Unless you have been ignoring music altogether for the past five years, you’ve probably heard about the amazing rediscovery and reinvention of soul R&B singer Bettye Lavette. While all of her recent albums are pretty fabulous, her early material has been getting the long overdue reissue treatment. I’ve got two CDs on different labels bearing all the music on this great Sundazed Records release of Do Your Duty — on sale for less than ten bucks now on 180-gram vinyl — but its nice to actually own the album on vinyl. It sounds somewhat boxy like the CDs — which I am assuming is “the sound” of the mixes as they were made back in the day — but has more presence and natural-sounding bass than either of the digital issues I own. Bettye’s voice also takes on no harsh digital edges — apparent on the CDs — on the vinyl.
This album really isn’t a reissue — it appears to be a new compilation of her singles for the Silver Fox label. But you know what? Its a really nice simulation of a period album, with killer cover art that makes it feel like the genuine article.
And then there are the songs including should’ve-been huge hits like “He Made A Woman Out Of Me,” which made #35 on the R’ n B charts in 1969 (imagine a sexier, slinkier version of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”). “Love Made a Fool of Me,” B-side to the title track “Do Your Duty,” is also a sultry winner. Bettye’s takes on Joe South’s “Games People Play” and Jerry Ragavoy’s now-classic “Piece of My Heart” (made huge by Janis Joplin and Big Brother) are excellent renditions.
Bettye’s recording of Allan Toussaint’s “Nearer to You” sounds like a lost Janis track, replete with Memphis horns and even backup singers. This track is pretty freakin’ killer! Check out this original single version someone posted on The “B” Side Blog. You can hear it in nice crisp high-fidelity on the Sundazed album.
While less complete than the CD collections such as the UK Import on Charly Records called Nearer To You, Do Your Duty presents Bettye Lavette’s works for Silver Fox Records honorably on vinyl, the way they were meant to be heard. If you already love Bettye, you need to get this if you don’t have it. If you are new to Bettye but are a fan of Janis Joplin during her Kosmic Blues period, you will probably love this era of Bettye’s work. Actually, you’ll love every era of Bettye’s work. This is essential stuff.
Order it here direct from Sundazed Records for $8.98!
Here is a half hour set with Bettye in recent years to show you just how righteously this lady can rock.
Here is an earlier clip of Bettye performing her first big hit, “Let Me Down Easy.”