During the first half of the seventies, Al Green enjoyed unmatched critical acclaim and commercial success. There’s no doubt about it, Al was the King of Hi Records. While Al was King, Ann Peebles was Queen of Hi Records. Ann Peebles released seven albums on Hi Records and nearly twenty singles. She is regarded one of the best female vocalists in the history of Southern Soul. Her most successful album was her 1974 album I Can’t Stand the Rain. It was her fourth album and will be released on vinyl on 2nd December 2013 on Fat Possom Records. Not only was  I Can’t Stand the Rain Ann’s most successful album, but featured her biggest single, the title track. It’s a single that’s become synonymous with Ann Peebles and is regarded as a Southern Soul classic. I’ll tell you why, after I’ve told you about Ann’s career.

Ann Peebles was born in April 1947 in St Louis, Missouri, and discovered by bandleader, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller, in 1968, when Ann was singing in a Memphis nightclub. Gene had helped other musicians and artists get started in the music business, including many of the famous Hi Records rhythm section. Ann became the latest of Gene’s discoveries, and very soon, Ann began writing songs with Don Bryant, who was the Hi Records staff songwriter, who she eventually married in 1974.

By 1969, Ann had released her debut single and album. Walk Away was her debut single and This Is Ann Peebles, was her debut album. Although her debut album failed to chart, Walk Away reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. Two years later, things were about to improve for Ann.

Her second album Part Time Love, released in 1971 was a commercial success, reaching number forty in the US R&B Charts. Part Time Love was released as a single, reaching number seven in the US R&B Charts and forty-five in the US Billboard 100. Having enjoyed the biggest single of her career, Ann looked like becoming one of the biggest female vocalists in Southern Soul.

Straight From the Heart was Ann’s third album, released in 1972. It reached number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. There was no hit single on Straight From the Heart. There would be on her fourth album, I Can’t Stand The Rain.

For I Can’t Stand The Rain, Ann would cowrote eight of the tracks. She penned Do I Need You and One Way Street with Don Bryant. With Bernard “Bernie” Miller they penned I Can’t Stand The Rain, Until You Came Into My Life, A Love Vibration and You Got To Feel The Fire. Ann and Don cowrote Run, Run, Run with Daryll Carter. Earl Randle wrote I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down and If We Can’t Trust Each Other. The other tracks was Ira Allen and Buddy Mize’s (You Keep Me) Hanging On. These ten tracks became I Can’t Stand The Rain, which was produced by Willie Mitchell at Royal Recording Studios, Memphis.

At Royal Recording Studios Willie Mitchell put together some of the best session musicians and backing vocalists Memphis had to offer. The rhythm section included guitarist Teenie Hodge, bassist Leroy Holdge plus drummer Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr. Charles Holdges played organ and piano, while The Memphis Horns joined legendary backing vocalists Donna Rhodes, Charles Chalmers and Sandra Rhodes. As Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes, their sprinkling of musical magic was the finishing touch to what would become the most successful album of Ann Peebles career,  I Can’t Stand The Rain.

On its release in 1974, I Can’t Stand the Rain provided Ann with her biggest selling album and single. The album reached number twenty-five in the US R&B Charts and number 155 in the US Billboard 200. I Can’t Stand the Rain the single, reached number six in the R&B Charts and number thirty-eight in the US Billboard 100. For Ann I Can’t Stand the Rain had been a game changer in terms of commercial success and critical acclaim. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about I Can’t Stand the Rain.

I Can’t Stand the Rain opens with the title track, I Can’t Stand the Rain, which Ann wrote with future husband Don Bryant. It has an atmospheric opening with percussion and drums combining, before an equally atmospheric yet thoughtful, vocal from Ann enters. She’s then accompanied by guitar, rhythm section and the blazing sound of the Memphis Horns. Together, they combine to produce the perfect backdrop for Ann to sing lyrics laden in sadness, about the loss of her lover. Throughout the track, The Memphis Horns dramatically, interject providing the perfect contrast to Ann thoughtful and soulful vocal. Quite simply, it’s one of Ann’s best ever tracks.

Do I Need You opens with a guitar chiming brightly, before the rhythm section enters. When Ann sings, her voice is loud, clear and full of pride, as she sings, trying to decide whether she needs her lover in her life. Behind her the Memphis Horns and rhythm section combine with guitars and organ, producing an arrangement that’s dramatic and atmospheric. When the horns and drums punctuate the track they provide the drama, a total contrast to the thoughtful and calm vocal from Ann. As Willie Mitchell’s A-Team provide the backdrop to Ann’s vocal, her vocal takes centre-stage. There’s no doubt it’s the highlight of the track. At times it’s calm and thoughtful, sometimes louder, stronger, but constantly questioning whether she needs him in her life.

When Ann starts singing the vocal on Until You Came Into My Life, it’s instantly noticeable that her voice is much softer and tender. Likewise, the arrangement has a much more subdued feel and sound, with backing vocalists accompanying Ann. As the track opens, strings and rhythm section combine with guitars and organ to produce am understated and almost lush arrangement. Ann gives one of her best vocals on the album, as she give thanks for the love of her life. The addition of Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes on backing vocals, really helps, with their voices the perfect accompaniment to Ann’s tender vocal. Later, the horns enter, briefly punctuating the track, their addition the perfect finishing touch, to quite simply, one of the most beautiful tracks on the album. The reasons for this are Ann’s tender vocal and Willie Mitchell’s subtle arrangement.

A guitar slowly plays as (You Keep Me) Hanging On begins, before Ann sings, accompanied by the rhythm and string sections. Her vocal although restrained, quiet and tender is full of drama and passion. Again, the backing vocalists accompany her, their voices similarly tender as they unite. An organ plays subtly, as the strings sweep lushly, and drums sit at the front of the mix, providing the track’s heartbeat. The arrangement like Ann’s vocal, is restrained and subtle, and here, horns aren’t used, so as not to overpower Ann’s beautiful vocal. Like the previous track, Ann demonstrates how good she is at singing songs which require a tender and thoughtful vocal. 

Braying horns open Run Run Run, a track that’s the polar opposite of the previous track. Here, Ann’s vocal is much louder and stronger, but is drenched in emotion and passion. Similarly, the arrangement is much fuller, with the rhythm and brass section combining to produce an arrangement that has Southern Soul written all over it. Horns interject throughout the track, and the drums are loud, sitting at the heart of the mix. In the background, an organ and percussion play, while guitars chime. Matching the fullness and volume of the arrangement isn’t a problem for Ann, as her voice is loud and powerful, but laden with passion and emotion. This allows her to demonstrate that she’s just as good, singing tracks that require a much stronger and louder vocal as she is singing songs that require a quiet and tender vocal. Similarly, the much louder and fuller arrangement suits the song, and features some of Memphis’ best musicians at their best.

If We Can’t Trust Each Other is a much quicker track. Guitars, rhythm section, strings and  horns combine as the track begins. Stabs of horns announce Ann’s arrival. It’s a vocal that deserves heralded in, as she sings emotionally, and with passion and pain, lyrics about mistrust within a relationship. Her emotive vocal is accompanied by horns that pepper the arrangement. It’s as of they’re in tune with Ann’s passion and pain. Meanwhile, the strings sweep along,  as the rhythm section contribute yet more drama to this arrangement that mixes emotion and drama masterfully. Combined with Ann’s emotion laden vocal, this is one of the most emotive and dramatic tracks on I Can’t Stand The Rain.

The rhythm and string section combine with Charles Hodges’ organ playing to produce an introduction that’s both atmospheric and dramatic as A Love Vibration unfolds. When Ann’s vocal enters, it matches the arrangement that’s unfolding. It’s a mixture of sadness and regret, as she sings about missing the opportunity for love and happiness. Here, the organ and later the horns, are responsible for helping to create such an emotional, dramatic and sad backdrop for Ann’s vocal. Sensing that this is one of the best arrangements on the album, Ann rises to the occasion, producing a fantastic performance, one that’s drenched in emotion, regret and sadness. 

A guitar and organ combine to produce a quick, bright and emotional sounding introduction to You Got To Feed the Fire, another song about love lost. When Ann sings, her voice is loud, yet bright and emotional, as she remembers the past. Behind her, the arrangement says “Made In Memphis,” and is an emotional roller coaster. Horns interject, brightly and theatrically, drums provide drama and a Hammond organ provides atmosphere, while lushly, strings sweep in and out. Completing the sound are the backing vocalists, who sing emotionally, but sweetly, complimenting Ann’s vocal perfectly. Together the arrangement and vocal combine to produce a track that demonstrates what Southern Soul is about.

Another of Ann’s best known singles was I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, which reached number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts. Like I Can’t Stand the Rain. It has been covered by many artists. The definitive version is Ann Peebles.’ Nothing else comes even close. Strings and an evocative Hammond organ open the track before Ann sings, accompanied by horns. When her vocal enters, it starts of gentle, almost thoughtful, but later is a combination of emotion, power and passion. As she sings, horns punctuate the arrangement, while strings beautifully lush sounding, sweep. Percussion plays and the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. At the heart of the track, is Ann’s vocal, by now a combination of power and passion, as she forecasts the downfall of an unfaithful playboy. Like, I Can’t Stand the Rain, this was one of Ann’s finest songs, and easily, one of the album’s highlights. 

I Can’t Stand the Rain closes with One Way Street that opens with strings and rhythm section combining with piano and percussion, before Ann sings. When she sings, there is a gospel feel to the song and her delivery. Backing vocalists provide gospel drenched backing vocals as Ann sings in a way that reminds me of Aretha Franklin and Candi Staton. It’s almost call and response that Ann and backing vocalists sings, as the arrangement of piano, strings and rhythm section combine beautifully. Although very different from the other songs on the album, in that it’s a track that has its roots in the church, I find it incredibly moving and beautiful. Personally, this style of song suits Ann’s voice, and the arrangement is perfect for the song. Willie Mitchell’s use of the strings, piano and backing vocalists was a masterstroke, and combined with Ann’s vocal, is a song Aretha would be proud of.

The seven albums Ann Peebles recorded with Willie Mitchell for Hi Records contain some wonderful music. Of these seven albums, I Can’t Stand the Rain was Ann most successful album. There’s a reason for I Can’t Stand the Rain’s success. By 1974, Ann was enjoying a parallel career as a songwriter. Her songs were variously emotive, heartbreaking, poignant, soul-baring and joyous. Many songs written  Don Bryant and Bernard Miller. Of the ten songs on the album, she cowrote eight of them, with (You Keep Me) Hanging On and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, the only two cover versions on the album. What surprises me, is that with the ability to write such great songs, and such a stunning voice, Ann wasn’t a much bigger star. That to me, seems strange, as she’d everything going for her. Whether if she’d been on a major label, she’d have been a much bigger success, we’ll never know?

If that had been the case, she’d neither have had Willie Mitchell nor all the brilliant musicians or backing vocalists at Hi to accompany her on her seven albums. Ann won’t be the first artist whose work hasn’t found a much wider audience, sadly this is a familiar story. Talent doesn’t equate to success is just as true now as it was then. Today, people with little talent seem to find huge commercial success, while hugely talented artists struggle to get their music heard.  Hype and marketing seem to be the order of the day, and this sadly, has will only get worse. This means that hugely talented artists like Ann Peebles, will remain loved by people who are familiar with her music, but largely unknown to most people. Some people may only have heard her two best known tracks I Can’t Stand the Rain and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, or cover versions of these songs. However, there’s much more to her music than that. Much more. The place to start is I Can’t Stand The Rain which will be rereleased on vinyl by Fat Possom Records. I Can’t Stand The Rain was Ann Peebles’ most successful album and is the perfect starting introduction to one of Southern Soul’s best female vocalists. Standout Tracks: I Can’t Stand the Rain, A Love Vibration, I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down and One Way Street.


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    1. Ann Peebles : I Can’t Stand The Rain (1973) | Mr. Moo's What Da Funk

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