Barbara Acklin: Struttin’ Soulfully

Barbara Acklin: Am I the Same Girl?
From Seven Days of Night (Brunswick, 1969). Also on The Complete Acklin On Brunswick.

Charmaine Burnett: Am I the Same Girl?
From Party Keller Vol. 2 (Compost, 200?)

In posting up Enrique Lynch’s “Al Ritmo Del Bump Bump” the other day and noting that it was an informal cover of Young Holt-Unlimited’s “Soulful Strut,” I realized that some folks didn’t realize that “Soulful Strut” itself was a cover…sort of.

“Soulful Strut” was the instrumental track to Barbara Acklin’s “Am I the Same Girl?” itself, a decent hit for the soul singer but was far eclipsed by Young Holt-Unlimited once they re-released the song as an instrumental and under the title, “Soulful Strut.” It’s actually a rather strange development insofar it’s not often that you’d expect the instrumental version to outsell the original.

Just so we’re clear: when I say it’s the “instrumental track,” I mean this literally. If you listen to the Acklin then try to pretend like she’s not there, you’ll realize, it’s “Soulful Strut.” They literally just stripped off her vocals and voila, “Soulful Strut.” Young Holt-Unlimited also did the same thing on their version of “Light My Fire” and what’s truly remarkable is that not one, but two different vocal versions of the song (by Jackie Wilson and Erma Franklin) were cut over that same exact track. I guess that sort of thing wasn’t unusual, at least not at Brunswick.

Personally, I’ve always loved “Am I the Same Girl?” since I learned about it much later than first hearing “Soulful Strut” and it was a novelty (I mean this in a good way) to hear the familiar song but this time, with lyrics. It was also an introduction to Acklin (who I’m still learning about) though, strangely, I knew about her name mostly because she was the cousin of noted jazz/funk producer Monk Higgins.

The Charmaine Burnett cover of “Am I the Same Girl?” is much more recent even though it sounds like it could have been a vintage 1970s reggae version. Not a bad cover at all – the song works well in a roots reggae aesthetic (like most soul songs do). (There’s also a version of the song by Salena Jones who recorded it for a British label – not bad but not as scintillating as I had hoped it might be.)