P.P. Arnold

The First Lady of Immediate

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The first of two albums that former Ikette P.P. Arnold recorded for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label, and titled -- of course -- for her role within that organization, The First Lady of Immediate not only represents one of the most phenomenal voices of the age, but also stands as testament to the creative melting pot that was the label's credo. Recorded over the course of a full year, The First Lady of Immediate draws from a succession of sessions, dating back to Arnold's first dates with Oldham himself ("Everything's Gonna Be Alright" and "Life Is but Nothin'," her first single for the label). Next up, chronologically speaking, come recordings overseen by Mick Jagger ("Though It Hurts Me Badly" and "Treat Me Like a Lady") and the Small Faces ("[If You Think You're] Groovy"), before a lavishly orchestrated "First Cut Is the Deepest" spins out of a fruitful partnership with producer Mike Hurst and provides the album with what remains its best-known track. Despite such jumbled origins, the album holds together well. "Groovy," in particular, is a no-nonsense R&B pressure cooker, leaving one to wonder why the Small Faces (who provide instrumental duties on the track) never got around to releasing a version of their own. Spector/Mann/Weill's "Born to Be Together," meanwhile, is an absolute Oldham classic, bedecking Arnold's soulful voice with a full-blooded production that leaves the original sounding like a jellyfish. Unfortunately, the distribution problems that marred so many of Immediate's greatest releases raised their head once again. Not one of Arnold's singles made more than a mere murmur on the chart of the day, a fate that, in turn, reduced the album to little more than a discographical afterthought. Similarly, the mercenary repackaging that has since so blighted Immediate's memory skips so blithely over Arnold's long-players that many fans aren't even aware they exist. They do, and you should hear them immediately.

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