groups of the '70s, and it is remarkable stuff. The quasi-disco of Booker T. Jones' "Let's Go Dancin' is acceptable years later as a classy slice of pop that qualifies as art, beyond the trendy KC & the Sunshine Band sign of the times it might appear to be on lesser albums. Johnny Bristol's "Pain of Love" is a dramatic departure from his Supremes hit, "Someday We'll Be Together," for this album contains a more subtle intensity, best displayed in the gorgeous hit. "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love" was not her biggest chart record, but it is one of her most triumphant performances. The way Rita Coolidge takes Priscilla Jones' "Sweet Emotion" to a funky, laid-back groove is the genius of the matchup of Booker T. Jones producing Rita Coolidge. It's more of an album for the ages than people realize; "Crime of Passion" and "Can She Keep You Satisfied" are rich with the unique voice of Coolidge and the blend of these first-rate musicians.

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