Monday, October 4, 2010

Roberta Flack - First Take

"It's a good thing that I'd found a seat before she took her place at the piano and sang her first note, because my knees would never have made it standing. Her voice touched, tapped, trapped and kicked over every emotion I've ever known. I laughed, cried and screamed for more. And more came - and more- and more - and more!"

Pianist Les McCann recounts seeing Roberta in the summer of 1968. A year later, she would release her first album on Atlantic. On First Take, Roberta really runs the gamut of emotions. The pessimistic "Compared To What", penned by Eugene McDaniels, is packed with punchy horn hits. I find it very much in McDaniels style, sounding very similar to songs like "Lovin' Man", from his 1971 release, Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse. She does a beautiful Leonard Cohen cover with "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye", but does anyone else think the drums are mixed strangely in this song? My favorite track on First Take is her own arrangement of "I Told Jesus" - the piece builds slowly before climaxing in a powerful vocal performance that is just raw spirituality. Roberta's voice is one of the best and her piano playing is lovely as well. The backing band includes jazz veteran Ron Carter on bass and John Pizzarelli on guitar (I'm assuming it's the senior Pizzarelli, now known as Bucky, unless the younger was that much of the man at 9 years old).


1. Compared To What
2. Angelitos Negros
3. Our Ages Or Our Hearts
4. I Told Jesus
5. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
6. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
7. Tryin' Times
8. Ballad Of The Sad Young Men


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