Mildred M Foster came from Wichita, KS but started her recording career in the Big Apple with a couple of 45s for President from a session under the direction of that talented individual Robert Banks.
Her first release coupled the rather teen orientated “Love Wheel” with the excellent ballad Bitterness on which an obviously young Millie shows her really well modulated chops with some lovely gritty phrases, over a small group backing and some lovely subdued horns. I love the way they come in over a super chord change in the bridge. The song was penned by New York vocalist Bobby Dunn, soon to have his own page in this archive.
Millie’s second President release included the bouncy “What A Thrill”, a Northern soul favourite, but as always the flip Did I Think About You is the one to get my attention. This blues ballad is even more impressive than her first 45 thanks to a full bloodied demonstrative vocal from Millie, and some super guitar fills from Banks on guitar, and an organist well up in the mix.
Sadly Millie’s next 45 was far too teen sounding for me, despite the presence of Leroy Kirkland as arranger, but of the two sides “It Keeps On Raining Tears” is by far the stronger. But there is nothing to her voice here – she is almost imprisoned by the schmaltzy sound. A couple of years later she was on the West Coast recording a session for Kent. Although nothing was ever released at the time sadly, a couple of tracks have featured on Ace UK CDs.
Neither “Sweet Bitter Love” nor Fill My Needs are finished items, being more like demos or rough tracks, but both are quite excellent. The former is a familiar song of course, but under Millie’s confident and mature voice the result bears comparison with Aretha’s version. Fill My Needs is even more majestic, a deep soul ballad with just that hint of the blues that gives it some bite. Millie is breathily effective, full of gentle touches one second, caressing the lyric, giving it more emphasis and sting on the hook.
In 1968 Millie provided vocals for the jazzy group Shades Of Joy on Fontana and Dagored, and then on one track on the LP put out by the rock group Flying Bear Medicine Show on Smash. Her recording career was completed by a solo Gospel set “Feels The Spirit” on MGM. If only she had cut more soul orientated material.
Love wheel / Bitterness ~ PRESIDENT 826 (1962)
What a thrill / Did I think about you ~ PRESIDENT 829 (1963)
Ole father time / It keeps on raining tears ~ TCF 4 (1963)
Bye bye love / Andy’s dream ~ FONTANA 1637 (1958) (Note ~ Millie sings on the top side only)
Shades Of Joy ~ FONTANA LP 67592 1968
Shades Of Joy “Music Of El Topo” ~ DAGORED LP 155 (1969)
Flying Bear Medicine Show ~ SMASH LP 67125 (1969) (Note ~ Millie on vocals on ”Make Me Wanna Holler” only)
Feels The Spirit # MGM LP SE 4897 (1973)
1. You can find "Sweet Bitter Love" on the Kent UK CD "Slow'n'Moody, Black & Bluesy" (2nd edition only) and "Fill My Needs" on the same company's "Pounds Of Soul" CD.
2. Extra discographical info from Bob McGrath with thanks via his Soul Discography available here.
Thanks to my friend John McGuigan for the suggestion.