Bettye Swann - Bettye Swann (Honest Jons)

The name Bettye Swann is certainly not a household one, but one which is revered by serious fans of American Soul Music, although thousands of people unwittingly know at least one of Bettye's songs, as "Victim Of A Foolish Heart" on the Josh Stone Soul Sessions" was originally recorded by Bettye. It is not included here as it was issued on Atlantic while this compilation is the combination of two albums recorded for Capitol.

Born in Louisiana in 1944, she moved to California aged nineteen and on her twentieth birthday signed a deal with Money Records and recorded some marvellous material, her biggest selling record being "Make Me Yours" in 1967, a track that had been popular on the UK Northern Soul Scene ever since. That tune and all her other Money Recordings were issued on a Kent CD recently.

After her contract with Money expired, she signed with Capitol Records, the recordings of which are the subject of this collection released by the enterprising Honest Jons label following on from their excellent Candi Staton compilation of earlier this year. Capitol teamed her with another native of Louisiana, Wayne Shuler, son of legendary record producer Eddie Shuler. Wayne Shuler's assignment to Bettye was his first time at producing on his own, although he had worked as a promo man and an A&R man. The songs they chose to record cam from a variety of styles.

From country music she covered Merle Haggards "Today I Started Loving You Again", "Sweet Dreams", "Stand By Your Man" and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye". Although the majority of songs are country covers, from the world of soul music she covered Percy Sledges "Cover Me", Aaron Nevilles anthemic "Tell It Like It Is" and a radical reworking of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar". She also tackles "Traces", a then current rock hit for Classics IV and "Little Things Mean A Lot", a 1950s pop standard. Bettye said "I wanted to do any song I was given my way. When I say 'my way' I mean the way I was feeling it. If someone played a song for me, not matter what the style was i'd want to sing it the way felt it". And she certainly did that. Bettye didn't sing with the raw passion of say Etta James or Mavis Staples, nor did she display the vocal gymnastics of Aretha Franklin, but then there is only one Aretha. Think of a voice like Mary Wells of "My Guy" fame that has a pop sensibility, surrounded by some excellent Southern Soul arrangements.

If you enjoyed the Candi Station collection then Bettye can take pride of place next to that.

Derek McCann

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