It’s been a while since I looked back at the Hi Records back catalogue, so thought that I’d rectify that by doing a review of one of Ann Peebles’ albums. With seven albums to choose from, I’ve plenty of great music to chose from. Previously, I’ve written about Ann’s most successful album, 1974s I Can’t Stand the Rain and her penultimate album for Hi If This Is Heaven. Today, I’ve chosen to review the album that followed I Can’t Stand the Rain, 1975s Tellin’ It, which I’ll now tell you about. 

Tellin’ It was Ann’s fifth album for Hi Records, released in 1975 and recorded at the Royal Recording Studios in Memphis and produced by Willie Mitchell, the legendary producer. Memphis’ Royal Recording Studios were where so many great albums from Al Green, O.V. Wright, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles had been recorded. Featuring on Tellin’ It were the Hi’s famous rhythm section, the Memphis Strings and Memphis Horns, while Chalmers, Rhodes and Chalmers contributed backing vocals. With ten songs recorded, five of which were either written or co-written by Earl Randle, three of which Earl cowrote with Willie Mitchell. Ann cowrote two songs with Don  Bryant, I Needed Somebody and Love Played A Game. Now that Tellin’ It was recorded, it was ready for release.

On the release of Tellin’ It, it reached number thirty-eight in the US R&B Charts. This was one of Ann more successful albums, with only 1971s Part Time Love and 1974s I Can’t Stand the Rain dong much better. Part Time Love had reached number forty in the US R&B Charts, while I Can’t Stand the Rain reached number twenty-five in the US R&B Charts. Tellin’ It featured two successful singles, Beware and Come To Mama, both released in 1975. Beware reached number sixty-nine in the US R&B Charts, while Come To Mama reached number sixty-two in the US R&B Charts. Overall, Tellin’ It had been a successful album for Ann, producing two US R&B hit singles, but what does Tellin’ It sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Tellin’ It opens with the second single released from the album Tell Mama, co-written by Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle, who wrote so many great songs for Hi Records artists. Come To Mama is a mid-tempo track with a real Southern Soul sound and feel. With piano, percussion and a Hammond organ adding an atmospheric sound, the Hi Rhythm Section enter, before Ann’s emotive vocal enters. Ann’s accompanied by blazing horns Rhodes, Chalmers, and Rhodes, the legendary trio of backing vocalists. The arrangement is punctuated by percussion throughout the track, repeating the same groove. However, this slightly spoils the arrangement, but Ann’s  sultry sounding vocal, impassioned and laden with emotion that steals the show, resulting in a good track to open the album,.

The tempo drops on I Don’t Lend My Man, a track that’s much better than the opening track. Here, we hear Ann delivering her vocal with a warning, that says hands of her man because “I Don’t Lend My Man.” As she delivers her warning, the arrangement is slow, with a Hammond organ, rhythm section and rasping horns providing a moody backdrop for her vocal. Backing vocalists accompany Ann, their vocals drifting in and out of the track, while the Hammond organ, rhythm section and horns are almost ever-present throughout the track. Although the opening track was good, this is a much better track, one with a really slow Southern Soul sound thanks to Willie Mitchell’s production and of course Ann’s vocal.

I Needed Somebody is another slow track, one that very definitely has its roots in Memphis. Here, Ann’s vocal is tinged with regret, sadness and guilt, because she needed somebody, and had an affair. She’s accompanied by a slow, thoughtful rhythm section, Hammond organ and saxophone solo that drifts above the arrangement throughout the track. Later, Ann’s vocal grows in power, and Rhodes, Chalmers, and Rhodes contribute subtle and gentle backing vocals. While Ann’s vocal is full of sadness and guilt, the saxophone and Hammond organ both add an atmospheric sound to one of the best arrangements on Tellin’ It. When this arrangement is combined with the guilt and regret in Ann’s voice this is a compelling and beautiful combination, especially if you listen closely to the lyrics.

Earl Randle cowrote Stand By Woman with Orielle Roberts and it’s a track with a quite different sound to the two previous tracks. It has more in common with the opening track Tell Mama. The song features lush strings, a flute, Hammond organ and the rhythm section accompanying Ann’s tender byt confident vocal. Here, the rhythm section produce a slightly “swampy” sound. However, this combines well with the Hammond organ, while the slow, lush strings and flute are both welcome additions, that add to the track. Although the track that has a quite different sound to other tracks, it’s still a quality slice of Southern Soul from Ann Peebles.

Closing Side One of Tellin’ It is a really sad sounding song, one tinged with regret and heartache It Was Jealousy. The tempo is slow, with an arrangement that combines the emotive sound of a Hammond organ, sad strings and rasping horns with the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. Together they play slowly, resulting in the saddest of backdrops for Ann’s vocal, that’s full of regret and heartache. Her regret is caused by having left her lover because of her jealousy. As Ann delivers the lyrics horns punctuate the arrangement, while the Hammond and strings combine to reflect the sadness in Ann’s voice. This is hugely effective and works really well, resulting in the best track of Side One of Tellin’ it, one with a stunning Willie Mitchell arrangement.

Opening Side Two of Tellin’ It is a much quicker track Dr Love Power. WIth the Hi Rhythm Section driving the track along, augmented by braying horns, percussion and Hammond organ, they provide the perfect backdrop for Ann’s sassy vocal. Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes provide gospel tinged and influenced backing vocals that soar in and out of the track. This is a very different, much quicker track, one that’s hugely catchy and full of hooks, as it swings along brilliantly.

Very different, but just as good is You Can’t Hold A Man, a slow, sad song co-written by Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle. It opens with the rhythm section, wailing, atmospheric and sad sound of the Hammond organ combining with slow, lush strings. When Ann’s vocal enters, it’s tinged with regret, with an almost worldly and weary sound, perfect for the track. The cause of this is a failed relationship, caused by jealousy and possessiveness. Adding to the song’s sadness is the subtle, gentle backing vocals that accompany Ann, as the arrangement grows in drama. Blazing horns, slow strings, the Hammond organ and drums combine to create this dramatic backdrop, while, Ann’s vocal almost becomes a mini vamp. As I said earlier, it’s very different to the previous song, but is just as good, and is a track tinged with drama, regret and heartache.

Blazing horns, a driving rhythm section and Hammond organ combine with Ann’s emotive vocal as Beware bursts into life. Written by Earl Randle, this was one of the two singles released from Tellin’ It and is a track with an authentic Southern Soul sound. Ann’s vocal is strong, full of frustration at people talking behind her back about her man. Meanwhile the arrangement drives along, with horns punctuating the track, while Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes contribute punchy, yet soulful backing vocals. When you combine the quicker tempo, emotive vocal and horn laden, driving arrangement, you’ve all the ingredients for a great track, which this very definitely is.

Even when I hear the opening bars of Put Yourself In My Place, this track could only have been recorded at Hi Records. It has their trademark sound, plus a frustrated, angry vocal from a weary Ann. Horns blaze throughout the track, while the Hi Rhythm Section, Hammond organ and piano combine, playing slowly and with passion. Together, they provide a backdrop that matches the emotion, anger and frustration in Ann’s vocal. What makes this such a great track, is the slow tempo set by the rhythm section, the blazing horns and the frustration and despair in Ann’s voice. 

The final track on Side Two of Tellin’ It, is Love Played A Game, a much slower track, again with the trademark Hi Records’ sound. A combination of rhythm section, Hammond organ and braying horns accompany Ann’s powerful and emotive vocal. Her voice soars high above the arrangement, while backing vocalists accompany her. Meanwhile, the rhythm section and horns drive the track along, creating a somewhat moody and atmospheric backdrop for Ann’s vocal, which seems tinged with sadness, regret and even frustration. This was one of two tracks co-written by Ann, demonstrating that she’s more than a hugely talented singer, but also a talented songwriter too. Here, she delivers her lyrics beautifully, against yet another, great arrangement from producer Willie Mitchell. This almost seems a fitting way to end Ann’s fifth album Tellin’ It.

Overall, Tellin’ It was a quality album from Ann Peebles, and was a worthy successor to her most successful album I Can’t Stand the Rain. Although it didn’t have a huge hit single like I Can’t Stand the Rain, the album featured a number of great songs, written by among others Earl Randle and Willie Mitchell and Don Bryant and Ann herself. Really there aren’t any poor tracks on the album, with

I Needed Somebody, It Was Jealousy, Dr Love Power and Beware among Tellin’ It’s highlight. The only track I wasn’t sure about was Come To Mama, one of the two singles released from the album, which wasn’t one of my favorite tracks. What the album does have is some great production from Willie Mitchell, while the Hi Rhythm Section, Memphis Strings, Memphis Horns and Chalmers, Rhodes and Chalmers all contribute towards making Tellin’ It a great album, which is very definitely, a worthy successor to Ann’s most successful album I Can’t Stand the Rain. Not only that, but here, Ann’s voice is a combination of emotion and passion, and heartache and pain. She brings each of the ten songs to life, delivering the lyrics as if she’s lived the lyrics herself. That’s what makes Ann Peebles such a talented and versatile vocalist. If you’ve never heard this album before, I can thoroughly recommend Tellin’ It to anyone who loves either Southern Soul music or Ann Peebles music. To me, this is one of the best of the seven albums Ann Peebles released on Hi Records. Standout Tracks: I Needed Somebody, It Was Jealousy, Dr Love Power and Beware.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: