Released in 1971, this self-titled LP was the first album that Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash recorded under the name Labelle. Never again would they use the name Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, and that's just as well; since the group had a new sound and a new image, it made sense to have a new name. And make no mistake: Labelle was determined to forge ahead in 1971. While pop considerations were a high priority for Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, soul considerations define Labelle: a tough, gritty, gospel-drenched effort along the lines of Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, and Etta James. Produced by Vicki Wickham (the group's manager) and Kit Lambert, this decent, if uneven, LP isn't in a class with subsequent gems like 1974's Nightbirds and 1975's Phoenix. Nonetheless, Labelle's performances are generally enjoyable, and the group brings plenty of passion and sincerity to original material as well as covers of Laura Nyro's "Time and Love," Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," and the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses." In 1971, the best was yet to come for Labelle, both creatively and commercially. But despite its imperfections, this LP made it clear that the trio had great potential.
by Alex Henderson