Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sandra Rhodes: “Where’s Your Love Been” (1973/2014 re-issue) CD Review

Sandra Rhodes is known for providing backing vocals for Al Green and Conway Twitty (she also co-wrote Twitty’s hit “The Clown”), among others, and in 1973 released her own album on Fantasy. Titled Where’s Your Love Been, this album features lots of original material, some of it co-written by Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers, who was then her husband, and some of it co-written by Sandra and her sister, Donna Rhodes. There are also some really good covers, including an excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The backing vocals on these tracks are by Sandra herself, along with Charles and Donna (together billed as The Joint Venture). As you might guess, the vocals are excellent. But the songwriting is also top-notch. Sandra Rhodes may be a little bit country, but she’s got a whole lot of soul. And you’ll hear it on track after track here.

I’m shocked this album hasn’t been released on CD until now. It’s an album that starts off really well, and then just gets better as it goes on (most of my favorite songs are on the second half). This CD issue includes seven bonus tracks, all previously unreleased. There are also new liner notes, written by Bill Dahl.

“No One Else Could Love You More”

Where’s Your Love Been opens with a pretty country tune, “No One Else Could Love You More,” which is at first led by acoustic guitar. It’s a sort of love song that acknowledges the bad times, opening with these lines: “Baby, with my head upon your shoulder/Don’t it make it hard for you to leave/The world outside’s a whole lot colder/Than all the bad times you ever had with me.” It’s an honest love song, perhaps a bit harsh when she says, “And when all the world has forgotten you were ever born/No one else could love you more.” “No One Else Could Love You More” was written by Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers.

That’s followed by “I Think I Love You Again,” a country song with a good, mellow groove. This is another sort of love song, with lines like “Sometimes while smiling in the middle of the nighttime/As I taste a stranger’s kiss/Oh, I miss you baby/The feeling is coming back to me/And I think I love you again.” This song was written by Toni Wine and Irwin Levine.

“No Such Thing As Love”

“No Such Thing As Love” is a song with a sweet and pretty sound, the guitar reminding me a bit of The Byrds, or perhaps some of Michael Nesmith’s work with The Monkees. There is also some nice work on steel guitar. This song was written by Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers, and is about a secret love. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And I’ll hold you in my arms ‘til morning/Then I’ll softly take my leave without warning/But my heart is looking for the day/When I won’t have to go away/And we won’t hide the dreams we’re dreaming of/But today there can be no such thing as love.”

“Sho’ Is Rainin’”

The album begins to take on a bit of an R&B feel on “Sho’ Is Rainin’” – with backing vocals echoing, “Rainin’, rainin’” and some good work on organ.  I love the smooth beauty of Sandra’s vocals particularly on this track. “Sho’ Is Rainin’” was written by Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers.

“Where’s Your Love Been”

“Where’s Your Love Been,” the album’s title track, is the only track I’d heard before. It has a great build and a very cool, sexy vibe. On this one, Sandra sings, “One day you left with the wind/Now here you are again/But this time before I let you in/Where’s your love been?” And we know precisely what she’s talking about. There’s a nice lead guitar part after she asks the question, almost like a response, or a sort of heated discussion about it, as that great, steady groove continues beneath it. “Where’s Your Love Been” was written by Sandra Rhodes and Donna Rhodes.

The Rolling Stones

Sandra Rhodes does a really good cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs. I particularly like the bass on this version. There is also some nice work on piano and harmonica. For me, there are shades of Lady Macbeth in the verse about “blood-stained hands.”

We then get deeper into R&B territory with the excellent tune “Never Grow Old,” complete with horns and delightful backing vocals. This tune has such an upbeat, positive vibe, I just love it. It was written by Sandra Rhodes and Donna Rhodes.

“The Best Thing You Ever Had”

Something in Sandra’s voice makes me not completely believe the opening line: “I hope you’re happy with your new love.” No, this is a woman with a bit of anger and resentment. And she’s so sure of herself, as she sings, “Time’s gonna prove I was the best thing you ever had.” And hell, I believe that line. I mean, just listen to her voice. Who could be better? And she has backing vocals to add to the strength of her statement. This one was written by George Jackson. 

Bonus Tracks Include Sonny & Cher Song

The CD issue of this excellent album includes seven bonus tracks, all previously unreleased. The first, “Double Dealing Woman,” begins with a funky groove, and accents on horn. Sandra then describes the woman of the song’s title: “She looks just like an angel with the devil in her eye/With intoxicating kisses, she sends you to the sky/But after you get up there, she’ll leave you high and dry.” And I really like these lines: “You tell her that it’s over, but she knows you’re not that strong/You can’t ever leave her, boy, you loved her much too long.”  “Double Dealing Woman” was written by Sandra Rhodes, Charles Chalmers and Morris Tarrant.

“Someday Sweet Baby” is a seriously cool track written by Sandra’s sister, Donna Rhodes. It has an insistent beat and a strong vocal performance, as well as some nice instrumental moments, all helping to make this a dance tune. Donna also co-wrote “Jingo,” a mellow, sweet tune which, according to the liner notes, was named after a dog the sisters had.

The bonus tracks also include a pair of tunes written by Sandra and Charles Chalmers: “I’d Rather Hurt You Now” and “Linda Was A Lady.”

The one cover included in the bonus tracks is “Baby Don’t Go,” written by Sonny Bono, and a hit for Sonny & Cher in 1965. Sandra’s version has a sweet feel, and opens with the first verse rather than a bit of the chorus as Sonny & Cher’s version did. The guitars remind me a bit of The Byrds. There is also some nice work on harmonica.  When I get to the city my tears will all be dry/My eyes will look so pretty, baby/No one’s gonna know I’ve cried/I’m going away/Maybe I’ll be back someday.”

The CD concludes with "I Don't Play The Game," a mostly mellow and pretty song written by Sandra Rhodes. “Look out, here comes fortune/Look out, here comes fame.”

CD Track List

  1. No One Else Could Love You More
  2. I Think I Love You Again
  3. No Such Thing As Love
  4. Sho’ Is Rainin’
  5. It’s Up To You
  6. Where’s Your Love Been
  7. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  8. Never Grow Old
  9. The Best Thing You Ever Had
  10. Sowed Love And Reaped The Heartache
  11. Double Dealing Woman
  12. Someday Sweet Baby
  13. Baby Don’t Go
  14. I’d Rather Hurt You Now
  15. Linda Was A Lady
  16. Jingo
  17. I Don’t Play The Game 

This CD re-issue of Where’s Your Love Been was released on March 18, 2014 through Omnivore Recordings.

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