MILLIE JACKSON-ON THE COUNTRY SOUL SIDE.

MILLIE JACKSON-ON THE COUNTRY SOUL SIDE.

Trying to describe Millie Jackson in just one word, is almost impossible. If I was asked to do so, the word I’d use would be versatile. She could breath life, meaning and drama into a variety of songs. Whether it was heartbreaking, soulful ballads or country soul, Millie could take you on a mesmerising musical journey. That was the case throughout Millie Jackson’s time at Spring Records.

Millie Jackson was, without doubt, one of the most talented and charismatic female vocalists of the seventies and eighties. That’s indisputable. What many people won’t realise, is that Millie Jackson was a country girl at heart. She was born in Thomson, in rural Georgia, in July 1944. Millie’s country roots influenced her unique brand of soul music. Especially the sixteen albums Millie recorded for Spring Records. Fans of Millie Jackson’s music will be aware of her country soul roots. However, other people may not be aware of Millie Jackson’s country soul side. For them, Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side will be the perfect introduction to this side of Millie Jackson’s music.

Released on Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records on 2nd June 2014, Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side was a tantalising taste of Millie Jackson country soul side. It features seventeen tracks. Sixteen of these tracks are cover versions. Fourteen were released between 1977 and 1981. This includes the 1979 duets with Isaac Hayes You Never Cross My Mind and You Needed Me. The other three tracks have never been released before. There’s an edit of I Still Love You (You Still Love Me) and alternate vocal take of Loving Arms. The other track is Millie’s new single Black Bitch Crazy a.k.a. Redneck Crazy. These seventeen tracks are an irresistible introduction to Millie Jackson’s country soul side. It shawn through early in Millie’s career. 

Millie Jackson was born in Thomson, Georgia, but when her mother died, she moved to Newark, New Jersey with her father. Then when Millie was a teenager, she moved to Brooklyn to live with an aunt. It was in New York that Millie Jackson’s career began in 1964. One of Millie’s friends dared her to enter a talent contest in Harlem nightclub. 

Having entered the talent competition, Millie won it. This proved to be the start of Millie’s nascent musical career. Six years later, in 1970, Millie recorded her first single for MGM Records. A year later, in 1971, Millie signed to the record company where she would establish her reputation as one the most talented, versatile and charismatic female vocalists of her generation, Spring Records.

At Spring Records, Millie worked with Spring Records’ in-house producer Raeford Gerald, her 1971 singe A Child Of God gave Millie the first hit single of her career. It reached number 102 in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. This proved to the start of the most successful period of Millie Jackson’s long career. During her time at Spring Records, she released what’s undoubtably, the best music of her career. Millie was a truly prolific artist, who released sixteen studio albums for Spring Records between 1972 and 1983. Three of these albums, 1974s Caught Up, 1977s Feelin’ Bitchy and 1978s Get It Out’cha System were certified gold. Each of these albums feature a truly versatile artist. However, some of the best music Millie Jackson recorded at Spring Records was country soul. That’s apparent on Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side

When it comes to country soul, Millie Jackson breathes life, meaning, emotion and often, hurt and heartache into each of the seventeen tracks. One minute, Millie is laying bare her soul, the next delivering a heartfelt, impassioned performances. When Millie Jackson sings country soul, it’s a mesmeric musical experience. You’ll realise this when I tell you about Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side, which is a reminder of one of the most talented, versatile and charismatic female vocalists of the seventies and eighties. 

The story of Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side begins back in 1977. That’s when Millie Jackson released Feelin’ Bitchy. It reached number thirty-four in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B charts. For Millie, this resulted in the second gold disc of her career. Feelin’ Bitchy also featured If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday, which reached number forty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B charts. This gave Millie her most successful country soul single since 1973s It Hurts So Good. If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday is one of four tracks from Feelin’ Bitchy to feature Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side.

1977s Feelin’ Bitchy was produced by Millie and Brad Shapiro. It’s an album about  relationships. On Feelin’ Bitchy, betrayal, cheating, heartache and hurt are everyday occurrences. So are breaking up and making up. This is apparent from the four tracks that have been taken from Feelin’ Bitchy.

Angel In Your Arms features a beautiful, soul-baring vocal from Millie. Truly, it’s an outpouring of hurt and betrayal. If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday was a song synonymous with Merle Hagard. That’s until Millie reinvents the song. Her vocal is a mixture of hope, longing, loss and melancholia. She delivers the lyrics like an ultimatum, but all the time, hope’s her man is back in love by Monday. Cheatin’ Is is the final track taken from Feelin’ Bitchy. Although country soul, there’s a funky twist to this musical soap opera from Feelin’ Bitchy. A year later, Millie was back with another critically acclaimed and commercially successful album.

In 1978, Millie released Get It Out’cha System, another album produced by Millie and Brad Shapiro. Get It Out’cha System  reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number fourteen in the US R&B charts. This resulted in the third and final gold disc of Millie’s career. The Kenny Rodgers penned Sweet Music Man was released as a single, reaching number thirty-three in the US R&B charts. Sweet Music Man and Here You Come Again are the two tracks taken from Get It Out’cha System to feature on Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side.

Sweet Music Man is a slow, dramatic ballad. Millie delivers a vocal oozing emotion and despair. Cooing harmonies and sweeping strings provide the perfect backdrop for Millie as she unleashes a heartbroken vocal Magnus Opus. Then on Here You Come Again, Millie accompanied by a crack band of musicians, reinvents a track made famous by Dolly Parton. Dancing strings, growling horns and harmonies create the perfect backdrop for a dramatic, joyous and soulful vocal from Millie Jackson. The result is without doubt, the highlight of Get It Out’cha System.

A year after the critical acclaim and commercial success of Get It Out’cha System, Millie released a collaboration with Isaac Hayes, Royal Rappin’s. It reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200 and number seventeen in the US R&B Charts. One of the singles was You Never Cross My Mind, which reached number thirty in the US R&B charts. Here, Millie and Isaac prove a perfect foil for each other, on this tale of love lost, but in reality, not forgotten. The other track from Royal Rappin’s on Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side is You Needed Me. Millie and Isaac’s breath meaning and emotion into this old classic. Royal Rappin’s would be Millie’s last album before a new decade dawned.

As the eighties dawned, Millie released the genre-hopping album For Men Only, which was produced by Millie and Brad Shapiro,  It marked a change in Millie Jackson’s music. Her 1979 album Live & Uncensored, hinted at the direction Millie’s music was heading. For Men Only stalled at just number 100 on the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B charts. One of For Men Only’s highlights was the ballad, I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again. It epitomises everything that’s good about Millie Jackson’s music. Soul baring describes her wistful, melancholy vocal on what’s one of For Men Only’s highlights. A year later, Millie changed direction again, returning to her country soul roots on Just A Lil’ Bit Country.

Millie released Just A Lil’ Bit Country in 1981. Just like previous albums, Just A Lil’ Bit Country was produced by Millie and Brad Shapiro. Just A Lil’ Bit Country featured covers of Harlan Howard’s Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You, Barbara Fairchild’s Standing In Your Line and Kris Kristofferson’s Anybody That Don’t Like Millie Jackson. Other tracks included G. F. Babber and John Conlee’s Rose Coloured Glasses and Larry Henley and Red Lane’s Till I Get It Right. Recording took place at The Sound Shop, in Nashville, Tennessee. The result was a return to form from Millie Jackson.

Sadly, Just A Lil’ Bit Country wasn’t a commercial success. It narrowly missed the US R&B charts, stalling at number 201. At least Just A Lil’ Bit Country reached number forty-three in the US R&B charts. Millie’s cover of  Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You was released as a single, reaching just number sixty-two in the US R&B charts. For Millie the commercial failure of  Just A Lil’ Bit Country was a huge disappointment. Especially given the quality of music on Just A Lil’ Bit Country.

This is apparent from the tracks from Just A Lil’ Bit Country that feature on Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side. I Can’t Stop Loving You is given a dance-floor friendly makeover, and Millie struts her way through the lyrics. However, she never forgets her country soul roots. The same can be said of Pick Me Up On Your Way Down. It features a feisty, sassy vocal from Millie, delivered against a dance-floor friendly arrangement. 

Standing In Your Line sees the tempo drop and the country influence shine through, Crystalline, country guitars and punchy, rasping horns set the scene for Millie’s despairing vocal. Rose Coloured Glasses is without doubt, Millie at her best. She delivers a slow, wistful vocal. It’s as if she’s lived the hurt and despair she’s singing about. The result is a beautiful ballad, which is vintage Millie Jackson. Melancholy describes Till I Get It Right. Millie’s down, but not defeated. She veers between weary to defiant. Soon, she unleashes a vocal powerhouse. Power, passion and emotion  combine to create a track where country and gospel combine seamlessly.

The country sound oozes through on the Kris Kristofferson penned Anybody That Don’t Like Millie Jackson. So does Millie’s trademark humour. It’s the final track from Just A Lil’ Bit Country.

Apart from the fourteen tracks I’ve mentioned, there’s a previously unreleased version of Mac Davis and Mark James’ I Still Love You (You Still Love Me). It’s a hauntingly, beautiful ballad that’s best described as a hidden gem from Millie Jackson’s discography. There’s also an alternate vocal take of Loving Arms. Quite simply, it’s spine tingling. The other new track is Millie’s new single, Black Bitch Crazy aka Redneck Crazy. Millie it seems might be seventy, but the voice remains the same.

For anyone yet to discover the country soul of Millie Jackson, then without doubt, Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side is the place to start. It features the varied hues of Millie Jackson’s country soul. 

There’s everything from heartbreaking ballads and dance-floor friendly tracks on Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side. That’s not surprising. Millie Jackson was a musical chameleon. Her music was constantly evolving. One minute she’s delivering heart-wrenching ballads, the next getting Millie and her band are getting funky and heading for the dance-floor. Whether it’s ballads or dance tracks, Millie’s vocal are country soul. That’s not surprising. She’s a country girl at heart. Born in Thomson, in rural Georgia, Millie Jackson never forgot her country soul roots during the twelve years  she spent Spring Records. 

Between 1971 and 1983, Millie released sixteen albums. Three of those, 1974s Caught Up, 1977s Feelin’ Bitchy and 1978s Get It Out’cha System were certified gold. However, there’s gold elsewhere in Millie Jackson’s discography. Tony Rounce, who compiled Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side for Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, realised this. He dug deep, and the result was Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side, a combination of classics, familiar faces, hidden gems, rarities and unreleased tracks. These seventeen tracks are a tantalising taste of Millie Jackson during the most productive period of her career.

During the twelve year period at Spring Records, commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions for Millie Jackson. She became a huge star. So much so, that Millie Jackson was regarded as one of the most talented, versatile and charismatic soul singer of her generation. No wonder. Millie could make a song come to life. Seamlessly, Millie brings lyrics to life. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. Whether it’s heartbreak and hurt, sensuality and sass, or anger and frustration, Millie Jackson brings all these things and more to a song. Quite simply, Millie Jackson is like an artist. Her voice is like a musical palette. It allows her to paint pictures before your eyes. One minute you’re empathising with Millie’s hurt, pain and plight, the next her vocal is filled with joy and happiness and then she’s delivering a wistful and melancholy Magnus Opus. Not many vocalists can do this. Millie Jackson can.

However, not many vocalists are as versatile and talented as Millie Jackson. That’s apparent when you listen to Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side to realise this. It’s the perfect companion to the critically acclaimed The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads. It was released in 2013 by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records. Its followup, Millie Jackson-On The Country Soul Side is a tantalising taste of the country soul of Millie Jackson, one of the most talented soul singers of her generation.

MILLIE JACKSON-ON THE COUNTRY SOUL SIDE.

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