Petula Clark

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Memphis Review

by Bruce Eder

Petula Clark's Memphis is another in the long string of recording triumphs attributable to producer Chips Moman, who must hold a record for the sheer number of special and distinctive albums that he's created around an awesome diversity of talent, from Mark Lindsay to Dionne Warwick. Cut in 1969 at Moman's studio in Memphis, this album is roughly Clark's equivalent to Dusty in Memphis, though the two albums aren't really comparable musically. Dusty Springfield had an honest and real soulfulness, very close to (and sometimes indistinguishable from) black soul, in her singing, brought out spontaneously, while Clark's singing is pop-oriented. She sounds stunning in this setting, amid the lavish horns, understated female chorus, and string arrangements that Moman devised -- her intonation is different from that on any of her other albums, bolder and smoother at the same time, as she slides easily into a kind of gentle pop-soul groove, akin to Warwick. The material is also first-rate, including "I Wanna See Morning With Him" and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," which gets one of its best and most moving re-interpretations here, and which was the final track on the original LP. Clark's own songwriting contribution is unusual: a topical number called "Right On" (written under the pseudonym Al Grant) which is surprisingly confrontational and serious for a pop singer, and one that earned Clark (who had to reveal her authorship) plaudits as a composer. The Sequel Records reissue from 1996 includes three bonus tracks, an alternate take of "When the World Was Round," and two sides of a single done at the same time (though not produced by Moman), "Beautiful Sounds" b/w "The Song Is Love." They have a somewhat different sound, especially the A-side, built around a heavy orchestral accompaniment and pounding piano, but not sufficiently different to do violence to the preceding material.

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