Yvonne Fair

The Bitch Is Black

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As Alice Clark's eponymous 1972 epic on Bob Shad's Mainstream Records label is a thing of beauty deserving a wider audience, so is Norman Whitfield's 1975 supervision of Yvonne Fair entitled The Bitch Is Black. A title that shocked and grabbed attention upon its release, it may also have played a part in not revealing the majestic voice and soul-stirring ballads within. If you can't tell a book by its cover, be careful if the title throws you off base as well. Sure, Harvey Fuqua's "Stay a Little Longer" has some gutsy vocals reflecting that title -- and stunning production by Fuqua as Whitfield had collaborators in that department on this disc -- Pam Sawyer, Gloria Jones, and Clay McMurray also chipping in, but this is Yvonne Fair's moment in the sun and her big U.K. hit, "It Should Have Been Me," should have been a monster in the U.S. as well. There's a hilarious parody of it on YouTube under the name Vicar of Dibley, a British TV sitcom with a comedienne, Dawn French, doing the lip sync to Fair's popular rendition. Stevie Wonder's "Tell Me Something Good," a Top Three hit for Chaka Khan in the summer of 1974, is absolutely grand here, with bubbling guitar and sweet horns that give it an entirely different perspective. A cover of Barbara George's 1962 hit "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" moves with authority, and is a great selection on one of those albums that not only doesn't have a bad track, it's one that you wish would just keep on going. The re-release on reissue supervisor Paul Williams' Reel Music label has a generous 7,500-word essay by liner note writer A. Scott Galloway, over 20 pages with photos and information that has never been revealed about the singer before. Galloway interviewed Dionne Warwick, Chuck Jackson, Venisha Brown (daughter of Fair and James Brown), and many others specifically for this release. There's also a stunning and quite rare wedding photo of Fair in the tray when you lift the CD out of the jewel case, those in charge making it a labor of love that shows great respect for the artist. Packaged with the tender loving care this music deserves, and impressively remastered by Bill Lacey, it's a project that sets a new standard and is an absolute delight in every aspect.

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