The Pointer Sisters

Yes We Can Can: The Best of the Blue Thumb Recordings

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Yes We Can Can: The Best of the Blue Thumb Recordings Review

by Lindsay Planer

Prior to Hip-O Select reissuing the bulk of the Pointer Sisters' early-'70s long-players on CD, Yes We Can Can: The Best of the Blue Thumb Recordings (1997) was the only comprehensive anthology of their five-album/four-year stint on the eclectic ABC Records subsidiary Blue Thumb. It was during this era that the Pointer Sisters -- Anita, Bonnie, June, and Ruth -- documented some of their most challenging, diverse, and exemplary material, leaving their eponymous 1973 debut as well as the studio LPs That's A Plenty (1974), Steppin' (1975), and Having a Party (1977) as copious evidence of their talents. Right from the start, these soulful siblings were a reckoning force. Their combination of uptown funk grooves, bebop jazz, blues, and even country nuances helped to establish the quartet, as did the Sisters' inimitable vocal blend and drop-dead accurate timing. "Yes We Can Can," "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)," "Steam Heat," and an unbridled rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" are but a few of those high-energy, powerful, and primal entries. The ladies are similarly scintillating on the rural "Fairytale" (which became the Pointers' sole Top 40 country crossover hit), the refined "Jada," and the ethereal ballad "Black Coffee," each demonstrating a unique facet of the quartet's remarkable stylistic range. June Pointer exited the lineup in late 1975, but was around for the uniformly strong and recommended Live at the Opera House (1974). None of those tracks are included, which is disappointing, as the Sisters are captured giving a flawlessly executed performance punctuated by some exceptional improvisations on "Yes We Can Can" and the extended closer, a cover of Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble's "Love in Them There Hills." On the plus side, interested parties should take note of "You Gotta Believe," an uptempo tune that was among the first songs from the June-free incarnation and turned up in the film Car Wash (1976). Paired down to a trio, the Pointers concluded their Blue Thumb tenure with the generally uneven Having a Party (1977), which half-heartedly resurrected the Sam Cooke hit. If you want a compact and cursory collection, you can't go wrong here. However, earnest enthusiasts are better served with the original albums.

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