Betty Moorer: Speed Up
From 7″ (Wand, 1967)
Viola Wills: Sweetback
From 7″ (Supreme, 1971)
Full Speed: It Must Be Love
From 7″ (Real Thing, 197x)
In just the last few weeks, I’ve been able to knock down a few singles that I’ve been hankering after for a while and coincidentally, all of them are by female artists.
The Flirtations’ incredible “Nothing But a Heartache” was introduced to me by Murphy’s Law and I was completely blown away by it. Easily one of the greatest soul tunes ever produced out of England (by Wayne Bickerton) during a span where this South Carolina band went across the pond to find better opportunities than what the American market was offering. There’s a remarkable dynamism to the arrangement – seriously, just try to follow all the parts here – the change-ups, the layers of instruments, how the vocals fit into this massive sound. If this doesn’t take your breath away, have your lungs checked.
Betty Moorer’s “Speed Up” is a beaut of a Northern Soul track that offers up Moorer’s powerful vocals and a hook that you’ll find yourself singing when you aren’t even aware of it. This is one of those singles where I initially was intrigued by the other side – a cover of “It’s Your Thing” called “It’s My Thing” but it was “Speed Up” that ended up being the main reason to hunt this down.
The Viola Wills is a local L.A. single that, much to my pleasure, was produced by the great James Gadson. Wills has had a remarkable career, spanning funk to disco to gospel, and was apparently a discovery by Barry White in the mid-1960s. Her single here is clearly an homage to the Sweetback of blaxploitation fame. Too bad they couldn’t get this onto the soundtrack of the actual movie; it would’ve been smokin’.
As for Full Speed, I could find nothing on their background at all and as far as I know, this was their only release (at least that I could find). Great double-sider, with a funky, uptempo dance cut on the flip, “Put ‘Em On the Right Track” but for me, it is all about “It Must Be Love,” probably the most sultry ballad I’ve heard in ages. It opens so memorably and the way the drums drop in when the first set of vocals begin is just spot-on perfect.
And now we come to the pièce de résistance:
Dee Edwards: I Can Deal With That
From 7″ (Deto, 1977?). Also on Searching For Soul
I’ve been after this single since I first heard it on the Searching for Soul comp – five years ago! Easily one of my favorite slices of funky femme soul ever; beautiful production and Edwards sounds fantastic on here. The lyrics are rather astounding too. Here’s what I wrote back in ’05: “when you actually listen to what Edwards is saying, you realize how completely f—ed up of a message she’s sending here, basically, “you can cheat on me, but as long as it’s on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ tip, I don’t really mind.”