Rare singles plus just a bit of previously unissued material, recorded separately by two women singers for the Federal label in the late 1950s and early '60s, are compiled on this CD, divided about evenly between Tiny Topsy sides and Lula Reed tracks. None of the five singles Tiny Topsy did for the label between 1957 and 1959 were hits, but one of them should have been, and was indeed a hit for someone else. That song was the R&B/rock classic "Just a Little Bit," heard here in its original version. Covered soon afterward for a huge R&B hit by Rosco Gordon, it was done over the next few decades by numerous rock and soul acts. Tiny Topsy's rendition isn't necessarily the best of the many that have been waxed, but it's tough and based around riveting, minor-keyed melodic lines. Unfortunately, none of her other Federal tracks were nearly as exciting. They're adequately energetic if formulaic performances caught somewhere between mid-'50s R&B and the rock & roll that was superseding it; Tiny Topsy used a far raunchier vocal approach than most women in her field did during that period. Lula Reed is much better known, and was recorded much more often, than Topsy. In fact, she'd already done a lengthy tour of duty with Federal's parent label, King, in the early to mid-'50s that's collected on another Ace CD, I'll Drown in My Tears (whose title track was famously covered by Ray Charles as "Drown in My Own Tears"). This CD has singles she did in 1961 and 1962, including a couple duets with Freddy King. Reed wasn't as forceful a singer as Topsy, and these sides are just average, early-'60s R&B numbers with a bluesy edge. They're a little behind the times, as they're not especially influenced by either rock & roll or the emerging sounds of soul music. Songwriter Rudolph Toombs (noted for "One Mint Julep" and "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer") wrote or co-wrote a few of the songs here, but even the liner notes acknowledge that they weren't up to the level of the aforementioned classics. Another cut, "Ain't No Cotton Pickin' Chicken (Gonna Break This Chicken Heart of Mine)," deserves some sort of commendation for its convoluted title, but isn't as interesting as its handle might suggest. The somewhat poppier Reed-King duets aren't highlights of either artist's career, and don't contain much in the way of King's trademark flashy blues guitar. But they do provide a historical footnote worth hearing in "It's Easy, Child," which was somehow discovered by the Moody Blues and covered on the B-side of their mid-'60s smash "Go Now."
Just A Little Bit: Federal's Queens Of New Breed R&B
Lula Reed / Tiny Topsy
Just A Little Bit: Federal's Queens Of New Breed R&B Review
by Richie Unterberger