Roberta Flack: Roberta Flack: Compared to What + Tryin’ Times
From First Take (Atlantic, 1969)

Roberta Flack: Reverend Lee
From Chapter 2 (Atlantic, 1970)

(Ed. Note: The following is from Dave Luxton, a guest poster I plucked out of the submissions box who was interested in a Roberta Flack-themed entry. This is what Dave has to say about Ms. Flack:)

    Roberta Flack! Wow. I have been listening for a couple of months now and I can’t get enough – why? What is it about her early albums that make me want to keep listening? I just recently discovered her music and now I have to share the experience. 

    Some background: I am quite simply, a fan of music. It doesn’t matter if it is hip-hop, metal, soul, classical, whatever. But for me to like it, it has to be REAL. That’s why I find myself listening to jazz most of the time. There is honesty and truth to most jazz music that sits right in front of you. You don’t have to dig deep to find truth in jazz. For the most part, it’s REAL. 

    And then there are artists like Roberta Flack who in my opinion take this idea to the next level. I don’t know the history of the term ‘Soul Music’, but for me she has a way of defining it. When she sings, she speaks the truth – and speaks to your soul. It’s REAL. And you have to listen. It’s addictive.

    Perhaps it’s because we are all getting too used to bullshit. Not that we accept it, we’re just forced to live with it. So, when you hear something that cuts through it with honesty, truth, respect, raw talent, and a great jazz groove, you can’t help but listen. I think that’s what Les McCann experienced when he first saw Roberta Flack in a small club in Washington in 1968. He was blown away. As he put it, “Roberta possesses, both as a singer and a pianist, that rare quality which carries the listener beyond every barrier as though it never existed, to that level at which all humans can truly hear.”  

    Les McCann introduced Roberta Flack to Joel Dorn of Atlantic Records and they recorded her first album – First Take. And what could be more appropriate than the first track on her very first album be ‘Compared to What’ – an anti-war song written by Gene McDaniels – that questions the very idea of what is REAL?  She is accompanied by a top-drawer line-up including Ron Carter on bass, John Pizzarelli on guitar and Ray Lucas on drums. There have been other versions of this song recorded but none speak the truth like Roberta Flack’s.