Betty Griffin

Free Spirit

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It's safe to say that the vast majority of R&B lovers have never heard of Betty Griffin, a talented but little known soul singer who was active in the late '70s and early '80s. The big-voiced Griffin made her vinyl debut in 1980, recording Free Spirit for Mopres Records (a small mom-and-pop label that was based in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes). Unfortunately for Griffin, the struggling Mopres didn't have a lot of promotional muscle. As a result, this LP received very little radio airplay and didn't sell. But Free Spirit is a pleasant and enjoyable record even though it falls short of remarkable. The singer's phrasing indicates that she spent a lot of time listening to Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole, and she has generally decent material to work with (most of it written by Robin "Kiddle" Mack and the LP's producer/arranger Dean Chambers). Griffin provides a few sweaty up-tempo numbers, including the funky title song. But romantic ballads and slow jams are dominant, and tracks like "If You Want to Be a Star" and "I Want to Cruise" find her favoring a smooth quiet storm approach รก la Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill, or the late Minnie Riperton. She doesn't get into hardcore funk, nor does the album contain any disco (something that was quite prevalent in 1980). With the right promotion, Griffin probably would have become better known. Instead, Free Spirit quickly went out of print and ended up in the cutout bins.

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