Monday, April 11, 2011

... Ronn

Looking around on the Internet I haven’t been able to find out any background on Barbara West, beyond details of her Ronn releases. It seems her only output were four 45s released on Ronn in the late 60s. (Barbara A. West on Nu Sound may also be her). “Congratulations Baby”, her last on Ronn from 1969, has some favour on the Northern Soul scene which would account for its higher going price in relation to her other releases, most of which lean more towards a deep and slow style, with a strong southern/gospel feel. Just how I like them, in fact.

“The Love Of My Man” was Barbara’s first release on Ronn, in 1967. When I heard it recently I assumed it was a) Barbara West’s original and b) a song I had not heard performed before. I was wrong on both counts. The song was originally recorded by Theola Kilgore in 1963, and I’m sure by many other artists since. Bouncing around YouTube I also found a cover by Gayle Adams recorded in 1980 – and included on an album of which I have a copy!  Gayle’s version absolutely had not stuck in my mind (in fairness, at the time I bought Gayle’s album I was in the middle of my DJ phase and so it was the dancefloor slanted cuts on that album that would have had my attention – and there are some crackers). Theola’s version is there on YouTube too (what isn’t nowadays?!). All versions referred sound very much of their time.           

After buying this 45 recently I am fast developing a mini obsession with Barbara West and will be adding to my collection soon I think. My intentions in this regard are evidently in sharp contrast to someone whose comments on “The Love Of My Man” I stumbled across on some old forum thread while I was looking for information on Barbara. The forum thread was entitled “Candidates for the world’s worst record” and this individual had this to say:

The worst 45 I ever had (and one of the few records I ever parted with) was "The Love of My Man" by Barbara West. The singer's voice was totally overshadowed by the out-of-tune piano. It was in one of those sight-unseen 10-record 45 packs that sold for a dollar (you could see one of the labels on one end of the box, which was a record I wanted). I gave it away with a turntable I sold.  !!
(Incidentally he also cited Archie Bell & The Drells “Do The Choo Choo” for a dishonourable mention. He obviously never bothered to turn that 45 over and play the B side!)    

Hmmm. Well, I agree the piano sounds like it could do with a tune, but in those days  in the studios the takes were few, and in the long hot days from what I understand the tuning could go off pretty quick. With the recording sessions packed in there probably wasn’t time to keep tuning the instruments. I’ll forgive them that because there is the guitar to listen to too… and then there are the horns… oh, and the strings… and not least Barbara West’s strong voice, which by no means could be said to be drowned out. The piano’s “noise” just adds a certain charm I think. Well that’s my opinion, anyway. I’ll let you make your own mind up.   


Marc said...

Hi Darcy,

I dug up my old Charly LP.Trevor Swaine wrote:


Background unknown.Barbara recorded eight sides for Stan Lewis,of which these are outstanding.
'Love Of My Man' is of course the Ed Townsend penned classic,first successfully interpreted by
Theola Kilgore in 1963.On this equally soulful version Barbara's voice soars and swoops over
sensitive piano accompaniment;no wonder copies of the rare original American 45 have recently
been changing hands at upwards £5 a deal.On 'Anyone but You' she sounds like a female
Toussaint McCall,using his style of simple basic rhythm,while 'Give Me Back The Man' again
uses the simple approach,only this time a gospel style femme group is added to great effect.

Liner notes by Trevor Swaine (December 1981) 'Southern Soul Belles' - Charly LP CRB 1035
(including a small picture of a broadly smiling and pretty looking Barbara)

'Let It Be Me',a previously unissued Muscle Shoals track / duet with Toussaint McCall appeared on the nowadays
out of print Toussaint McCall CD on WESTSIDE WESA 870.

Take a listen at this link

Keep up the good work and cheers,

Darcy said...

Thanks for this Marc. My copy of this Barbara West 45 (which I only acquired a few weeks ago) could easily have been lying around in the dealer's stock since about 1981 judging by the old telephone STD code on the dealer stamp on the sleeve. Still a £5 record too.

Anonymous said...

Ronn 27, Anyone But You / You're No Good, is great with strong tracks on both sides. W.

Darcy said...

I'm looking for that one at the moment at the right price W.

Phillip said...

Anyone But You / You're No Good is a fantastic record. Probably her best overall.

My favorite of her songs, though, is the flip of this one, "Will He Come Back?". If you like it too, you'll probably also dig "I'm A Fool For You Baby" and "Oh Little Boy".

Around the time that the Westside Toussaint McCall CD came out, I read they were planning one on Barbara as well. It must have fallen through. :(

Darcy said...

I've just pressed the pay now button on a copy of Anyone But You/You're No Good!