Tommie Young

Do You Still Feel the Same Way?

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This is absolute manna from Southern soul heaven. On the strength of the one, long-unavailable 1973 LP that forms the core of this compilation, Tommie Young can stake a claim as perhaps the finest neo-Aretha Franklin stylist among the slew of early-'70s soul sisters. But she was a meteor flare, almost immediately retreating back to the gospel scene that nurtured her, save for singing lead on the soundtrack to A Woman Called Moses, Cicely Tyson's 1978 film about Harriet Tubman. (She recorded on Texas gospel labels in the '90s as Tommye Young West.) Granted, Young didn't have the protean power of Franklin (like anyone did?), so her vocal tone is lighter; but the sensational, effortless, melodic leaps on the commanding title track does nothing to dispel the Franklin impression. "Do We Have a Future?" is punchier and might be rushed for a singer lacking Young's immaculate phrasing; she's simply a natural-born singer with the same appealing forthrightness as Irma Thomas. The liner notes say producer Bobby Patterson cut backing tracks to O.V. Wright's "That's How Strong My Love Is" and Percy Sledge's "Take Time to Know Her" (gender-switched here) for her first session and Young just walked in and nailed 'em in one take -- and it ain't hard to believe at all. "You Came Just in Time" finds Young fighting through backing vocal clutter, but the ballads "She Don't Have to See You (to See Through You)" and "You Brought It All on Yourself" thankfully free her voice back to unadorned basics, with great command of dynamics and phrasing on the latter. Brilliant phrasing also marks the very strong "You Can Only Do Wrong So Long" and she shines again on the more down-home funky "You Can't Have Your Cake" with some Ann Peebles vocal sass in her delivery. In addition, "Everybody's Got a Little Devil in Their Soul" is just absolutely marvelous, a funk groove with a second-line, jump-up snap in the drums and nice horns -- no real melodic changes, but who needs 'em with a wondrous singer testifying in neo-Aretha mode over a killer groove? But it does make you wonder if Young was short-changed by material and production that favored a lighter, neo-Motown soul-pop sound ("That's All a Part of Loving Him" is pretty representative) when she had the voice for tougher, harder-hitting songs like this. The string and horn embellishments that were tasteful early on start to get overbearing on the non-LP extra tracks like "Get out of My Life." It sounds as if they heard the disco boom coming and pumped it all up; but Young is too much of a singer to need any of the forced drama in the arrangement to "I'm Not Going to Cry Any More." The forced histrionics do get pretty dire on "One-Sided Love Affair," but the final five tracks shouldn't throw anyone off Do You Still Feel the Same Way? Tommie Young was singing straight-up soul from a woman's perspective as well as or better than Peebles, Thomas, Laura Lee, Candi Staton, or any other '70s soul woman at that level one step down from Queen Aretha.

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