Millie Jackson-21 Of The Best 1971-1983.

Label: Westbound.

Format: CD.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Millie Jackson was one of the most talented and charismatic female vocalists of the seventies and early-eighties. She spent twelve years signed to Spring Records and released sixteen studio albums between 1972 and 1983. Three of these albums, 1974s Caught Up, 1977s Feelin’ Bitchy and 1978s Get It Out’cha System were certified gold and are a reminder of a truly versatile vocalist. So is 21 Of The Best 1971-1983 which is new Millie Jackson compilation that was recently released by Westbound, an imprint of Ace Records. 

Mildred Virginia Jackson was born on July the ’15th 1944 in Thomson, Georgia, where her father was a sharecropper. Sadly, her mother died when she young and Millie Jackson and her father moving to Newark, New Jersey with her father. By the, time she was a teenager she moved to Brooklyn to live with an aunt and by the late-fifties was working as a model for magazines like Jive and Sepia.

It wasn’t until 1964 that Millie Jackson’s musical career began. And this was only when a friend dared her to enter a talent contest in Harlem nightclub which she won. This was just the start for the twenty year old reluctant singer.

Not long after this, she made the first a string of appearances in New York clubs. This was the start of her career as a professional singer. However, it was another five years before she signed her first recording contract.

Millie Jackson signed with MGM Records in early 1969 and in April of that year released her debut single A Little Bit Of Something. The Ronnie Savoy production failed to trouble the charts and it was the only single that Millie Jackson released on MGM Records.

In 1971, Jules and Malcolm Rifkind signed Millie Jackson to their label Spring Records. Little did they realise that she would become one of their most successful signings.

Millie Jackson recorded A Child Of God (It’s Hard To Believe) with the label’s in-house producer Raeford Gerald and Don French. By then, she had honed the song’s bleak narrative and delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of frustration and anger as she rails at people’s double standards and hypocrisy. The single was  released in October 1970, and although it stalled at number 102 in the US Billboard 100 it reached twenty-two in the US R&B charts. This was the first hit of Millie Jackson’s career and was the start of the most successful period of her long career.

Four months later in February 1972, she returned with the mid-tempo dancer Ask Me What You Want. It was another Raeford Gerald and Don French production and this time it reached number seven in the US Billboard 100. This was the first o three singles that featured on Millie Jackson’s eponymous debut album which reached 166 in the US Billboard 200.

The followup was the hook-laden dancefloor filler My Man, A Sweet Man which has a strong sixties influence. When it was released in July 1972 it reached number forty-two in the US Billboard 100 it reached seven in the US R&B charts. Millie Jackson was on a roll.

In 1973, she returned with her sophomore album It Hurts So Good which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound. When the album was released it reached 175 in the US Billboard 200 and  thirteen in the US R&B charts. The lead single  Breakaway was released in May 1973 but stalled at 110 in the US Billboard 100. However, when the sensual sounding Hurts So Good was released in August 1973 it reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and three in the US R&B charts. This was the most successful single of Millie Jackson’s career. Her visit to Muscle Shoals Sound was a successful one.

Millie Jackson  third album I Got To Try It One Time was released in 1974 but failed to trouble the charts. Then when How Do You Feel The Morning After was released in May 1974 it stalled at seventy-seven in the US Billboard 100. This was a  small crumb of comfort for Millie Jackson. However, her career was transformed by her next album.

This was Caught Up was released later in 1974 and reached number twenty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. It was certified gold and became the most successful album of Millie Jackson’s career. It featured a cover of (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right where Millie Jackson’s interpretation of Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson’s classic is peerless. She delivers the lyrics with meaning, feeling and a sense of hurt that seems almost real. It’s a deeply powerful and moving song that reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100 when it was released as  a single in December 1974.

Millie Jackson returned in 1975 with Still Caught Up which revisited the love triangle of Caught Up. Her fifth album  reached just number 112 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. The lead single featured Leftovers and a cover of Tom Jans’ Loving Arms which features on the compilation. It was released in September 1975 and features an impassioned and emotive vocal. Despite the undeniable quality of the song the single failed to chart. This was another disappointment for Millie Jackson.

In 1976, she returned with Free and In Love which reached seventeen in the US R&B charts. It featured the soulful, funky dancer Bad Risk which was released as a single in June 1976. However, it also failed to chart. For Millie Jackson this was becoming a habit.

Later in 1976, she released Lovingly Yours which reached 175 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-four in the US R&B Charts. It featured the You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On) which features a needy vocal from Millie Jackson. It’s one of the hidden gems on the album.

Millie Jackson’s luck changed with the released of Feelin’ Bitchy in August 1977. It reached thirty-four in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B Charts. The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals and featured a Feeling Side and A Bitchy Side. When the beautiful, heartwrenching ballad If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday was released as a single in August 1977 it stalled at forty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup, the Southern Soul ballad All The Way Lover was released in February 1978 but missed out on the US Billboard 100 when it peaked at 102. Despite that, Millie Jackson’s career was back on track. 

When she returned in 1978 with Get It Out’cha System it reached fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B Charts. This resulted in the third gold disc of Millie Jackson’s career. When Sweet Music Man was released as a single in September 1978 it reached thirty-three in the US R&B charts. It’s the B-Side side Go Out and Get Some (Get It Out’cha System) which Millie Jackson wrote with Randolph Klein that features on the compilation. So does the Benny Latimore penned single Keep The Home Fire Burnin’ which was released in December 1978 but stalled at eighty-three in the US Billboard 100. With two hit singles and the another gold disc, Millie Jackson’s career was going from strength-to-strength.

By 1979, Millie Jackson like many artists had jumped on the disco bandwagon when the released A Moment’s Pleasure. She hadn’t turned her back on soul though, and the album reached 144 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-seven in the US R&B Charts. It featured Never Change Lovers In The Middle Of The Night which was released in January 1979 and reached thirty-three in US R&B charts and saw Millie Jackson transformed into a disco diva. The album also featured a cover of Kiss You All Over which was released as a single in Britain. It’s reinvented and takes on a dancefloor friendly sound that shows another side to this familiar song.

Apart from her solo album, Millie Jackson and Isaac Hayes released Royal Rappin’s in 1979. It reached eighty in the US Billboard 200 and seventeen in the US R&B Charts. The album featured Do You Wanna Make Love which is one of the highlights of this collaboration between two giants of soul music.

During 1980, Millie Jackson released two albums including For Men Only. It featured This Is It  which was released as a single in October 1980 but failed to chart. On the B-Side was the soulful ballad This Is It Part 2 which features on the compilation and is an underrated track.

The other album Millie Jackson released in 1980 was I Had To Say It, which reached 137 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-five in the US R&B Charts. By then, Millie Jackson had honed her rap and was able to do so convincingly on the album. However, It’s Gonna Take Some Time This Time is another beautiful ballad which features a vocal that’s mixture of sadness, sensuality and emotion. It’s one of the album’s highlights.

Two years later, in 1982, Millie Jackson released Hard Times which stalled at 201 in the US Billboard 200 but reached twenty-nine in the US R&B Charts. It featured a cover William Davidson’s The Blues Don’t Get Tired Of Me which was the B-Side of Special Occasion when it was released in September 1982. However, the single failed to chart and Millie Jackson’s search for a hit continued.

In 1983, she returned with a new album E.S.P. (Extra Sexual Persuasion) which found Millie Jackson heading in the direction of funk and Hi-NRG. It reached forty in the US R&B charts. Then when I Feel Like Walkin’ In The Rain was released as a single in October 1983 the wistful sounding ballad failed to chart. It’s the one that got away for Millie Jackson.

21 Of The Best 1971-1983 features classics, hits, misses, B-sides and album tracks. There’s some of Millie Jackson’s best known songs and some oft-overlooked hidden gems from her Spring Records’ years which ended in 1983. 

The period between 1971 and 1983 was the most successful period of Millie Jackson’s career. She released a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums and singles. Three of her albums were certified gold and transformed Millie Jackson into one of the biggest names in soul music.

Sadly, by 1980 her singles were no longer as successful and by the time Millie Jackson parted company with Spring Records in 1983 even her albums were no longer selling in the same quantities. The most successful period of her career was behind her and the Spring Records years which are celebrated on 21 Of The Best 1971-1983 are a reminder Millie Jackson a truly versatile vocalist at the peak of her  powers.

Millie Jackson-21 Of The Best 1971-1983.

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