Peter Ivers Group feat. Asha Puthli: Ain’t That Peculiar
From 7″ (Epic, 1971)
Asha Puthli: You’ve Been Loud Too Long
From She Loves to Hear the Music (CBS, 1974)
As I mentioned a few weeks back, I had the immense pleasure to meet Asha Puthli and hopefully will be working with her on a future project. That encounter encouraged me to revisit her substantial catalog and that’s been such a fun, revelatory experience.
It starts with a song by her I had never heard before but Asha was kind enough to burn a copy for me – her singing with the Peter Ivers Group back in the early 1970s, covering Marvin Gaye’s big Motown classic, “Ain’t That Peculiar.” This wasn’t her first recording but it was (I believe) her first US release, recorded for a full album that was meant to be Ivers’ follow-up to his well-regarded 1969 LP, Knight of the Blue Communion (I’ll have to post up about that LP at some point too). For reasons I’m not clear about, the album feat. Asha, entitled Take It Out On Me was never released by Epic but the single did make its way out. It’s definitely not something that will remind people instantly of Gaye’s iconic version – Ivers adds a strong funk element to the rhythm section and it’s actually quite a sparse song in many ways (despite the surprise harmonica) and Asha’s voice – light but distinct – works nicely here, especially as she plays with the arrangement most of know through Marvin. I like this one a lot – it reminds me of Smith’s “Baby, It’s You” in terms of how a rock band interprets an R&B tune.
Asha’s second full-length solo album was She Loves to Hear the Music, released in 1974, with production principally from disco master Teo Macero and Paul Phillips (I’m assuming he of later Hi Tension fame?). I’m not 100% clear who produces “You’ve Been Loud Too Long,” but I’ve loved this song for years – it’s a spunky bit of Southern fried funk that seems to mesh Wardell Quezergue with Van McCoy (who works on this album so for all I know, he produced it!). I played this out at Boogaloo[la] the other week and one of the guys working security asked if it was Minnie Riperton; I hadn’t thought of that before but there’s definitely an affinity shared between singers like Puthli, Riperton and Linda Lewis.
The one album that was new to me was The Devil Is Loose and I’m not even certain why it took me so long to listen to it but it is good. Very very good. Rush-out-and-get-this-now good. For starters, I think it showcases the possibilities of what disco could bring to pop music that defies all the haters and naysayers – the gloss and glean in the production (all by Dieter Zimmerman) isn’t window dressing but an integral part to sonic texture of the album. It’s subtly lush, with Zimmerman and Puthli smartly keeping things a bit cool and controlled rather than give into sweeping excess. Moreover, the diversity of styles here are impressive, ranging from the quiet ballad “Let Me In Your Life” (the last song on the sampler) to the slinky funk of “Flying Fish” to the sheer pop charm of “Hello Everyone.” The album’s best known song (also released on 12″) however is “Space Talk,” another funky excursion, and arguably, a big influence of the evolution of European disco. If it sounds familiar to some, it may be because the song’s been popular sample fodder, including for Biggie.