MARGIE JOSEPH-FEELING MY WAY.

MARGIE JOSEPH-FEELING MY WAY.

When Margie Joseph released Feeling My Way in 1978, she was just twenty-eight. However, Feeling My Way was Margie’s seventh album since her debut Makes A New Impression. It was released on Volt Records, a subsidiary of Stax Records in 1970, a year after Margie signed to Volt. Margie Joseph had come a long way since then. This included signing to Atlantic Records, who released  Feeling My Way, which was recently rereleased by Rhino, as part of their Japanese Soul and R&B series. The Margie Joseph story began in Mississippi, back in 1950.

Margie Joseph was born in August 1950, in Gautier, Mississippi. Growing up, Margie sang in her church choir. This was her introduction to music. When she left high school in 1967, Margie headed to Dillard University, in New Orleans, where she studied speech and drama. During this period, Margie sang demo recordings at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. This was where Margie was discovered by Okeh Records.

Margie’s debut single for Okeh was Why Does a Man Have to Lie? Sadly, Why Does a Man Have to Lie was a commercial success. Neither was Margie’s debut for Volt Records, the next label she signed to.

In 1969, Margie released One More Chance for Volt Records. It was produced by Willie Tee. Despite this, One More Chance failed to chart. Neither did What You Gonna Do. Soon, Margie’s luck changed.

Your Sweet Lovin’ was Margie’s third single for Volt Records. Released in 1970, it was also her breakthrough single, reaching number forty-six in the US R&B Charts. Later in 1970, Margie’s debut album Sweet Impression was released. Sweet Impression featured Margie’s next hit single, Stop In The Name Of Love, which reached number ninety-six in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-six in the US R&B charts. A year later, Margie released her sophomore album Phase II. The lead single from Phase II was the heartbreaking I’ll Always Love You. Although I’ll Always Love You failed to chart, it showed what Margie was capable of. This resulted in Margie signing to a major label, Atlantic Records.

Having signed to Atlantic Records, set about recording the first of a quintet of album for Atlantic Records. Margie Joseph was Margie’s Atlantic debut. Released in 1973, Margie Joseph reached number twenty-one in the US R&B Charts. One of the singles released from Margie Joseph  was cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. It reached number forty-three in the US R&B charts. That year, 1973, Come Lay Some Lovin’ On Me, a non-album track gave Margie the biggest hit single of her career, when it reached number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts. Margie’s decision to Atlantic Records seemed to have resulted in her career being transformed.

In 1974, the success kept on coming for Margie. Her fourth album Sweet Surrender reached number 165 in the US Billboard 200 and number fifty-six in the US R&B Charts. Margie’s cover of Paul McCartney’s My Love resulted in her biggest hit single. It reached number sixty-nine in the US Billboard and number ten in the US R&B charts. Words (Are Impossible) also reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard and number twenty-seven in the US R&B charts. Margie Joseph was enjoying the most successful period of her career. Nothing it seemed could go wrong.

1975 was a huge year for Margie. She released her fifth album Margie. It reached number fifty-three US R&B charts. The single, Stay Still, reached number thirty-four in the US R&B Charts. Margie also collaborated with Philly Soul group Blue Magic on one of the tracks from their third album Thirteen Blue Magic. This was the Philly Soul classic What’s Come Over Me, which reached number eleven in the US R&B Charts.

For Margie’s sixth album, Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling, It was released on Atlantic Records’ subsidiary Cotillion. Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling saw a change in producer. Previously, Arif Mardin had produced Margie’s Atlantic Records’ albums. Not this time. Instead, Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling, was produced by Lamont Dozier. Margie and Lamont proved a potent partnership, with Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling reached number thirty-eight in the US R&B charts in 1976. Despite the success the Lamont Dozier and Margie Joseph enjoyed on Hear The Words, Feel The Feeling, Johnny Bristol was brought in to produce Feeling My Way, Margie’s seventh album.

For  Feeling My Way Johnny Bristol played a huge part in the album. He penned five tracks and cowrote the three other tracks. Johnny’s compositions were Come On Back To Me Lover, You Turned Me On To Love, I Love Talking ‘Bout Baby, Love Takes Tears and All Good-Bye’s Aren’t Gone. Of the other three tracks, Johnny cowrote I Feel His Love Getting Stronger with James Jamerson Jr, He Came Into My Life with Sanra Leoncavallo, Picture Of A Clown with Hense Powell, How Will I Know with Robert Torres and Discover Me (And You Will Discover You) with Doris McNeil and Beatrice Verdi. These ten tracks became Feeling My Way. 

Recording of Feeling My Way took place at Davlen Studio, North Hollywood, California. The rhythm section featured drummer James Gadson, bassist James Jamerson Jr. and guitarists David Williams, David T. Walker, Al McKay, Lee Ritenour and Mitch Holder. Bobby Hall and Larry Torres played percussion, Larry Farrow piano and Ernie Watts saxophone. Backing vocalists featured Debra Tibbs, Marsha Grimes and Lynda Evans. Strings and horns were arranged by Hense Powell and Sonny Burke, while Johnny Bristol produced Feeling My Way, which was released in 1978.

On the release of Feeling My Way, it failed to chart. This was a disaster, given the success of Margie’s previous albums for Atlantic. The increase in disco’s popularity had claimed another victim. Soul albums weren’t selling well. Disco was King. Even the singles weren’t particularly successful. Come On Back To Me Lover stalled at number eighty-five in the US R&B Charts.  I Feel His Love Getting Stronger crept into the US R&B charts at number ninety-four. Feeling My Way, which I’ll tell you about marked the end of Margie Joseph’s time at Atlantic Records.

I Feel His Love Getting Stronger opens Feeling My Way. The arrangement literally floats into being. Swathes of strings, flourishes of piano, chiming guitars and hypnotic rhythm section join forces. They set the scene for Margie’s tender, needy vocal. She sings call and response with her backing vocalists. Their contribution is equally tender. Jazz-tinged guitar, a probing bass, swirling strings and flourishes of piano provide the perfect backdrop for Margie’s hurt-filled vocal.

Come On Back To Me Lover sounds not unlike the previous track. So is the tempo. It’s 91 beats per minute, instead of 90 beats per minute. As for the arrangement it’s understated and spacious. Similar instruments are used. This includes swathes of strings, occasional flourishes of piano, a chiming guitar and the understated rhythm section. There are some differences. Briefly, drums add drama, strings dance and horns rasp. They’re the perfect foil for the strings as the arrangement grows and fills out. Margie’s vocal veers between tender and needy to hopeful and impassioned. Again, backing vocals are used effectively. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the rocky guitar. It seems out of place on what’s another emotive soulful ballad.

You Turned Me On To Love is another slow, soul searching ballad. Against a string laden backdrop, Margie delivers a tender, heartfelt vocal. Cooing harmonies, percussion and piano join the rhythm section. Everyone plays subtly. That includes the crystalline guitar that replaces Margie’s vocal. Then when Margie returns, nobody risks overpowering the beauty and emotion of Margie’s vocal.

Drums mark time as a sultry saxophone drifts above the arrangement to I Love Talking ‘Bout Baby. Margie scats, her quivering vocal floating above the arrangement. Soon, a lovestruck Margie enters. She’s thankful that she’s found a man she loves. Her vocal is tender and oozes emotion. Keyboards meander across the arrangement. They’re subtle, just like the harmonies and crystalline guitars. The only problem is the drums. They need reined in, as they slightly overpower Margie’s vocal. They’ve been panned left and right, so not to crowd the vocal. Sadly, they take some of the shine off a quite beautiful ballad.

He Came Into My Life is a mid-tempo dance track. This marks a change of direction from Margie. It really suits her. That’s the case from the pounding drums and funky guitars that set the scene for Margie. Her vocal is sassy and wistful. That doesn’t stop Margie making the song swing. With harmonies for company, Margie grabs the song and makes it work. Stabs of piano, chiming, funky guitars and a sultry horn combined and transform Margie into a disco diva during this delicious dance track. 

Pictures Of A Clown floats into being. Swathes of strings, percussion and piano combine with the rhythm section and pizzicato strings. Margie’s vocal veers between tender and heartfelt, to emotive and dramatic. Whispery harmonies accompany her vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, strings sweep and swirl and guitars chime. Despite Margie’s best efforts, the song just doesn’t work. That’s not her fault. It’s the lyrics which are twee.

How Will I Know sees a return to form from Margie. It’s another ballad, where Margie unleashes an emotive powerhouse. Just like so many other tracks, Margie’s vocal is carried upon swathes of the lushest strings. Meanwhile, the piano, percussion, crystalline guitar and rhythm section provide the backdrop for Margie as the arrangement floats along. It reminds me of early Anita Baker. That’s the quality of this track, which is easily, one of the highlights of Feeling My Way.

Love Takes Tears is another mid-tempo dance track. Again, it’s a track that should’ve found favour with DJs. Sadly, it passed them by. The arrangement just meanders into being. Gradually it unfolds, when chiming guitars, lush strings, piano and the rhythm section combine. A flourish of a piano is the signal for Margie to strut centre-stage. She delivers a feisty, sassy, vocal. Harmonies accompany Margie as the song swings. Margie and her backing vocalists play leading roles. So does bassist James Jamerson Jr. and a jazz-tinged guitar from Lee Ritenour who like Margie, showcase their talents during Love Takes Tears.

All Goodbyes Aren’t Gone sees the tempo drop and Margie deliver another ballad. It’s something she does so well. Again, the arrangement is understated, meandering gently into being. Soon, strings sweep, harmonies coo and the rhythm section provide a jaunty backdrop for Margie’s heartbroken vocal. She sings call and response with her backing vocalists. They seem to encourage Margie to even greater heights of soulfulness and emotion, as Margie and the string drenched arrangement tug at your heartstrings.

Discover Me (And You Will Discover Love) closes Feeling My Way. Margie heads for the dance-floor for her Atlantic Records’ swan-song. It’s a real fusion of influences. There’s everything from soul, funk, jazz and even a twist of country from Margie. It’s a compelling track, where hooks haven’t been rationed. Margie’s vocal is sassy and sultry, while the funky, pounding rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Meanwhile, disco strings dance, flourishes of keyboards and sassy harmonies accompany Margie as struts her way through this dance track.

Feeling My Way marked the end of Margie Joseph’s time at Atlantic Records. She didn’t bow out on a high. Far from it. Instead, Feeling My Way was Margie’s least successful album for Atlantic Records. It failed to chart. This was very different to Margie’s four previous albums. They’d all charted and resulted in a string of hit singles. However, by 1978, music had changed. 

Disco in 1978, was now the most popular musical genre. It had surpassed soul in popularity. So, Feeling My Way, an album featuring seven ballads wasn’t going to be a huge success. Granted there was a nod towards disco with He Came Into My Life, Love Takes Tears and Discover Me (And You Will Discover Love). That wasn’t enough though. They were on the slow side. Who knows though, if they’d been released as singles they might have taken dance-floors by storm? Sadly that wasn’t the case. Feeling My Way sunk without trace. It was the wrong album at the wrong time.

If Feeling My Way had been released in 1974 or 1975, it would’ve been a much bigger success. The music on Feeling My Way was what people wanted to hear. Sadly, three or four years is a long time in the music industry. It certainly was for Margie Joseph. 

Despite four successful albums and a string of hit singles, Feeling My Way was Margie Joseph’s Atlantic Records’ swan-song. Margie was released by Atlantic Records. Nothing was head of Margie for five long years. During that period, she recorded an album with Dexter Wansel. Sadly, the label folded and it was never released. So, Margie returned to teaching. Then in 1983 released her comeback album Knockout. 

Knockout reached number twelve in the US R&B Charts in 1983. This resulted in Margie resigning to Atlantic Records’ imprint Cotillion and released Ready For The Night in 1984. It was produced by Narada Michael Walden. When Ready For The Night wasn’t a commercial success, Margie was released by Cotillion. Two Margie Joseph albums, The Name Of Love  and Stay were released in 1988. After that, Margie turned her back on music. It wasn’t until 2006, that Margie Joseph released Latter Rain, a gospel album. Latter Rain was  a long way from her 1978 album Feeling My Way. 

It’s no exaggeration to describe Feeling My Way is one of the hidden gems in Margie Joseph’s discography. It’s an album that’s stood the test of time and features a captivating combination of ballads and dance tracks. Margie is at her best on the ballads. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the ballads. That’s why Margie Joseph was one of the most talented soul singers of the seventies. Her Atlantic Records’ swan-song Feeling My Way is a soulful hidden gem, and one of the most underrated albums in Margie Joseph’s discography.

MARGIE JOSEPH-FEELING MY WAY.

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