Madeline Bell

Madeline Bell

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By the time Madeline Bell's self-titled album (actually her third) came out in 1971, the American soul singer had been a top session vocalist in the U.K. for years, as well as achieving some British chart success as a singer in Blue Mink. Aside from the 1968 U.S. hit "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," however, she never would achieve major chart success as a soloist. Like many a talented singer, in sheer chops and versatility she measured up to the artists she backed (such as Dusty Springfield), yet didn't quite have the vocal personality or material necessary to have the kind of stardom someone like Springfield did. That means this album isn't up to the standards of more famous soul singers of the period, but if you adjust your expectations properly, it's a pretty solid early-'70s soul LP. Avoiding the excesses starting to creep into some mainstream soul productions at the time, she handles an assortment of reasonably decent tunes with strong vocal performances, including solo versions of three songs that had already been recorded by Blue Mink for their Our World album. Some of the album's cuts are earthy love songs, but she proves capable of sweet pop tunes on "You Walked Away" and a cover of Bread's "Make It with You" that comes off better than you might guess. Other tracks like "Get Off Your Back-Sides" have more of the somewhat socially conscious let's-get-it-together sort of feel common in the early '70s, though the vibe doesn't get pretentious. She seems most engaged in the songs she wrote with Blue Mink's Alan Parker, making one wish more of their compositions had made it onto the album. The 2010 CD reissue on RPM adds good historical liner notes.

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