ALICE CLARK THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS 1968-1972.

ALICE CLARK THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS 1968-1972.

The cream always rises to the top. This may be the case in some industries, but sadly, not in the music. Far too often, hype and image triumph over talent. Meanwhile, commercial success and critical acclaim eludes truly talented artists. Chastened by the experience, many of these artists turn their back on the music industry. They’re content to return to civvy street, free from a world populated by A&R executives, PR companies and radio pluggers. At least the artist knows that they gave it their best shot. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Now they begin the first day of the rest of their life.

This is what happened to Brooklyn born soul singer Alice Clark. Her career began in 1968, and was over by 1972. During that four year period, Alice Clark recorded just fifteen songs during three recording session. This includes two singles and her 1972 album Alice Clark. These songs feature on The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. It’s a sixteen track compilation which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972 is an introduction to one of the soul music’s best kept secrets, Alice Clark.

Very little is known about Alice Clark. Indeed, her story is almost shrouded in mystery. All that’s known, is that Alice Clark was born in Brooklyn, and shared the same manger as The Crystals. It was her manager that introduced Alice to singer-songwriter Billy Vera. 

The meeting took place at April-Blackwood Music, who at the time, were Billy Vera’s publishers. That afternoon, Billy spent time teaching her some songs that he had written. These songs would be recorded in 1969.

By the time the recording session took place, Alice Clark had taken to occasionally phoning Billy Vera. However, Alice who seems to have been a private person, only ever made small talk. Despite this, Billy remembers: “I got the impression her home life wasn’t that great.” He remembers that Alice: “had kids and belonged to a religious order.” These are the only thing Billy can remember about Alice. However, what nobody who heard Alice as she made her recording debut will forget is…her voice.

For the 1969 session, Jubliee’s studio was chosen. Billy Vera who wrote and would produce the three tracks put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section featured drummer Earl Williams, bassist Tyrell and guitarists Butch Mann and Billy Vera. They were augmented by trumpeter Money Johnson and backing vocalist Tasha Thomas. This was the band that accompanied Alice Clark on You Got A Deal, Say You’ll Never Leave Me and Before Her Time. Alice Clark delivered confident and assured performances. Two of these songs became Alice’s debut single.

With the three songs recorded, the Rainy Day label decided to release You Got A Deal in January 1968. It was a driving slice of soul, with a feisty, vocal from Alice. Horns and harmonies accompany Alice as she’s transformed into self-assured soul singer. The flip side was Say You’ll Never, a quite beautiful ballad. A number of radio stations began playing the song. Despite this, Alice Clark’s first single wasn’t a commercial success. It was an inauspicious start to Alice’s career.

Nothing was heard off Alice Clark until March 1969. By then, Alice had recorded her sophomore single. This was the George Kerr, Michael Valvano and Sylvia Moy penned You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me). On the flip-side was Arthur Mitchell and Eddie Jones’ Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). The two songs were produced by George and Napoleon Kerr. This GWP Production was released on Warner Bros. Alice Clark was going up in the world.

Alas commercial success continued to elude Alice Clark. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me), which became a favourite on the Northern Soul scene, features an impassioned, hurt-filled vocal. Just like Alice’s debut single, the B-Side was a ballad Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). It features a heartfelt vocal where the secular and spiritual collide. Just like You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me), Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed) Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed) showcased a truly talented singer. Sadly, very few people realised this. Alice Clark was one of music’s best kept secrets.

For the next couple of years, Alice Clark was cast out into the musical wilderness. Then Bob Shad at Mainstream Records decided to take a chance on Alice Clark. Mainstream Records were moving into the soul market, are were signing artists. He decided that Alice Clark fitted the bill, and signed her to Mainstream Records.

Soon, work began on Alice Clark’s debut album. A total of ten tracks were chosen. This included a trio of Bobby Hebb songs, Charms Of The Arms Of Love, Don’t You Care and Hard Hard Promises. Among the other songs were Jimmy Webb’s I Keep It Hid; Petula Clark and John Bromley’s Looking At Life; Leonard Caston’s Don’t Wonder Why; Juanita Fleming’s Never Did I Stop Loving You and Earl DeRouen’s Hey Girl. The other songs chosen were John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Maybe This Time and Leon Carr and Robert Allen’s It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone. These songs became Alice Clark.

With the material chosen, producer Bob Shad set about putting a band together. Apart from guitarist Ted Dubar, the identity of the rest of the band are unknown. However, Ernie Wilkins was drafted in to arrange the songs on Alice Clark. When it was recorded, the release was scheduled for later in 1972.

By then, three years had passed since a record bearing Alice Clark’s name had been released. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) had disappeared without trace upon its release in March 1969. Everyone must have been hoping that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Alas, it did. 

I Keep It Hid was chosen as the lead single, with Don’t Wonder Why featuring on the B-Side. On its release, I Keep It Hid sunk without trace. Worse was to come. When Alice Clark was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Very few copies of Alice Clark sold. That was a great shame. 

During the three years that Alice Clark had been away, she grown as a singer. She delivers a soul-baring cover of Jimmy Webb’s I Keep It Hid. It’s full of emotion hurt. Looking At Life takes on a mellow, understated and jazz-tinged sound. Suddenly, the song takes on new meaning as Alice delivers a soulful and joyous vocal. There’s a sadness in Alice’s vocal on Don’t Wonder Why, as she delivers a rueful, wistful vocal. However, wistful gives way to hope on Maybe This Time, as she sings “maybe this time love won’t hurry away?” Meanwhile, soul and jazz combine. Never Did I Stop Loving You closed side one, and is a much more uptempo track, where the band kick loose, and Alice delivers an impassioned vocal powerhouse.

Charms Of The Arms Of Love picks up where Never Did I Stop Loving You left off. It proves the perfect showcase for Alice Clark as she delivers an assured and powerful vocal. However, on the horn driven Don’t You Care, Alice combines frustration and anger, and sounds as if she’s lived and survived the lyrics. On It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone, Alice delivers a vocal full of hurt, heartbreak and pain. There’s almost a cinematic quality to this breakup song. Very different is Hard Hard Promises. Horns and a Hammond organ accompany Alice as she delivers an emotive vocal powerhouse. This showcases Alice’s versatility. Hey Girl closes Alice Clark. Elements of jazz, soul and funk combine as a lovestruck Alice brings her debut album to a close.

Sadly, there was to be no followup. After Alice Clark failed commercially, Alice turned her back on music. Never again did this talented and versatile vocalist return to the studio. Alice Clark was lost to music.

During her four year career, Alice Clark had recorded just fifteen tracks. They’re a mixture of beautiful ballads and uptempo songs. On each and every song, Alice breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her delivers veers between heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring, to assured, hopeful and joyous. It seems when Alice Clark stepped into a recording studio, she was transformed. 

No longer was Alice Clark the quietly spoken young mother that Billy Vera remembers. Suddenly, the God-fearing Alice Clark disappeared, and was replaced by one that wore her heart on her sleeve. She was comfortable sings songs about love and love lost, and could breath life and meaning into songs about hope, hurt, heartbreak and betrayal. Despite her ability and versatility, Alice Clark commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Alice Clark.

Chastened by the experience, Alice Clark turned her back on the music industry. Nobody seems to know what happened to Alice Clark? Mystery surrounds this hugely talented singer, who should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

By 1973, You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) became a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. Apart from that, very few people had heard of Alice Clark or her music. It would be a  while before this changed.

As the years passed by, a few copies of Alice Clark found their way into bargain bins. Curious record collectors who chanced upon a copy of Alice Clark decided to take a chance on this little known album. Having paid their money, they discovered one of soul music’s best kept secrets,..Alice Clark. They were the lucky ones. 

Since then, Alice Clark has become a real rarity. Anyone wanting an original 1972 copy of Alice Clark on Mainstream, will need to search long and hard. If they can find a copy, it will take at least $500 to prise it out of the hands of its owner. That was until BGP, an imprint of Ace Records, recently released The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. It features everything that Alice Clark recorded during that four year period.

The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972 features Alice Clark’s two singles and the ten tracks on her 1972 eponymous debut album. That’s not all. There’s also two tracks that weren’t released until 2010. They’re Before Her Time which was recorded at Alice Clark’s first recording session, and an instrumental version of You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me). Incredibly, these sixteen tracks on The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972 amount to Alice Clark’s entire back-catalogue. The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972 is also an introduction to one of soul music’s best kept secrets, and a singer who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success dn critical acclaim,..Alice Clark.

ALICE CLARK THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS 1968-1972.

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3 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on charlesfroland1970 and commented:
    Very underrated artist,to bad she wasn’t given a bigger shot at stardom. Excellent album !!!

  2. Hi Charles.

    I totally agree about Alice Clark. She’s a very underrated artist who deserved to reach greater heights. It’s a fantastic album, and it’s great that it was released last.

    Regards.
    Derek.

Trackbacks

  1. A Lost recording GEM !!! | charlesfroland1970

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