The Pointer Sisters

That's a Plenty

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For their second studio long-player, the Pointer Sisters -- consisting of singing siblings Anita, Bonnie, June, and Ruth Pointer -- cut loose with a powerful collection of vintage pop, jazz, and modern R&B. Stylistically, 1973's That's A Plenty is as diverse as their eponymous debut and proves that the immense talents of the Oakland-born quartet were far more than just a one-off fluke. In fact, it was their multiplicity that may have initially prevented them from getting the exposure they deserved. The opening medley couples the tongue-in-cheek saga of their humble beginnings on the tastefully (if not a tad dramatically) arranged "Bangin' On the Pipes" with the rollicking bop of "Steam Heat," derived from the 1954 score of The Pajama Game. Things are cranked up considerably on the Pointers' breakneck rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's bebop classic "Salt Peanuts." The selection is taken at such an accelerated pace that the flurry might leave the listener exhausted by the song's conclusion. Of equal note are the accompanying instrumentalists, who ably keep pace with substantial verve and sonic savoir-faire. Although almost a musical antithesis, the uptown blues-infused take of Son House's "Grinning in Your Face" (aka "Don't Mind People Grinning in Your Face") unleashes a decidedly funky East Bay vibe. While steeped in the original, it is at once a wholly unique presence. "Shaky Flat Blues" is one of the two Pointer-penned pieces, as the Sisters take their cues more from the sophistication of Duke Ellington than anything happening in early-'70s pop or soul. That's A Plenty's title track is a hot-steppin' Dixieland rag with a tricky syncopation and mile-a-minute lyrics, while "Little Pony" is another classy remake of a venerable jazz number, this time from the luminous Count Basie catalog. The Pointers definitely do it justice by bringing it to an entirely new audience. The surprising rural twang of "Fairytale" is undoubtedly the most incongruous entry on the LP, garnering the ladies their first foray onto the country singles survey. The success resulted in not only a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, but formidable lauds as Elvis Presley covered it to great effect both in the studio -- where it surfaced on 1975's Today -- and on the road. All the more compelling is the dark and lymphatic torch reading of "Black Coffee," brooding and seething with an undercurrent of palpable emotion -- especially during the improvised double-time scat vocals at the tune's conclusion. Perhaps saving their best for last, the redux of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's "Love in Them There Hills" is an extended outing that churns and burns into an inspired eight-minutes of unfettered funk, proving that the Pointers are easily as relevant as any of their contemporaries. [In 2004, Hip-O Select issued That's A Plenty on CD in a limited edition featuring a miniaturized version of the record jacket.]

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