Labelle

Something Silver

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With 1974's "Lady Marmalade," LaBelle placed itself in a spotlight that would last until Patti LaBelle left the group for a solo career some two years later. A darling of New York's Apollo Theater, the group never compromised, delivering its fiery, passionate R&B exactly as its members wanted to. Leaving behind the cookie-cutter big hair and lookalike dresses of its Blue Belles era, LaBelle took the stage after dropping out of sight to reinvent itself, and emerged as a group of glamorously modern individuals -- three strong styles that melded into a universal whole of staggering proportion. This compilation rounds up the group's best songs and includes many of its covers, alongside original material. The members of LaBelle were masters of interpretation, blessed with the uncanny ability to completely co-opt a song -- to turn it into something of their own without disturbing the integrity of the original and, in most cases, elevate it to heights previously unimagined. Through the use of classic R&B, funk, and dance beats that foreshadowed the disco movement, LaBelle turned its audience's attention to something vitally fresh and unique. This collection opens with LaBelle's reinvention of Gil Scott-Heron's Black Power manifesto "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," which bleeds out of a revolutionarily balladic version of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air." Coincidentally, that band's producer, Pete Townshend, then gets in on the act, as LaBelle gives "Won't Get Fooled Again" the classic girl group treatment -- both bratty (in a good way) and strong. Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow" also becomes an entirely different song, slowed down and harmonized. Treatments of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses and folksinger Laura Nyro's "Time and Love" are also included. The band's own songs, meanwhile, round out this chunky set with the classics "If I Can't Have You," "Shades of Difference," and "Touch Me All Over." The eternal "Lady Marmalade" winds the whole thing down with what remains, for many people, LaBelle's defining moment. An anthem for everybody, it stood apart by serving as a signpost for future generations. After all, without LaBelle to pave the way, would TLC, Destiny's Child, or the striking images of Moulin Rouge exist nearly 30 years later?

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