SANDRA PHILLIPS-TOO MANY PEOPLE IN ONE BED.

SANDRA PHILLIPS-TOO MANY PEOPLE IN ONE BED.

Producer Swamp Dogg hadn’t known Sandra Philips long, before he signed her to Canyon Records. Swamp Dogg was introduced to Sandra by her ex-husband. He let Swamp Dogg hear a single she cut for Epic. This was kismet. Not only was Sandra hugely talented, but she’d potential. She was desperate to forge a career in music. Her soulful, emotive voice could make lyrics come to life.  This was just what Swamp Dodd needed. It would fill a void left by Doris Duke who Swamp Dogg had previously worked with.

Doris was proving unreliable. She’d stopped taking Swamp Dogg’s calls, was missing concerts. Then there was the small matter of a Buick Estate Wagon Swamp Dogg bought her. It had been shot up by her new “manager.” Doris Troy looking unlikely to have much of a future with Swamp Dogg. That was a huge loss. After all, Doris had released the Deep Soul classic I’m A Loser. Doris could’ve and should’ve been one of the biggest female soul singers of the late-sixties and early-seenties. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. She’d gone A.W.O.L. and someone was needed to fill that huge void.

That’s where Sandra Phillips came in. Realising the potential Sandra clearly had, Swamp Dogg signed her to Canyon Records. He then took Sandra down to Macon, Georgia, where with a crack band in tow, Sandra Phillips recorded Too Many People In One Bed for Canyon Records, which was recently rereleased by Alive Records. Would Too Many People In One Bed see Sandra Phillips fill the void left by Doris Troy? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve told you about Sandra’s career.

Sandra Phillips was born in Mullins, South Carolina. From an early age, she was entering talent contests and sang in her church choir. When she left high school, she headed to New York to try and fulfil her dream of becoming a singer.

Now living in New York, she was signed by Sue Records, releasing two singles on their Broadway imprint. You Succeeded and World Without Sunshine were released in 1967. Although neither were commercially successful, they’ve become of favorites on the Northern Soul scene. Next stop for Sandra was Okeh, where she released I Wish I Had Known and I Still Love You. Still success eluded Sandra. She was no quitter though.

Not only was Sandra confident in her own ability, but so was her ex-husband. When he met Swamp Dogg, he let Swamp Dogg hear a single she cut for Epic. Given the problems Swamp Dogg was having with Doris Duke this was fate. Here was a singer who could fill the void Doris left at Wally Roker’s Canyon Records, were Swamp Dogg had a production deal. Swamp Dogg signed her to Canyon Records and work began on her debut album Too Many People In One Bed.

For Too Many People In One Bed, Swamp Dogg wrote or cowrote eleven of the twelve tracks. Swamp Dogg as Jerry Williams Jr, penned Rescue Song, Ghost Of Myself and If You Get Him (He Was Never Mine). With Charlie Whitehead, Jerry cowrote My Man And Me, Now That I’m Gone (When Are You Leaving) and Some Mother’s Son. They cowrote She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking) with Gary US Bonds. Jerry and Gary cowrote I’ve Been Down So Long,To The Other Woman (I’m The Other Woman), After All I Am Your Wife and Please Don’t Send Him Back To Me. The other track was Someday (We’ll Be Together), which was written by Jackey Beaver, Johnny Bristol and Terry Johnson. These twelve songs became Too Many People In One Bed, which was recorded in Macon, Georgia.

To record Too Many People In One Bed, Swamp Dogg took Sandra down to Macon, Georgia, where with a crack band in tow, the recording began. The band included a rhythm section of drummer Johnny Sandlin, bassist Robert Popwell and guitarist Pete Carr. Paul Hornsby played organ and piano, while Swamp Dogg played piano. Once the recording of the rhythm section and vocals were completed, Swamp Dogg headed to Philly where strings were added. Recording took place at the Cameo Parkway studios, with Swamp Dogg’s favourite arranger, Richard Rome taking charge of proceedings. Then when Too Many People In One Bed was completed, Sandra Phillips had to stand in for Doris Troy, who’d gone A.W.O.L, again.

With Doris Troy missing in action, Swamp Dogg had a problem. He’d shows booked in th Midwest and a lot of money riding on them. Doris was nowhere to be seen. So Swamp Dogg convinced Sandra to pretend to be Doris. This worked and I’m A Loser stayed in the top ten for two months. Sadly, Too Many People In One Bed didn’t enjoy the same success.

Canyon Records which was owned by Wally Roker folded before Too Many People In One Bed was released. Too Many People In One Bed was meant to be released in 1970. Sadly, Sandra Phillips’ debut album was never released. It was dispatched to retailers and before the release date, Canyon Records folded. Since then, Too Many People In One Bed has never been released…until now. Will Too Many People In One Bed prove to be a hidden gem that could’ve transformed Sandra Phillips’ career? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Rescue Song, which opens Too Many People In One Bed, has Southern Soul written all over it. With washes of Hammond organ and soaring gospel tinged harmonies for company, Sandra’s vocal is a mixture of power and emotion. Needy, she almost pleads for “somebody to rescue me.”  It’s as if she’s lived the lyrics. Behind her Swamp Dogg’s band fuse Southern Soul with rocky guitars. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Sandra’s vocal tour de force.

I’ve Been Down So Long sees the tempo dropped way down. That’s perfect for this song. So too is the wistful sounding arrangement. Again, bassist Robert Popwell plays an important part, while guitars chime, horns rasp and drums add a melancholy heartbeat. As Sandra sings: “I’ve Been Down So Long” there’s a defiance and hope in her voice. She’s not given up yet and never will. With harmonies matching her every step of the way, Sandra unleashes a vocal dripping in emotion, defiance and hope.

Chiming, crystalline guitars open My Man And Me, before a sassy, feisty Sandra vocal struts centre-stage. Horns growl, harmonies soar dramatically and the Hammond organ adds its unmistakable atmospheric sound. The rhythm section adds a funky heartbeat and some boogie woogie piano proves the finishing touch to Sandra’s strutting, feisty vocal.

From the opening bars of To The Other Woman (I’m The Other Woman) you realize something special is unfolding. The song takes on a cinematic quality. Pictures unfolds before your eyes. That’s down to the washes of Hammond organ, piano and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for Sandra’s vocal. It’s a mixture of controlled power and emotion. Accompanied by strings, she lays bare her soul. Veering between confusion, defiance, joy, melancholy and sadness, Sandra makes the lyrics come to life. Proud and defiant, her parting shot is that: “the other woman will always be the wife.”

A pensive piano opens Now That I’m Gone (When Are You Leaving), before Sandra unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal. The arrangement unfolds, sometimes just at the right time. Swamp Dogg builds up from just the piano and the rhythm section providing the heartbeat. He drops stabs of blazing horns and soaring, gospel-tinged harmonies in at the right time. They provide a foil for Sandra’s embittered, angry and dramatic vocal.

Jazz-tinged. That’s the best way to describe Someday (We’ll Be Together). Sandra scats while horns rasp, strings swirl and guitars chime. Bassist Robert Popwell is at the heart of the action, his playing intricate and thoughtful. Sandra however, plays the starring role. As horns bray and blaze, strings sweep and jazz and soul unites. She transforms the song. In her hands it becomes an anthemic track. This plea for unity and togetherness could’ve and should’ve become the anthem for generation.

After All I Am Your Wife sees a lonely and heartbroken Sandra realize her marriage is all but over. She realises this and lay bare her soul. Sadness, frustration and anger, it comes to the surface. It’s a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Sung against a backdrop of lush strings, Hammond organ and bubbling bass, years of emotion come pouring out. Deep down though, she’s not over him though. The clue is when she sings: “after all, you’re my life.” Whether it’s a case of love gone wrong or unrequited love there’ll be no happy ending. So convincing is Sandra’s delivery, that you almost share her hurt. That’s why it’s one of the highlights of Too Many People In One Bed.

Stabs of piano provide a dramatic backdrop to Sandra’s vocal on Ghost Of Myself. Her vocal isn’t as powerful as on other tracks. It’s as if she’s singing within herself. That’s no bad thing. You focus on her every word. Her heartfelt, impassioned vocal is truly compelling. Her relationship is over and she’s a “Ghost Of Myself.” Swamp Dogg’s arrangement reflects this heartbreak and drama. Hammond organ, swathes of strings and the rhythm section accompany Sandra. Later, her vocal grows in power. She unleashes a vocal that’s a fusion of controlled power and emotion.With harmonies for company, this proves the perfect way to close this heart-wrenching, confession.

Gospel-tinged harmonies sweep as If You Get Him (He Was Never Mine) unfolds. Straight away, Sandra’s vocal is defiant and dramatic. Delivered against a backdrop of quivering strings, Hammond organ and meandering bass Sandra’s angry vocal takes centre-stage. Harmonies drift in, adding to the drama and emotion of Sandra’s feisty vocal. With a combination of defiance and heartbreak her parting shot is: “If You Get Him (He Was Never Mine).”

Bluesy horns open the melancholy She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking). With a slow, thoughtful arrangement where horns, piano and swathes of lush strings combine a quite beautiful song unfolds. A song about a two-timing, good-for-nothing guy, Sandra delivers what’s easily her best vocal. It’s not just the way she breathe life and emotion into the lyrics. No. It’s that she resists kicking loose and delivers a tender, wistful and heartbreakingly beautiful vocal.

Please Don’t Send Him Back To Me bursts into life. Swamp Dogg’s band and the backing vocalists spring into action. Sandra’s vocal is sassy and feisty, oozing with confidence. Harmonies accompany her, soaring above the arrangement. Meanwhile, horns growl and the rhythm section add a driving beat. As for Swamp Dogg he unleashes some of the best piano playing on the piano. It’s the finishing touch to this slice of good time music. 

Some Mother’s Son closes Too Many People In One Bed. Moody, broody and dramatic describes the arrangement. Then it’s all change. Stabs of grizzled horns, searing guitars and probing bass join the piano as Sandra seems determined to close the album on a high. She does, delivering a needy, hurt-filled vocal. Her lovelorn vocal is a mixture of loneliness, emotion and hope, that one day, Some Mother’s Son will be the one.

Sandra Phillips’ Too Many People In One Bed could’ve and should’ve been the album that launched her career. After all, Sandra was talented singer, capable of bring lyrics to life. Songs takes on a cinematic quality. Pictures unfolds before your eyes. The characters within the twelve songs become very real. So much so, you end up sharing their hurt and pain. Not every singer can make music come alive like that. No. Far from it. However, Sandra Phillips could. 

Too Many People In One Bed is like a twelve short stories. Tales of betrayal, heartbreak, loneliness and love gone wrong, it’s all on Too Many People In One Bed. A whole range of emotions come pouring out. We also see different sides to Sandra Phillips. One minutes she’s heartbroken, the next defiant, feisty or sassy. Whether Sandra’s vocal is powerful or tender, it’s equally effective. Mostly, it’s powerful though. Sometimes, I wish she’d just reign in the power. She doesn’t need to always unleash a vocal powerhouse to be effective. Not at all. Proof of that is She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking), which features a tender vocal. It’s the highlight of Too Many People In One Bed. Mind you, there’s many highlights on Too Many People In One Bed.

Indeed, there’s no disappointments on Too Many People In One Bed. Instead, Too Many People In One Bed is a reminder that Sandra Phillips could’ve and should’ve enjoyed a successful career. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Sandra’s musical career petered out. She retrained and enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim as an actress, even portraying Bessie Smith, The Empress Of The Blues, on Broadway. However, Sandra Phillips’ life and career could’ve been very different, if Canyon Records hadn’t folded. Maybe then, she’d have enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim that later came her way as an actress. Too Many People In One Bed which was recently rereleased by Alive Records, is a tantalizing reminder of one of Southern Soul’s best kept secrets, Sandra Phillips. Standout Tracks: Rescue Song, I’ve Been Down So Long, If You Get Him (He Was Never Mine) and She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking).

SANDRA PHILLIPS-TOO MANY PEOPLE IN ONE BED.

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2 Comments

  1. Good grief, Derek, you must be the most prolific blogger on the planet. Amazing stuff.

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  1. Sandra Phillips : Too Many People in One Bed (1970) | Mr. Moo's What Da Funk

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