BRENDA HOLLOWAY-THE ARTISTRY OF BRENDA HOLLOWAY.

BRENDA HOLLOWAY-THE ARTISTRY OF BRENDA HOLLOWAY.

It was in 1962 that Brenda Holloway released her debut single, Hey Fool on the Donna record label. She was just sixteen years old. Later that year, Brenda first released a cover of Ed Cobb’s Every Little Bit Hurts for Del-Fi Records, a subsidiary of Donna Records. Two years later, when Brenda rerecorded Every Little Bit Hurts, she was signed to Motown’s Tamla imprint. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100, resulting in the biggest hit of Brenda Holloway’s career. During the three years Brenda spent at Tamla, she released nine singles. These nine singles feature on Kent Soul’s recently rereleased compilation The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. 

Originally, The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway was a compilation released in Britain in 1968, when Brenda left Tamla. It featured nine singles, five B-Sides and two tracks from Brenda’s album Every Little Bit Hurts. These sixteen tracks featured on Kent Soul’s originally release of The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. Now Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, have rereleased The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. They’ve good reason for doing so. Compilers Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick have discovered eight previously unreleased Brenda Holloway tracks hidden away in the Motown vaults. This means that the updated version of The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway features twenty-four tracks. For anyone whose a fan of Brenda Holloway, The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway is essential listening. I’ll tell you why, once I’ve told you about Brenda’s career.

Brenda Holloway was born in June 1946, in Atascadero, California, a city midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. She was the eldest of three children. When she was two, Brenda and her family moved to the Watts district of Los Angeles. Three years later, in 1951, Brenda’s younger sister Patrice Holloway was born. Like her sister, she’d become a singer. That’s no surprise though.

From an early age, Brenda immersed herself in music. She learnt to play flute, piano and violin. Soon, she developed a passion for classical music. Singing played an important part in Brenda’s life. Brenda was an active member of her church choir. At high school, Brenda hooked up with Walter and Wallace Scott, who later form The Whispers. This lead to Brenda singing backing vocals on demonstration records, which songwriters would use to showcase their songs to artists and record companies. Through singing backing vocals, Brenda’s career as a singer began.

This was in 1962, when she was just sixteen. Brenda recorded Hey Fool, which was released on Donna Records. This was the first of three singles Brenda recorded for Donna Records. Later that year, Brenda first released a cover version of Ed Cobb’s Every Little Bit Hurts for Del-Fi Records, a subsidiary of Donna Records. The other two singles Brenda recorded for Game Of Love and I’ll Give My Love. Having served her apprenticeship at Donna Records, Brenda was signed by Motown imprint Tamla by Berry Gordy.

Motown had opened a West Coast office in Los Angeles. In charge of the Los Angeles office were Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. With Brenda being based in the West Coast, and more importantly, being a president’s signing, Hal and Marc must have known the pressure was on to find the right song for Brenda’s Tamla debut. This would be a song Brenda was familiar with, Every Little Bit Hurts. It would result in the biggest hit of her career and features on The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway, which I’ll tell you about.

For her Tamla debut, Brenda Holloway rerecorded Every Little Bit Hurts. Written by Ed Cobb, it was produced Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. On its release in May 1964, it reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. No wonder. It’s a soul-baring vocal that belies Brenda’s tender years. She was just eighteen, but breaths life and meaning into the vocal. Hal and Marc sweeten the dramatic, piano lead arrangement with swathes of strings. This is the finishing touch, resulting in a stonewall classic.

I’ll Always Love You was was the followup to Every Little Bit Hurts. Tamla, thinking they’d a potential huge star on their books, must have high hopes for the single. Sadly, it stalled at number sixty in the US Billboard 100 in July 1964. Again, it was written by Ed Cobb, and produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. With an understated, but drama-laden arrangement, Brenda has the opportunity to unleash a vocal masterclass. Controlled power and emotion are combined to produce a heartfelt, dramatic ballad that showcases Brenda at her best.

During 1964, Brenda released her debut album, Every Little Bit Hurts. Not only did it feature Every Little Bit Hurts and I’ll Always Love You, Too Proud To Cry and a cover of Alex North and Hz Zaret’s Unchained Melody. The version of Unchained Melody is quite different from The Righteous Brothers’ version. It’s slightly quicker, with a jaunty arrangement. As for Brenda’s vocal, it’s needy and impassioned. Too Proud To Cry which Frank Wilson and Alvin Bowen cowrote,is the best of the two tracks. A slow ballad, with a string drenched arrangement, Brenda embraces the songs. It’s as if she’s lived the lyrics. She delivers the lyrics with emotion, her vocal full of sadness and regret.

As Brenda began her second year at Tamla, she released Operator, which was written by Smokey Robinson. Originally, it had been recorded by Mary Wells. Her version was a somewhat sanitized pop version. Brenda’s version is much better, and is the definitive version of Operator. Despite it’s more grownup sound, it only reached a disappointing number seventy-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-six in the US R&B Charts in January 1965. Given Brenda’s slow, soulful and sultry delivery that must have been a huge disappointment for producer Smokey Robison. Tucked away on the B-Side is I’ll Be Available another track penned and produced by Smokey Robinson. It’s a track that has a real Northern Soul sound that falls into the category of hidden gem. In later years, Brenda would enjoy success on Britain’s Northern Soul scene.

August 1965 saw Brenda release the Berry Gordy penned and produced You Can Cry On My Shoulder. It failed to chart, stalling at just 116 in the US Billboard 100. Despite its lack of commercial success it features a tender, heartfelt vocal from Brenda where she uses her full vocal range effectively. 

Together ‘Till The End Of Time was released in January 1966. Written by Frank Wilson, it was produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon the single failed to chart. Featuring a thoughtful and impassioned vocal, you can hear Brenda maturing as a singer. Sung against a dramatic, sometimes melancholy arrangement, her vocal veers between tender and thoughtful, to power and passion. The result is one of the highlights of The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway.

After two consecutive singles failed to chart, Brenda must have been desperate for Hurt A Little Every Day To Chart. Released in August 1966, history repeated itself and the single failed to chart. With a big, bold and dramatic arrangement, Brenda, accompanied by cooing harmonies, delivers a cathartic performance. Good as the single is, turn over to the B-Side and you’ve a surprise in store. Where Were You was written by Helen and Kay Lewis. It’s a fusion of blues, R&B and soul, that swings along. Soaring harmonies, handclaps, dancing strings and rasping horns accompany Brenda, whose vocal is full of Hurt and heartache. When all is this was combined by producers Frank Wilson and Hal Davis, the result is a hook-laden track, that’s a favorite of Northern Soul fans.

Just Look At What You Done, which was written by R Dean Taylor and Frank Wilson, saw Brenda’s career get back on track. Produced by Frank and Lamont Dozier, it reached number sixty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-one in the US R&B Charts in March 1967. An upbeat, stomper, it’s another favorite of Northern Soul fans. With stabs of blazing horns and a pounding beat, Brenda throws herself headlong into the song. She makes the betrayal and heartache in the lyrics come to life. She paints pictures during this irresistible Northern Soul stomper. The B-Side is another Northern Soul stomper, Starting The Hurt All Over Again. Penned by Ashford and Simpson, who in 1967, were Motown staff songwriters, Harvey Facqua and Johnny Bristol take charge of this production. With such an all-star cast, it’s no wonder this is such a infectiously catchy track.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy was Brenda’s final single for Motown. She bowed out on a high, when the single reached number thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and number forty in the US R&B Charts in August 1967. It was written by Brenda her sister Patrice, plus Berry Gordy and Frank Wilson who produced the track. Dramatic, wistful, melancholy and beautiful describes what is a timeless track. Frank Wilson contributed the B-Side, I’ve Got To Find It. It’s a fitting farewell to Tamla. There’s a sense of melancholia in Brenda’s vocal, as if she’s looking for something, but hasn’t quite worked out what it is. All she knows, is it’s time to say walk away from Tamla. This she does against a wistful backdrop where  blues and soul create a poignant combination.

That’s not quite the end of The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. There’s the small matter of the eight previously unreleased ballads. Of the eight tracks there’s a few hidden gems tucked away in there. Four are worth mentioning. The first of these is After All That You’ve Done, which is bound to win over fans of Northern Soul. The Love Line features a sultry, seductive vocal from Brenda. Then there’s the dramatic, emotive Just Another Lonely Night which briefly, reminds me of Phil Spector productions. It’s Love I Need, which closes The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway  features a needy, sassy vocal powerhouse from Brenda. 

As I said earlier, The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway is essential listening for anyone whose a fan of Brenda Holloway, Motown or just soul music. For fans of Brenda Holloway, the eight bonus tracks could well be the clincher. Even of you’ve the original version of The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway, the bonus tracks make it worth buying again. Then there’s the other sixteen tracks on The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. That’s sixteen good reasons to add Kent Soul’s recently released The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway to your record collection. Another reason is, that the music on The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway is the best, and most successful, music of Brenda Holloway’s career.

Despite enjoying a long and successful career, Brenda Holloway never quite recaptured the commercial success she enjoyed at Motown. That’s quite sad, because Brenda was only twenty-one when she left Motown. The most successful part of her career was behind her. Despite releasing further singles and a trio of albums, chart success eluded Brenda Holloway. Never again did she enjoy the success that she enjoyed at Motown. Brenda enjoyed fame and commercial success at an early age. She had a tantalizing taste of fame and commercial success. Drinking deep from the well of fame, she enjoyed every last drop. Sadly, her taste of fame didn’t last long. It made only a fleeting visit, lasting just three years, which are documented on The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway. Standout Tracks: Every Little Bit Hurts, I’ve Got To Find It, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy and Just Look At What You Done.

BRENDA HOLLOWAY-THE ARTISTRY OF BRENDA HOLLOWAY.

The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

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