Back in the early seventies, Al Green was King of Hi Records. He was Southern Soul’s superstar. His Queen was Ann Peebles. She released seven albums on Hi Records between 1969 and 1978. Her third album for Hi Records was I Can’t Stand The Rain, which was recently released by Fat Possum Records. I Can’t Stand The Rain was Ann’s most successful album of Ann’s career. The album also contained Ann’s most successful single and one of two tracks that have since become synonymous with Ann. They’re the title-track  I Can’t Stand The Rain and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. Since 1973, when I Can’t Stand The Rain was released, mention the name Ann Peebles and most people will mention these tracks. However, there’s much more to Ann’s career that two singles. You’ll realise that when I tell you about Ann’s career and then I Can’t Stand The Rain.

Ann Peebles was born in April 1947 in St Louis, Missouri. Her father was a minister and her mother a singer. So it was inevitable that music would become part of Ann’s life. She started singing at an early age in her father’s church choir. She was also a member of the family group, the Peebles Choir. It had been founded by Ann’s grandfather and since then, was a regular fixture on the gospel circuit. Then when Ann became a teenager, she crossed over.

Like many singers before her, Ann switched from gospel to secular music. She began singing on St. Louis club circuit. Supporting and accompanying Ann was her father. It was on the St. Louis club circuit Ann met blues bandleader Oliver Sain. He was well known within St. Louis. Oliver asked Ann to join his revue. This was the break she’d been looking for.

It was during a trip to Memphis in 1968, when Ann got her big break. Trumpeter  and bandleader, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller saw Ann singing in a Memphis nightclub. He was so impressed that he asked Ann to sit in with his band. This was the break Ann Peebles had been looking for.

During his career, Gene had helped many other musicians and artists get started in the music business. This just so happened to include many of the 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. They eventually married in 1974. A year later, in 1969, Ann was signed to Hi Records.

1969 was the year Ann had released her debut single and album. Walk Away was her debut single, which reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. Give Me Some Credit then reached number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. The only disappointment for Ann was the commercial failure of Ann’s debut album This Is Ann Peebles. It failed to chart. However, Ann’s sophomore album fared better.

Her sophomore album Part Time Love, was released in 1971. It was a commercial success, reaching number forty in the US R&B Charts. Part Time Love was released as a single, reaching number forty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number seven in the US R&B Charts. Ann Peebles, it seemed, had arrived. She was establishing a reputation as Southern Soul’s next big thing.

For the followup to Part Time Live, producer Willie Mitchell and everyone at Hi Records got to work. They didn’t disappoint. Straight From the Heart, Ann’s third album, released in 1972, reached number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. It featured four hit singles. I Pity the Fool reached number eighteen in the US R&B Charts. Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love then reached number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. Breaking Up Somebody’s Home reached number thirteen in the US R&B Charts. Finally, Somebody’s On Your Case reached number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts. Part Time Love proved to be Ann’s most successful album. She came of age musically on Part Time Love. However, things were about to get even better.

For what was her fourth album, I Can’t Stand The Rain, Hi Records’ A-Team got to work. Of the ten tracks on I Can’t Stand The Rain,. Ann cowrote seven tracks. Ann, Don Bryan and Bernard “Bernie” Miller penned I Can’t Stand The Rain, Until You Came into My Life, A Love Vibration and You Got to Feed the Fire. Don and Ann also cowrote Do I Need You and One Way Street, plus Run Run Run with Daryl Carter. Earl Randle penned If We Can’t Trust Each Other and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. The other tracks was a cover of Ira Allen and Buddy Mize’s (You Keep Me) Hanging On. These ten tracks became I Can’t Stand The Rain.  

Producer Willie Mitchell brought in his A-Team for recording of I Can’t Stand The Rain at Royal Recording Studios, Memphis. The rhythm section included guitarist Teenie Hodge, bassist Leroy Holdge and drummer Howard Grimes. They were joined by Charles Holdges, who played organ and piano, The Memphis Horns and The Memphis Strings. 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’ I Can’t Stand The Rain.

On the release of I Can’t Stand the Rain, in 1973, it provided Ann with her biggest selling album and single. The album reached number twenty-five in the US R&B Charts, while the single reached number thirty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number six in the R&B Charts. I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down then reached number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts. Then in 1974, Ann’s cover of (You Keep Me) Hanging On reached number thirty-seven in the US R&B Charts.  I Can’t Stand the Rain, which I’ll tell you about, reinforced Ann’s reputation as the Queen of Hi Records.

Opening I Can’t Stand the Rain is the title track. It’s a song that’s been covered by various artists. However, none of the cover versions come close to Ann’s seminal original. It has an atmospheric opening with percussion and drums combining. Then an equally emotive, thoughtful, vocal from Ann enters. She’s accompanied by the rhythm section and blazing Memphis Horns. Together, they 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, and a great track to open the album.

Do I Need You opens with a guitar chiming brightly, before the rhythm section enter. 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 Hammond organ. They produce an arrangement that laden in drama and atmosphere. When the horns and drums punctuate the track they provide the drama, a total contrast to Ann’s thoughtful, pensive and understated vocal. The Hammond organ is atmospheric, while the rasping horns and crystalline guitar are play important roles in the arrangement. However, it’s Ann’s vocal that takes centre-stage. Quite simply, it’s the highlight of the track. At times it’s calm and thoughtful, sometimes a mixture of power and passion. Always, it’s questioning whether she needs him in her life.

Ann’s vocal on Until You Came Into My Life, is much softer and tender. Likewise, the arrangement has a much more subdued feel and sound, with backing vocalists accompanying Ann. Strings, rhythm section and Hammond organ to produce a lovely 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 arrangement. They’re the finishing touch to one of the most beautiful and best tracks on I Can’t Stand The Rain,

A guitar slowly plays as (You Keep Me) Hanging On unfolds. Then Ann sings, accompanied by the rhythm and string sections. Her vocal although restrained, quiet and tender is full of drama and passion. Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes 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. It’s a reminder that Ann’s equally at home delivering a tender and thoughtful vocal. 

Blazing horns open Run Run Run. It’s the polar opposite of the previous track. Here, Ann’s vocal is much louder and stronger, full of emotion and passion. Similarly, the arrangement is much fuller, with the rhythm and horn 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. Accompanied by some of Memphis’ top musicians, Ann unleashes a vocal powerhouse, demonstrating her versatility.

If We Can’t Trust Each Other sees the tempo increase, as the rhythm, strings and horn section combine. Stabs of braying horns announce Ann’s arrival. It’s a vocal that deserves heralded in. Her vocal is full of emotion, passion and pain as she delivers lyrics about mistrust within a relationship. Willie Mitchell’s arrangement is perfect for the song. Horns pepper the arrangement in short and bright bursts, as if in tune with Ann’s passion and pain. Meanwhile, the strings sweep and swirl as the rhythm section contribute even more drama to the arrangement. Combined with Ann’s emotion laden vocal, the result is an evocative and dramatic track.

The rhythm and string section combine with a Hammond organ, producing an introduction that’s both atmospheric and dramatic. Soon, A Love Vibration unfolds. When Ann’s vocal enters, it matches the arrangement. 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 heartbreaking 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. Quite simply, it’s one of I Can’t Stand The Rain’s highlights.

You Got To Feed the Fire is another song about love lost. When Ann sings, her voice is loud and tinged with sadness and regret. The reason for this is her memories of the past. Behind her, the arrangement says “Made In Memphis,” and is a stunning slice of emotive Southern Soul. Horns interject, brightly and theatrically, drums provide drama and a Hammond organ provides atmosphere, while lush strings sweep in and out. Adding the finishing touch are Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes. They sing emotionally, but sweetly, complimenting Ann’s vocal perfectly. Together, they demonstrate what Southern Soul is about.

Another of Ann’s best known singles was I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. It’s been covered by many artists. However, Ann’s is the definitive version. Strings and a Hammond organ combine before Ann sings accompanied by horns. Her vocal starts off gentle and thoughtful. Later it’s a combination of emotion, power and passion. Horns punctuate the track, lush strings sweep and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. At the heart of the track, is Ann’s vocal Magnus Opus.  It’s feisty and angry 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. 

Closing I Can’t Stand the Rain is One Way Street. Strings and the rhythm section combining with piano and percussion, before Ann sings. Her vocal is gospel-tinged. Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes add gospel drenched backing vocals. They sing call and response, as a piano, strings and rhythm section combine beautifully. Although very different from the other songs on the album, given its gospel roots, this is an incredibly moving and beautiful song. 

Between 1969 and 1978, Ann Peebles recorded seven albums and nearly twenty singles for Hi Records. Her third album for Hi Records was I Can’t Stand The Rain. It’s the best of these seven albums. From the opening bars of I Can’t Stand The Rain, right through to he closing notes of One Way street, Ann Peebles is at her very best. She brings each of the songs to life, delivering lyrics like she’d lived, loved and survived them. Seven of these songs, Ann cowrote. So she knew how to bring these songs to life. That’s one of the reasons I Can’t Stand The Rain is a Ann’s finest album.

Among the other reasons are the personnel who worked on I Can’t Stand The Rain. This included some hugely talented songwriters, musicians and backing vocalists. in the history of Southern Soul. Those who played on I Can’t Stand The Rain reads like a who’s who of Southern Soul. There’s The Hi Rhythm Section, The Memphis Horns, The Memphis Strings and backing vocalists Rhodes, Chalmers, Rhodes. Along with producer Willie Mitchell, they played their part in some of the greatest Southern Soul ever recorded. They accompanied the Queen of Hi Records on the seven albums she recorded for Hi Records.

The seven albums Ann Peebles recorded with Willie Mitchell for Hi Records contain some wonderful music. Several of these albums are hugely underrated. Sadly, many people aren’t aware of it. They’re only aware of I Can’t Stand The Rain and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. However, there’s much more to Ann Peebles career than two singles. Indeed, there’s more to her fourth album I Can’t Stand The Rain than two singles.

That’s why I’d suggest for anyone interested in Southern Soul, Ann Peebles’ back-catalogue is a veritable treasure trove awaiting discovery. For newcomers, the best place to start is Ann’s finest album I Can’t Stand The Rain, which was recently rereleased by Fat Possum Records. I Can’t Stand The Rain is the perfect introduction not just to Ann Peebles’ back-catalogue, but that of one of Southern Soul’s most important labels Hi Records. 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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