Merry Clayton: Merry Clayton

Searing 1971 soul reissued

Merry Clayton’s most listened-to vocal performance remains her soul work with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones’ 1969 “Gimme Shelter.” The following year she recorded her first solo album, on Lou Adler’s Ode label, and in 1971 hit a high-point with this self-titled release. Recorded in Los Angeles with arrangements by Jerry Peters and others, the album opens with a searing take on Neil Young’s “Southern Man” before settling into lighter grooves of soul and balladry. The loving “After All This Time” cracked the Top 100, and Peters’ “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” (originally a hit for the Friends of Distinction) was turned into a fine down-tempo number. Clayton puts a soulful spin on Leon Russell (“A Song For You”), James Taylor (whose original of “Steamroller” was more folk-blues than Clayton’s soulful approach), Bill Withers (“Grandma’s Hands”), and the gospel “Sho’nuff” is a show-stopper. Three of Clayton’s Ode albums (Gimme Shelter, Merry Clayton and Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow) were reissued as expensive import CDs, and are now reissued as affordable digital downloads [1 2 3]. Of the three, this is the one to start with. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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