Patti LaBelle (right) and the Bluebelles
“Listen – Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles – Take Me For a Little While – MP3″
I hope that everyone (at least here in the States) had a great holiday weekend. The sun actually made the occasional appearance (interrupted by the occasional downpour) so the Funky16Corners fam was actually able to get out of the house for a change. We headed down to Asbury Park for the 4th of July fireworks and managed to get in some genuine rest and relaxation (which is good since we have an assload of stuff to take care of this week).
It’s really a gas to see the way that Asbury Park is coming back. I remember going down to the boardwalk there when I was a little kid (late 60s, before the riots). Now finally, after decades of unfulfilled promises the boardwalk area, as well as Cookman Ave and vicinity has really gotten a new lease on life. It’s great to see.
It was also something else to be able to look out over the ocean and see the fireworks all the way over on the shore of Long Island. Positively surreal.
The tune I bring you today just fell through the mail slot on Friday. Although I hadn’t heard it, I picked it up as a ‘buy it now’ because it was a cover of one of my favorite songs.
Once I tossed it on the turntable, it promptly blew my mind and instantly became my favorite (version of that song).
The song in question is ‘Take Me For a Little While’, recorded many times, but featured at Funky16Corners in the past in versions by Evie Sands and the Mirettes. Written by Trade Martin, ‘Take Me…’ is a perfect example of the dawning of an era where songwriters were “writing records” as much as they were writing songs. The song has a wonderful melody and a hearwrenching lyric, but its triumph is in its very structure, employing a pleading verse with a cascading, and ultimately volcanic chorus. No matter who’s singing the song, the basic framework – which is what makes it great – is always there.
While I love Sands voice, and the vaguely funky edge of the Mirettes’ version, believe me when I tell you that you haven’t really experienced the song until you get your ears blow off by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.
Formed at the dawn of the 60s by Philadelphia’s own Patti Labelle (along with Sarah Dash, Trenton, NJ’s Nona Hendryx and future Supreme Cindy Birdsong) Labelle and the Bluebelles (or Blue Belles) hit first with 1962s ‘I Sold My Heart to the Junkman’. They moved to Atlantic in 1965, where they would remain for the next four years, eventually recording the original version of ‘Groovy Kind of Love’ (a hit the following year for the Mindbenders).
Arranged by Bob Gallo (who had worked with Solomon Burke, Mary Wells, Barbara Lewis and many others) and produced by Gallo and the legendary Tom Dowd, LaBelle and the Bluebelles rendition of ‘Take Me For a Little While’ is no less than epic in its scope.
Opening with juxtaposed cellos and an oddly tuned guitar (the sound reminds me a little Chris Farlowe’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Out of Time’) , LaBelle enters with the verse backed by the Bluebelles. The drums enter, giving the song forward momentum into the chorus. It is at this point that sweeping strings come in as LaBelle belts out the chorus with a power that reaches from the amen corner, to the moon and back.
I love the way Gallo brings things down at the end of the first chorus, with a funky little drum breakdown, followed by the two different rhythm guitar lines.
I’ve never been partial to “high note” artists, but Patti LaBelle exercises precisely the right amount of control, flying high – but not too high – creating yet another one of those records where the grooves are barely sufficient to contain the power within. It’s an operatic cum gospel explosion masquerading as a ballad, and an absolutely brilliant record.
As always, I hope you dig it and I’ll be back on Wednesday with some southern soul.