DEE DEE SHARP-DEE DEE.

DEE DEE SHARP-DEE DEE.

During the last few months, I’ve been writing a series about some of the great music released by Philadelphia International Records. This series has featured some of the labels biggest stars like The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Billy Paul and The Three Degrees. Many of these artists released hugely successful and albums that are among some of the best soul music ever recorded. However, it’s not only artists whose music that was commercially successful that I’ve reviewed, because as regular readers of this blog will realize, many really good albums aren’t commercially successful. One of these albums was Dee Dee Sharp’s 1977 album What Color of Love, which I reviewed previously. It took its title from a Terry Callier track that Dee Dee covered beautifully on the album. What Color of Love was Dee Dee’s second of three albums on Philadelphia International, released two years after her debut album Happy Bout the Whole Thing. Sadly, although both of these albums weren’t huge sellers, they featured some wonderful music. The last album Dee Dee released on Philadelphia International was entitled Dee Dee, and featured a track that would give her a number one single on the Hot Dance Club Play Charts, Breaking and Entering/Easy Money. Before I tell you about the album, I’ll give you some background to what would be the final album Dee Dee Sharp released.

By 1980 when Dee Dee Sharp released her final album on Philadelphia International, Dee Dee’s life was undergoing a series of changes. Dee Dee Sharp had just been divorced her husband Kenneth Gamble, who she’d married in 1967. When the album was released, it failed commercially. Like her two previous albums, it featured some great music, but just didn’t garner enough sales. After this, Dee Dee decided to take another break from music. She enrolled in a psychology course at Columbia University where she gained an MSc in psychology. After that, she took a PhD in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually becoming a clinical psychologist. However, by 1981, one of the tracks from Dee Dee had become a huge hit in American Clubs. This was Breaking and Entering which featured Easy Money on the b-side. So successful was the track that it reached number one Hot Dance Club Play Charts, where it stayed for four weeks. This belated success for the music Dee Dee had recorded on Philadelphia International must have come as a welcome surprise for Dee Dee, now studying at Columbia University. However, the three albums she recorded for Philadelphia International deserved to do much better, including Dee Dee which I’ll now tell you about.

Dee Dee opens with Breaking and Entering the track that gave her a belated hit on the Hot Dance Club Play Charts, where it spent four weeks. A siren opens the track, before a funk drenched rhythm section and blazing horns combine with percussion and chimingguitars before a strong, emotive vocal from Dee Dee. Her voice is loud and powerful, accompanied by backing vocalists, while the blazing horns punctuate the track, and M.F.S.B. Mk 2 give a funk masterclass. The tempo is quick, the track hook laden and catchy, perfect for any dance-floor. On the track, Dee Dee is transformed into almost a disco diva, with the track heading towards 127 Disco Heaven, stopping just three beats per minute short. Produced by Jerry Butler and Paul Wilson, and arranged by Paul Wilson, it’s a brilliant track from Dee Dee, featuring an outstanding funk drenched, full arrangement.

Chiming guitars and the rhythm section open Let’s Get This Party Started before Dee Dee’s vocal enters. It’s not as powerful as the previous track as the track begins, and the tempo isn’t quite as fast. However, against a funky backdrop, where the rhythm section, chiming, shimmering guitars and percussion combine, Dee Dee’s vocal grows in strength and passion. Backing vocalists soulfully unite to accompany Dee Dee, with handclaps helping start what sounds like a party in the studio, By now, Dee Dee’s vocal is full of energy and enthusiasm, while the arrangement combines elements of funk, soul and disco. Although it’s only a short track, it’s a joyous three minutes that’s begging to be remixed, into a much longer even more joyous version.  

I Love You Anyway sees Dee Dee return to much more familiar territory, on a slow love song. It’s a combination of keyboards, rhythm section, horns and lush strings that open the track before Dee Dee’s gentle, yet sad vocal enters. Chiming guitars and percussion enter, as have backing vocalists, while Dee Dee struggles to understand why her man doesn’t love her, and they can’t be together. Her vocal has a fragile beauty in it, that combines perfectly with Dexter Wansel’s arrangement. Bursts of subtle horns, combine with the sweeping strings and keyboards brilliantly.  When this is combined with Dee Dee’s beautiful vocal, the result is one of the album’s best tracks, brilliantly produced by Kenneth Gamble and Dexter Wansel.

The B-side of Dee Dee’s dance hit Breaking and Entering was Easy Money, a track that’s the equal of the A-side. It features a powerful and charismatic vocal from Dee Dee and a great arrangement from Dexter Wansel. A combination of the rhythm section, chiming guitars, swirling strings, keyboards and percussion opens the track, before Dee Dee enters. The quicker tempo and fuller, drama laden arrangement combine brilliantly. As strings swirl, guitars chime, backing vocalists unite, passionately and a subtle but funky rhythm section combine, while Dee Dee’s vocal soars powerfully. Again, Dee Dee is transformed into a diva, the Queen of the Dance-floor, where she seems to welcome this new role. Having thrown herself into her new role, the result is a energetic and passionate performance that’s one of the album’s highlights. However, credit must be given Phillip Terry who produced the track and arranger Dexter Wansel, who helped Dee Dee assume her new identity as dance-floor diva.

Following on from the passion and energy of Easy Money, is another of the slower tracks on the album, Invitation. Dee Dee’s vocal is much more subtle, but full of emotion, as she sings against a backdrop of keyboards, rhythm section and guitars as the track opens. As the song unfolds, her voice grows stronger, the emotion  increasing as Dee Dee sings about how she tried in vain not to fall in love, but ended up accepting the invitation for romance. Lush, strings sweep in, and  later, the arrangement grows in drama when the strings, keyboards and rhythm section combine. This is highly effective, reflecting the passion and drama in Dee Dee’s vocal. Horns cut in, as Dee Dee half-speaks the lyrics, against a slow, drama laden arrangement that builds and builds until its ultimate crescendo. As the track ends, you can’t help be swept away be the emotion and passion of Dee Dee’s vocal, made all the better by the slow, dramatic arrangement.

Everyday Affair is a mid-tempo duet with Jerry Butler. Against a backdrop that includes dramatic swirling strings, chiming guitars, rhythm section and keyboards, Jerry’s vocal opens the track. When Dee Dee’s vocal enters, it’s strong and emotive,  as she sings lyrics about how sometimes, couples take each other’s love for granted. Meanwhile, the arrangement sweeps along with strings at its heart. Later, it slows down, allowing the vocal to take centre-stage, but speeds back up, with drums adding a punchiness to the arrangement. When a horn floats above the arrangement, it doesn’t seem to add anything to the arrangement, and slightly takes away from the rest of the arrangement. Overall, it’s a good track, featuring some emotive, vocals and a sweeping, punchy arrangement.

Keyboards and synths open If We’re Gonna Stay Together a much slower track featuring a gentle, thoughtful vocal from Dee Dee. The rhythm section and guitars combine with the keyboards, before strings sweep in. Dee Dee’s vocal is full of emotion and feeling, with sadness as she sings how there must be love within their relationship of they’re to stay together. Her vocal is augmented by gentle backing vocalists, whose voices are beautiful. Strings play an important part in the arrangement, adding a sense of sadness with their lush sound. Mostly the arrangement is really good, with the use of synths my only gripe. They don’t seem to suit the arrangement. Apart from that, it’s a lovely track, featuring a hugely emotive vocal from Dee Dee.

Dee Dee closes with See You Later, which I wonder if was significant, in that after this, Dee Dee said a temporary farewell to the music industry, becoming a psychology student. Swirling strings, punchy drums, chiming guitars and bass are at the heart of the arrangement before Dee Dee’s vocal enters. It has a gentle sound, as she anticipates seeing her lover later. Backing vocalists sweetly accompany her vocal, as the string lead arrangement sweeps along. Horns rasp, punctuating the track as Dee Dee’s gentle yet passionate vocal sits atop the arrangement. The tempo is quicker, the arrangement and production in the capable hands of Dexter Wansel, who produces a great track. It features a beautiful vocal from Dee Dee on what was the last album she recorded for Philadelphia International.

Having spent some time listening to Dee Dee, I’m struck by how it was a strong album from her, featuring a combination of some great dance-floor friendly tracks and some beautiful slow tracks. It deserved to do much better than it actually did, featuring as it did the faster tracks Breaking and Entering and Easy Money, and the slower tracks I Love You Anyway, Invitation and If We’re Gonna Stay Together. With tracks of this quality, it should’ve sold many more copies than it did. However, that wasn’t the case, and after this, Dee Dee Sharp took a break from the music industry, studying psychology at Columbia University. Around this time, things had been tough for Dee Dee, her marriage to Kenneth Gamble had ended in divorce, after thirteen years and her albums weren’t commercially successful, even though they featured some great music. The only crumb of comfort was when Breaking and Entering/Easy Money, reached number one in the dance charts in 1981. After the released of Dee Dee, no further albums were released by Dee Dee Sharp, although she makes occasional concert appearances. Her loss to music is a great shame, as she was blessed with so much talent and a great voice. Thankfully, the three albums she recorded for Philadelphia International have been rereleased by Edsel in 2010. as part of a two disc set. Each of the three albums feature some great music, including Dee Dee, which this album is about. Three great albums for less than the price of one, what more can you ask for? Standout Tracks: Breaking and Entering, I Love You Anyway, Easy Money and See You Later.

DEE DEE SHARP-DEE DEE.

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