For Patti Austin, it was almost as if it was written in the stars that she would become a singer. It was her destiny. Quite simply, Patti Austin was born to sing. That is almost indisputable. After all, how many children aged five sign a recording contract. Patti Austin did. Mind you, how many children have Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington as godparents? Patti Austin did.

Born in Harlem, New York in 1950, Patti Austin released her first singles in 1965, when she was just fifteen. A Most Unusual Boy and He’s Good Enough For Me were released on Coral, with Somebody’s Gonna Cry released in 1966 and Got To Check You Out in 1967. By the late sixties, Patti was one of the most in-demand session singers. Her other speciality was singing jingles, with voice advertising everything from burgers, coffee and cosmetic. Then in 1969 Patti released the single Magical Boy on United Artists. Your Love Made the Difference followed in 1970. After that, Patti released singles on Columbia Records and Probe, a subsidiary of ABC Records. The only surprise in the Patti Austin story, is that she was twenty-six when she released her debut album End Of A Rainbow.

Patti Austin’s debut End Of A Rainbow, was released on CTi Records. This was the first four albums Patti recorded for CTi. Havana Candy followed in 1977 and then Live At The Bottom Line in 1979. Body Language, released in 1980, was Patti’s final released for CTi. This brought to an end the opening chapter in a long and illustrious recording career. Now, on 21st January 2013, SoulMusic Records will rerelease End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters. This compilation includes End Of A Rainbow in its entirety, plus nine tracks from Patti Austin’s time at CTi, which I’ll now tell you about.

CTi Records had established a reputation as one of jazz’s leading labels by the time Patti Austin signed to them. Given Patti was more of a soul and R&B singer, CTi might seem a strange choice for Patti to sign to. For her debut album, End Of A Rainbow, CTi put together a team of top musicians to work with Patti.

Of the nine tracks that became End Of A Rainbow, Patti wrote eight of them. More Than Yesterday the other track on End Of A Rainbow, was penned by Pat Upton. For the recording of End Of A Rainbow, CTi put together a tight, talented band of leading musicians. This included drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Jeff Berlin and guitarist Eric Gale. Joining them were saxophonist Michael Brecker, percussionist Ralph McDonald and backing vocalists Gwen Guthrie and Vivian Cherry. Recording of End Of A Rainbow, Mediasound in New York and Van Gelder Studios were chosen. Mixing the album was the legendary Rudy Van Gelder, while Creed Taylor produced End Of A Rainbow. Given the personnel involved, you’d have thought End Of A Rainbow would be huge success?

On the release of End Of A Rainbow in 1976, it reached number thirty-one in the US Billboard Jazz Albums Charts. Say You Love Me was released as a single in 1977, reaching number sixty-three in the US R&B Charts. While End Of A Rainbow wasn’t as successful as it might have been, it at least established Patti’s career. Maybe the problem was releasing a soul album on a jazz label, which CTi was. Having released her debut album End Of A Rainbow, Patti’s sophomore album Havana Candy would be released two years later, in 1978. It would see her fortunes improve.

Havana Candy was released in 1977. Much of the same personnel played on Havana Candy, with Dave Gruisin and Larry Rosen producing the album. Unlike her debut album End Of A Rainbow, Havana Candy was a much more eclectic album. Rather that just soul, it encompassed a variety of musical genres. This resulted in Havana Candy reaching number 116 in the US Billboard 200. Now this was progress. Gradually, Patti’s career was taking off. We’re In Love was released as a single, reaching number ninety in the US R&B Charts. For Patti’s next album, CTi would release an album of Patti live.

Live At The Bottom Line was released in 1979. She was accompanied by a tight, multitalented band. This included bassist Will Lee, guitarist David Spinozza and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Each track was a cover version, with covers of Cynthia Biggs and Dexter Wansel’s Jump For Joy, Jeffrey Osborne’s Let’s All Live and Give Together and Bob Dylan and Stephen Bishop’s One More Night. In many ways, Live At The Bottom Line was the perfect showcase for Patti. She was a charismatic and versatile singer, who could sing a variety of musical genres. Sadly, Live At The Bottom Line only reached number thirty-three in the US Jazz Charts. After Live At The Bottom Line, Patti would release just one more album on CTi. However, Body Language would prove her most successful album.

Body Language saw Patti heading to Muscle Shoals to record with what had been one of the best rhythm sections of the sixties and early seventies. However, that was a decade or more ago. This seems a strange decision. Surely, Philly was the place CTi should’ve sent Patti to? Still, drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood and guitarist Jimmy Johnson were asked to work their magic. Some familiar faces from previous sessions joined them. Saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Randy Brecker would add the horns. Producing Body Language was Creed Taylor, who’d produced End Of A Rainbow. It seemed that the Muscle Shoals boys weaved their magic.

When Body Language was released in 1980, it reached number sixty-two in the US R&B Charts and number twenty-eight in the US Billboard Top Jazz Charts. The title-track Body Language was released as a single, reaching number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. That brough Patti Austin’s time at CTi to an end. Now I’ll tell you about some of the songs on End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters.

The first nine tracks on End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters are Patti Austin’s debut album End Of A Rainbow. Opening End Of A Rainbow is the single Say You Love Me, which features Patti at her soulful best. It’s the perfect showcase for Patti, who delivers one of her most tender, heartfelt vocals. Layers of strings, flourishes of harp and an understated rhythm section accompany Patti, as she demonstrates her wide vocal range. This is just the first of the slow ballads that Patti delivers so well. Two more follow in quick succession. In My Life sees Patti scat jazz style, with just crystalline guitars and keyboards guitar for company. Gradually, another emotive, impassioned vocal unfolds. Layers of strings and deliberate chord changes on the keyboards reflect the drama and beauty in her vocal. Soon, it grows in power and emotion, with the sultriest of saxophones proving the perfect finishing touch. Then things get even better on You Don’t Have To Say You’re Sorry. Just an understated arrangement complete with lushest of strings, accompanies Patti. Slowly, deliberately and tenderly she delivers a vocal that’s truly heartbreaking. Her voice tinged with sadness, regret and emotion brings her lyrics to life, demonstrating not only is she a hugely talented singer, but songwriter and storyteller too. 

More Today Than Yesterday sees a change in style, with funk and jazz combining. A funky bass, percussion and finger-clicks set the scene for Patti’s jazzy vocal. Light and joyous, she makes the song swing. Her vocal cascades, strings sweep in and cooing harmonies join her. By then, her band flex their musical muscles, adding an arrangement where jazz and R&B combine. As the song closes you wonder why oh why this wasn’t released as a single? There’s no drop in the tempo on Give It Time, where Patti unleashes a powerful, confident vocal. Similarly, her band kick loose. They seem to enjoy showcasing their talents. Strings dance, the rhythm section provide the song’s strident heartbeat, as Patti shows another side to her music.

There Is No Time sees the tempo drop slightly. This mid-tempo track features confident keyboards, percussion and a deliberate rhythm section. Patti’s vocal is pensive, tinged with heartache and hurt. Backing vocalists accompany her, providing the perfect accompaniment to her sweet, rueful vocal.

What’s At The End of A Rainbow sees Patti surpass everything that’s come before. With a subtle, understated arrangement, Patti delivers a spine-tinglingly slow, gentle  and beautiful vocal. Just keyboards, acoustic guitar and swathes of strings accompany her. Quite simply, this is the best song not just on End Of A Rainbow, but the whole compilation.

This Side of Heaven sees the tempo increase, and features one of Patti’s most joyous vocal. Its matched by one of the best arrangements on End Of A Rainbow. Patti’s vocal sweeps above the arrangement, which is a mass of lush strings, percussion and keyboards. Like Patti’s vocal, it’s a slice of sunshine. Sunny days on sandy beaches spring to mind, as Patti’s cascading vocal is a mixture of happiness, hope and positivity.

When you hear the opening bars of Sweet Sadie The Savior, you realize something special is unfolding. Just a piano and percussion accompany Patti’s powerful, passionate vocal. Gradually, the arrangement builds. You’re hoping Patti and her band will kick loose. Patti does, her vocal filled with power and emotion, gospel style before the band are allowed of the leash. Throughout the track, you feel that gospel tinged harmonies would be the finishing touch. At last, they arrive, and Patti sings call and response with them. They drive each other to greater heights. The band get in on the act, kicking loose and bringing End Of A Rainbow to a gospel-tinged high.

So what of the other tracks on End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters? There are six tracks from Patti’s sophomore album Havana Candy. These are That’s Enough For Me, I Just Want To Know, Havana Candy, I Need Somebody, We’re In Love and Lost in the Stars. Of the six tracks from Havana Candy, three stand out. I Just Want To Know, with a sultry saxophone introducing Patti’s needy vocal. This is Patti at her best. Soulful and heartfelt, and accompanied by backing vocals quite simply, it’s one of the highlights of Havana Candy. The title-track Havana Candy is a hooky, Cuban influenced track, that demonstrates Patti’s versatility. However, It’s surpassed by I Need Somebody, with its gospel influence. Bold, dramatic and fervent describes Patti’s delivery, as the arrangement builds and builds. Cooing, sweeping harmonies accompany Patti as soul and gospel unite, gloriously and deliciously.

Just three tracks from Body Language feature on End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters. These three tracks are the title-track Body Language, Another Nail In My Heart and I Want You Tonight. Of these three tracks, the sensual, pulsating Body Language sees a very different side to Patti. Her sultry, sassy vocal is accompanied by a pulsating heartbeat, courtesy of the rhythm section. Bursts of rasping horns, flourishes of keyboards, sweeping harmonies and even rocky guitars are added to the mix resulting in a new sound for Patti Austin for a decade that had newly dawned.

The rerelease of Patti Austin’s End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters, by SoulMusic Records on 21st January 2013 is an album anyone who likes their music soulful should enjoy and embrace. Not only does it feature Patti’s debut and best album for CTi End Of A Rainbow, in its entirety, but gives a tantalizing taste of the two other albums she recorded for CTi. This won’t be the only Patti Austin album you buy. Believe me. It took me much longer to review this album than many other albums I’ve reviewed recently. Why? Well, because I enjoyed the eighteen tracks on End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters so much, I listened to them so often. 

Indeed, End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters features an artist who was more than ready to record her debut album. It was as if End Of A Rainbow and her two other albums for CTi were an outpouring of artistic endeavor. At last, Patti Austin had an opportunity to showcase her talents as a singer and songwriter. While End Of A Rainbow, Havana Candy and Body Language may not have been Patti Austin’s most successful albums, it features some of the best music of her career. Following her four years on CTi Patti Austin would enjoy a long and successful career in music, winning a Grammy Award rather belatedly, in 2008. The music on SoulMusic Records’ compilation End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters showcases the multitalented singer, songwriter Patti Austin, as she embarked on her career. Should you enjoy your music soulful, then you should enjoy and embrace the eighteen tracks End Of A Rainbow-The CTi Masters. Standout Tracks: Say You Love Me, In My Life, What’s At The End of A Rainbow and Body Language.


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