Recently I was listening to a compilation entitled Philly Disco, released on the Bac Beats label when I heard one of my favorite Jean Carn tracks If You Want To Go Back. That made me think that it was time that I wrote another article on Jean Carn’s music. Jean Carn arrived at Philaelphia International in 1975, and would released four albums on the label. Sadly, none of these albums would give Jean the commercial success her music deserved. Although she may not have been one of the biggest names on Philadelphia International, she recorded some great music on the four albums she released.

Jean’s debut album Philadelphia International Records was Jean Carn, which I’ve previously reviewed. It which was released in 1977 and produced by Gamble and Huff. On the album were If You Want To Go Back and the single Free Love  which reached number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. Hoping to build on the success of the single and album, Jean set about recording her second album, Happy To Be With You, which this article is about.

Happy To Be With You was released in June 1978, and was a very different sounding album, much more dance-floor orientated. However, it failed to build on the success of her debut album Jean Carn. It only reached a somewhat disappointing number fifty-four in the US R&B Charts, and deserved to do much better considering the music on the album. On the album was the single, Don’t Let It Go To Your Head. Like the album, it only reached fifty-four in the US R&B Charts. However, as anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, commercial success doesn’t necessarily equate to quality music. After Happy To Be With You, Jean recorded just two more albums for Philadelphia International. The

The first of these two albums was 1979s’ When I Find You Love, which was much more like the sound of her debut album Jean Carn. The album was produced by Gamble and Huff, Dexter Wansel and Jerry Butler. One of the tracks from the album was Love Don’t Come Easy, which was released as a single. It reached number forty-three in the US R&B Charts. 

When Jean’s final album Sweet and Wonderful was released in 1981, it was on a subsidiary of Philadelphia International TSOP. The saw Jean interpret The Spinners’ hit Love Don’t Love Nobody. On this track, Jean not only sang the lead vocal, but contributed all the backing vocals. This was released as a single, reaching number thirty-five in the US R&B Charts. Another of the standout tracks was the title track Sweet and Wonderful, a stunning duet with Glenn Jones. Sweet and Wonderful was Jean’s final album for Philadelphia International, before she left to join Motown in 1982. Although her time on Philadelphia International only spanned six years and four albums, they included some great music, including her 1978 album Happy To Be With You which I’ll now tell you about.

Happy To Be With You opens with There’s A Shortage of Good Men, which sees a combination of funky rhythm section and swirling strings open the track before Jean’s powerful vocal enters. The tempo is quick, perfect for the dance-floor at 126 beats per minute. Having nearly reached Disco Heaven 127, the arrangement sweeps along rasping horns, chiming guitars and percussion joining the mix. They combine perfectly with the seeping, swirling strings and funk drenched rhythm section. On top of John Usry Jr.’s arrangement sits Jean’s powerful and joyous vocal. Together combine to produce a quick, joyous and dance-floor friendly track that features some great production from Gamble and Huff.

The tempo drops slightly on the piano lead Together Once Again. As the track opens, it’s just the piano that plays, before a punchy, dramatic rhythm section and chiming, soaring guitars enter before a much more thoughtful and gentle vocal from Jean. She sings about how she still loves her estranged partner and wants them to be together again. This she does against an arrangement that now features a harp, lush strings and occasional soaring, rocky guitars. Horns gently rasp, as Jean’s vocal soars, laden with emotion and longing. By the end of the track you realize that’s this much more like you’d expect from Jean, a much slower, emotive vocal sung against a beautiful sometimes dramatic arrangement.

After bursts of horns, rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards combine as (No No) You Can’t Come Back Now opens, I’m immediately struck by a brief likeness to Minnie Riperton as her voice soars high. After that, her voice falls, and she gives a quicker vocal against a backdrop of blazing horns, punchy rhythm section, keyboards and guitars. A confident Jean tells her ex-partner he can’t come back now, she’s moved on. By now the arrangement has a real jazz influence, added to by the addition of the backing vocalists, who unite to accompany Jean, who later adopts a jazz style. Their voices are much more gentle, while Jean’s vocal is strong and powerful. Later, blazing horns drench the arrangement beautifully, as this fantastic song swings beautifully along towards the end. Not only does Jean give a powerful and energetic vocal, but Jack Faith’s jazzy arrangement is excellent.

Revelation/Infant Eyes opens with a combination of a punchy rhythm section, sweeping, swirling strings, harp, synths, braying horns and guitars. After a lengthy arrangement, Jean’s vocal enters. It’s quick, laden with feeling and power, against an arrangement with strings, percussion, rhythm section and synths at its heart. However, just as you’re starting to get swept along by the track, it grinds to a halt.  This gives way to a gentle piano lead introduction on Infant Eyes the second part of the track. Synths sweep in, giving an eerie, space age sound, before Dee Dee’s gentle vocal. She’s joined by a slow rhythm section who accompany the piano and strings. It’s a very beautiful sound, especially when chiming guitars join. Although very different to Revelation, the first part of the song, it’s just as good, and provides an effective contrast to it.

After the slow, thoughtful sound of Infant Eyes, the tempo increases on Happy To Be With You, another dance-floor oriented track with joyful sound. Against a combination of rhythm section, sweeping strings, percussion, guitars and keyboards, Jean gives a joyous vocal. Together, her vocal combines perfectly with the arrangement. The use of strings that sweep and swirl, a punchy driving rhythm section, guitars and percussion are key to the track’s success. Again, Jack Faith arranges this track, and does a great job in helping create a track that’s uptempo, catchy and hook laden with a joyful sound. Jean’s vocal is a mixture of power, charisma and joy. Sherman Marshall also deserves credit for his production on this track. Together with Jack Faith and Jean, they create a track that will still fill a dance-floor thirty-three years later.

Don’t Let It Go To Your Head opens with a slower, spacious combination of rhythm section, keyboards, guitar and percussion, before shimmering strings enter. After that, Jean’s thoughtful vocal enters. As she sings, waves of lush strings rise and fall, while the rhythm section, guitars and rasping horns combine. Throughout the track, the tempo rises and falls, and sometimes, drums and horns dramatically punctuate the arrangement. Meanwhile, Jean pleads with her lover not to break her heart, now that she’s told him how she feels. This she does, against an arrangement that although it mostly sweeps along, isn’t short of drama thanks to Jack Faith. He provides the perfect backdrop for Jean’s heartfelt vocal on what is another great track.

Chiming guitars, punchy rhythm section, whispering, breathless backing vocals and chiming guitars combine before lush sweeping strings and rasping horns enter as I Bet She Won’t Love You Like I Do begins. After that, an emotional vocal full of pride from Jean enters, accompanied by stunning backing vocals. Jean proudly sings how her partner’s new woman won’t love him like she does. Jack Faith’s arrangement literally rolls back the years to the vintage Gamble and Huff tracks of the early to mid-seventies, helped by an outstanding vocal from Jean and equally great performance from M.F.S.B. Mk 2. Together, the lush strings, rasping horns, chiming, shimmering guitars and punchy rhythm section combine with Jean to create one of the album’s best tracks. 

Happy To Be With You closes with You Light Up My Life, produced and arranged by Dexter Wansel. Bursts of braying horns, a slow jazzy piano and rhythm section combine before Jean’s vocal enters. It’s slow, full of sadness, perfect for the arrangement. She sings this familiar song, with dramatically and with feeling, while sweeping strings, piano and rhythm section combine behind her. During the track she puts to good use her previous experience as a jazz vocal. The arrangement sees a combination of jazz and gentle funk combine perfectly, the arrangement becoming sparse as Jean scats. Although this is a very different track to the rest of the album, it’s one that features a powerful, emotive vocal from Jean, and a thoughtful arrangement and production from Dexter Wansel.

Jean Carn’s second album Happy To Be With You was very different from her debut album Jean Carn. The album features a combination of faster dance-floor friendly track, slower ballads and the jazz tinged You Light Up My Life. It demonstrates Jean’s versatility as a vocalist, and how she was comfortable singing a variety of different styles of music. On the eight songs on the album, she sings with a combination of power and emotion, but sometimes displaying a fragility and thoughtfulness. She brings the lyrics to life on each song with the help of some hugely talented arrangers and producers. Of the numerous producers and arrangers who worked on this album, credit must be given to Jack Faith, whose arrangements are some of the best on the album. He worked with Gamble and Huff on some of the most successful and most important albums released on Philadelphia International. Along with Dexter Wansel and of course, Gamble and Huff, who produced Don’t Let It Go To Your Head, Happy To Be With You was a combination of the hugely talented people who worked for Philadelphia International, and made it one of the most famous labels in music. Another group of people who played a huge part in making this such a great album were M.F.S.B. Mk 2, who provided a fantastic backdrop for Jean’s vocal. Although Happy To Be With You was quite different from Jean Carn, and as a result, divided opinion of critics and fans, I love this album. There’s some great music on the album, everything from dance-floor friendly tracks, to ballads and even jazz music. Of Jean’s first two albums, I prefer Happy To Be With You. If you’ve never heard the album, it’s well worth buying. It can be found as part of a two albums on one disc set released by Edsel in 2004. If you do, you’ll hear some fantastic music, from a hugely talented vocalist Jean Carn. Standout Tracks: There’s A Shortage of Good Men, (No No) You Can’t Come Back Now, Don’t Let It Go To Your Head and I Bet She Won’t Love You Like I Do.


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