Barbara Acklin: I Can’t Do My Thing
To Sir, With Love
From I Did It (Brunswick, 1970)
Jackie Wilson: Go Away
I Get Lonely Sometimes
From Beautiful Day (Brunswick, 1973)
If you’re looking for soul records, it’s inevitable that you’re eventually going to cross paths with Brunswick. In the R&B world, the label is best known for its association with Jackie Wilson but at various points in history, they were also home to Young Holt Unlimited, Barbara Acklin, Willie Henderson, the Chi-Lites, The Lost Generation, even Lionel Hampton, Orlando Marin and bounce/rock/skaters Vaughn Mason and Crew. (By 1973, Brunswick was also distributing Dakar, founded by Brunswick employee Carl Davis). Altogether, it’s not the most prolific catalog but it’s hard to complain about the quality of the output.
This isn’t meant to be some definitive Brunswick post but I’ve been meaning to write up these two LPs for a while now and it seemed like a good reason to at least talk a bit about the label. Acklin’s album for them is surprisingly under the radar to me. Erma Franklin’s lone Brunswick album, Soul Sister tends to be regarded better and Acklin’s Seven Days of Night (the one with “Am I the Same Girl”) is better known. But for a funk-influenced soul LP of the early ’70s, you could do far worse than I Did It which includes a stone-cold classic in “I Can’t Do My Thing.” Everything about this cut is a gem – the strings, the hard guitars, Acklin’s sweet voice floating over that funky, raucous rhythm section. I was going to include “I’m Living With a Memory,” another funky soul cut but I was so drawn to hearing Acklin handle Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love” that I wanted to include it instead, just for contrast.
As for Jackie Wilson’s Beautiful Day, one could say it marked the beginning of his career decline; it was the first LP of his in nearly 3 years and within three more years, Wilson recorded his last LP. To be sure, Beautiful Day isn’t going to match up with the likes of his best years but it is interesting to hear him try to meld into the emergent R&B aesthetics of the 1970s. “I Get Lonely Sometimes” and “Go Away” could have easily one out of Philly Int’l or the pen of Barry White, only with Wilson’s incredible, signature voice bearing down on them.