Ann Peebles

If This Is Heaven

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By 1977, straight-ahead Southern soul had stopped selling in big numbers and disco had taken over the R&B market, and like many of her peers, soul diva Ann Peebles tried to make the best of matters by turning up the groove quotient on her album of that year, If This Is Heaven. Peebles, one of the best and most underrated soul songbirds of the 1970s, had already demonstrated she could work wonders with a dance-friendly track on her previous set, 1975's Tellin' It, and If This Is Heaven's first two cuts, "A Good Day for Lovin'" and the title number, find her and producer Willie Mitchell leaning toward disco while still leaving a taste of their classic-style Memphis groove in the mix, and if Howard Grimes' four-on-the-floor drumming dates these tracks a bit, Peebles still sings her tales of love both good and bad with the passion, force, and clarity that made her a legend. Still, Peebles sounds a bit more at home on "I'm So Thankful," a solid soul shot about a contented wife and mother (which she wrote herself and reflected her then-current status as a new mom), and the slow bluesy "You're Gonna Make Me Cry," and while this album is hardly a cookie-cutter disco throwaway, If This Is Heaven still has an air of compromise about it. While Peebles had no reason to be ashamed of her performances on this disc, it certainly doesn't capture her in her most comfortable surroundings.

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