On The Rise LPBarbara Howard

At the end of the 60s Cincinnati resident and political activist Steven Reece decided to try the music business. He recruited a local vocalist called Barbara Howard whom he recorded, produced, managed and later on married, to help him. Their first record on Reece’s own SR label was the funky “I Don’t Want Your Love” in 1969. To be truthful I find this track a bit of a mess but legions of dance fans who have pushed the price for this 45 to ridiculous levels would disagree. I much prefer the high gospel of the flip ListenThe Man Above a tuneful ballad on which Barbara has enough room to make herself heard and which shows her to be a strong emotive vocalist of considerable stature.

At any rate the 45 sold well enough for Reece to record Barbara on an album “On The Rise” which has garnered a very good reputation over recent years. For some reason the funky side of the 45 was omitted from the track listing but an abbreviated version of the gospel side was side 1 Track 4. I think the whole set is more jazz orientated than soul leaning as the versions of various pop / rock tracks like “Light My Fire”, “Welcome Home” and “It’s Not Unusual” were taken more as supper club tracks than straightahead R & B but there is no denying the high production values of the set nor Barbara’s vocal versatility. Of the LP only cuts I think Barbara’s heartfelt version of “My Song” here mistyped as “My Son” rivals even Aretha’s cut – high praise.

Barbara HowardBut the album’s cream cut was Reece’s own ListenI Need You, a lovely deep ballad of impeccable quality on which Howard and the arrangement meld together beautifully to give maximum emotional depth. No wonder it was picked as Barbara’s third and final 45. The excellent little rap in the middle and her high shrieks towards the run out groove only reinforce just how good this track really.

I don’t why Barbara Howard left the musical scene but it may well have been due to her family commitments – but it is a source of real regret. Sadly she passed away in 2008.




I don’t want your love / ListenThe man above ~ SR (1969)
Welcome home / Light my fire ~ SR 700628 (1970)
ListenI need you / You’ve made me so very happy ~ SR 700317 (1970)


On the rise ~ SR 700301 (1970)


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