Anyone who wants evidence that rock & roll had not completely taken over the pop charts in the early to mid-'60s need only point to the career of Shelby Flint, who scored two hit singles -- "Angel on My Shoulder" in 1960 and a cover of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" in 1966 -- with music that was about as far from rock as pop got in those days. Flint was a singer blessed with a lovely voice, but one that gently insinuated rather than making bold declarations, and her high, clear soprano was best suited for material that was romantic with a touch of sadness; it's no wonder she later enjoyed a career in jazz, given the effortless control she demonstrates over her surprisingly rich voice. Flint's tenure as a minor pop star came during her years recording for Barry DeVorzon's Valiant Records, and The Complete Valiant Singles, as its title suggests, collects the A and B sides from the 11 45s she released for the label. While DeVorzon occasionally took Flint in different music directions -- "Wonderland" was a bit of Phil Spector-inspired pop, "Pipes for Keith" was contemporary folk with a bagpipe for seasoning, and Flint's version of "What's New Pussycat" finds her trying something playful for a change -- most of these songs follow the template established by "Angel on My Shoulder," telling tender but languid tales of love that were informed by the commercial folk acts of the day, with jazz and show tunes showing their influence here and there. Flint's Valiant sides reveal a paucity of stylistic imagination once DeVorzon decided what worked best for her, but her vocals are consistently beautiful throughout the set, and her own compositions here confirm she was a talented songwriter as well, particularly on "The Lily" and "Our Town." The Complete Valiant Singles also includes her debut single, recorded for Cadence in 1958, as a bonus, and the liner notes by James Ritz provide a concise history of her early career. Shelby Flint's pop career never generated enough momentum to prompt the release of a "greatest-hits" album, so The Complete Valiant Singles is a welcome overview of a unique and underappreciated artist, a singer who was bridging the gaps between pop, folk, and jazz with an artful intelligence and remarkable talent.
The Complete Valiant Singles
The Complete Valiant Singles Review
by Mark Deming