Millie Jackson – “The Moods’ Of Millie Jackson” (Ace CDKEND 391)

By Kev Briscoe

There You Are; A Love Of Your Own; I Can’t Say Goodbye; From Her Arms To Mine; If Loving You Is Wrong; Solitary Love Affair; Special Occasion; It Hurts So Good; Good To Very The Last Drop; I’ll Be Rolling With The Punches; I’m Tired Of Hiding; I’m Through Trying To Prove My Love To You; How Do You Feel The Morning After; Angel In Your Arms; I Just Can’t Stand It; It’s Gonna Take Some Time; Loving Arms; Making The Best Of A Bad Situation; I Still Love You; Child Of God.

Millie JacksonTo any young Soul fan out there, and please let them be out in there, it may come as a surprise to discover that in the seventies Millie Jackson was considered one of the premier female vocalists around.  In fact, for a time, she was considered by many people to be the female Soul singer.

This was, in no small part, down to one of the most celebrated Soul albums of that decade (and any other decade for that matter!) and it’s subsequent follow ups.  The brilliant Muscle Shoals recorded “Caught Up” burst onto the scene in 1973.  Almost overnight, re-defining what a ‘concept’ album could and should be and also taking the ‘slipping around’ concept, so beloved of the Southern Soul genre, to a new level.

This compilation is a companion to “Soul For The Dance Floor” issued by ACE in 2008 and compiled once again by Sean Hampsey.  The remit this time to was to capture on one CD the essence of her deeper side.  Which is no mean feat in itself as many of the tracks are showcased to best effect as part of a complete album.
Sean resists the temptation to simply plot out her career in chronological order, a style that can and does work but wouldn’t here, and opts instead in his own words to “scour the complete repertoire”.  The result is a personal and heartfelt compilation showcasing the admirable Millie Jackson at her very best before she sadly descended into self parody.

The ‘Free And In Love’ album is considered by some to be the third in the ‘Caught Up Trilogy’ but for me never quite hit the heights of the first two albums.  However it did give us the CD’s first track, ‘There You Are’.  Opening with a, by now, trademark Millie monologue before slipping into that laid back style she made her own.  Millie’s after a man and she’s not gonna’ to rest until she gets one!

We then a get a trio of tracks from the ‘Lovingly Yours’ album beginning with the Average White Bands’ sumptuous ‘A Love Of Your Own’ which could have easily been written for her and highlights that her track selection was always of the very highest calibre.  Millie has her man and is head-over-heals in love but his he?  This fades into the infectious mid tempo ‘I Can’t Say Goodbye’ with Millie having doubts about her man but just can’t leave.  Finally we have the deep opus ‘From Her Arms To Mine’ a beautifully constructed ballad from Banks & Hampton which leads quite nicely into their masterwork….

‘If Loving You Is Wrong’ is in many ways where it all began, the opening track from “Caught Up” gave us a ten minute opus which simultaneously took our breaths away and set the scene for what was to come.  Due to the obvious constraints of compiling a CD we don’t get the track in all its glory here.  However it does fade quite wonderfully into ‘Solitary Love Affair’ probably one of Milles most underrated tracks.

'Special Occasion’ is next and for many people Sam Dees can do no wrong and I count myself in that circle.  One of the joys of our music is listening to an artists’ interpretation of his superior writing skills.  You just need to let this track wash over you, quite superb.

I first ‘saw’ this version of Katie Loves’ ‘Hurts So Good’ song in the cinema back in the early seventies as a featured track in the blaxploitation movie ‘Cleopatra Jones!  This was the title track for her second album and the 45 gave Millie her highest USA chart placing.  From the same album comes the strident ‘Good To The Very Last Drop’ another underrated track finding Millie deeply in love but that’s soon about to change.

With Allen Toussaint’s dramatic ‘I’ll Be Rolling With The Punches’ doubts are beginning to appear in the relationship which leads us to….

Hearing the intro of ‘Tired Of Hiding’ is like being reunited with an old friend and is another perfect slice of soul from the pen of Phillip Mitchell and is one of the great ‘slipping around’ songs.  For the first time on this CD the original segue is included as we slip into the quite magnificent cover of Bobby Womack’s ‘I’m Through Trying To Prove My Love To You”

Very rarely does an artist outshine the original version, Aretha ‘stealing’ Otis’ “Respect” always springs to mind, but Millie does it here in my humble opinion.  I appreciate that it may sacrilege to some Womack fans, and I’m a big fan, but there is something about Millie’s version that does it for me.

Such is the strength of these two tracks you have to fight the urge to end the CD and re-visit the whole of the ‘Caught Up’ album!

‘How Do You Feel The Morning After’ is yet another track that is easily overlooked and sits beautifully in this compilation as does the next track.  Taken from the ‘Feelin’ Bitchy’ album
‘Angel In Your Arms’ it shows once more that Millie knew how to select the right track. 

‘I Just Can’t Stand It’ takes us back to her first Spring album which is better known for the up tempo tracks.  However this mid tempo gem should not be overlooked, part written by Millie herself, it charts the end of a love affair superbly.  That theme continues with ‘It’s Gonna Take Some Time’ opening with the great line”I’ve been through love affairs like sorting clothes on laundry day” and finds Millie facing up to the harsh realities of life.

After the phenomenal success of “Caught Up” we were wondering how “Still Caught Up” would compare.  The opening track ‘Loving Arms’, complete with faux nightclub scene, settled our nerves and ranks among her finest performance.  Once again the original albums next track is allowed to follow with another tour-de-force in ‘Making The Best Of A Bad Situation’The albums final track ‘I Still Love You’ is a dark and sombre tale chronicling the end of a love affair and in it’s original setting had Mille descending into madness, strong stuff indeed!

The CD closes with ‘A Child Of God’ which was Millie’s first 45 for Spring records and only her second ever release.  However, with it’s spoken intro’ it could be seen as ‘blue print’ for what was to come.  It’s a superb indictment of intolerance; financial, sexual and racial and is a fitting end to an excellent collection.

For those of use familiar with her work it is sometimes almost impossible to listen to some of these tracks as ‘stand-alone’ pieces.  They only seem ‘at home’ when bracketed with the other tracks on the original albums.  That said this compilation achieves exactly what it set out to; showcasing the deeper ‘moods ‘of Millie J and hopefully introducing a whole new legion of fans to her work.  It also reunites long time fans with her work and you may find yourself being reacquainted with some old friends, go buy!


May 2013