Alder Ray (Black or Mathis on her southern recordings) started out singing girl group style records on the West Coast, the first one being the terrific Phil Spectre soundalike “A Little Love” Will Go A Long Way” / “Cause I Love Him”. Now on the odd occasion I enjoy this sort of music a lot, as indeed I do pure girl group pop / soul like the 45s by the Buttons and the Delicates that Alder Ray joined after her first disc sadly flopped.
On tracks like “I Want To Get Married” and “I’ve Been Hurt” Alder’s rich expressive vocals lift the Delicates fully into real soul territory. The songs are first rate and the big orchestral arrangements make these tracks a real occasional treat.
Back in the solo world Alder Ray recorded a one-off for Minit. The Northern upbeat “My Heart Is In Danger” is OK I suppose, but I’d call “I Need You Baby” her first really soulful ballad, with some great chords especially on the hook. Even better was her Revue 45. The lively “Run Baby Run” is highly enjoyable, but the emotional depth of Love Will Let You Down makes it by far the preferred side. Just check out the gospel rhythm arrangement and the southern style horn charts, but most of all give an ear to Alder’s heartbreak tones. Really tough, rock solid vocals for sure, chock full of regret and grief.
And if that 45 sounded like a southern soul outing, her final two 45s were exactly that, bred and recorded in Alabama. And it is quite possible the tracks were all cut at the one trip to Fame. I Want To Get Married is a super deep soul piece, with exemplary backing from the Fame Gang, with a special mention to Clayton Ivey’s lovely piano fills. It certainly showed off her controlled vocal power to best effect. This was leased out to Texas’ Jetstar, with the other tracks leased out to John Richbourg.
The typical mid-tempo “Put Your Trust In Me” has long been a collector’s piece, but the top side of the single George Jackson’s chugging Just Because The Package Has Been Unwrapped And Opened is excellent as well – tasty southern funk with great horns. But despite the quality of the music it didn’t hit. Richbourg told Souled Out magazine “I thought the record had some potential but it just fell on its face. Oh I guess we did 10, 15 maybe 20,000 records but not enough to call it a hit”
If her career had been a more settled one, at a single label for example, or used one name then Alder Ray may well have enjoyed much greater commercial success. Certainly her talent more than merited it.
You can find a good discography here