Friday, February 26, 2021

Roberta Flack - Afro Blue - Various Songs (1968)

In mid-2020, a deluxe edition of Roberta Flack's album "First Take" was released. This was very special as far as deluxe editions go, because it contained a second disc of what was essentially an entirely unreleased album. In fact, there's so much music on it (an hour and 16 minutes) that it could be a double album. "First Take," her debut album, was recorded in early 1969 and released by the end of that year. All but the first songs here was recorded in 1968. So one might think of this as her true debut album.

Flack started out playing small clubs for several years before getting a record contract. Most of the songs here were recorded in three days, and came easily since they consisted the songs of her well honed stage act. The vast majority of the songs are covers. However, "Groove Me" is not the hit by King Floyd, which wouldn't come out until 1970. It's a Flack original.

The first song is a bit different. "All the Way" is a live recording done in 1969. But it wasn't released until decades later on a Les McCann archival album called "Les Is More." This was included on the "First Take" deluxe edition. (Another song on that, "Trade Winds," has been put on the stray tracks album "Freedom Song" instead.)

By the way, as generous as the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition are, there are many more songs recorded at that session. Other songs include: "On a Clear Day," "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Lovin' You," "Love for Sale," "With These Hands," "A House Is Not a Home," "Just a False Start," "Elusive Butterfly," "First of All," and "This House," plus early versions of the songs from "First Take." Let's hope those get released someday too.

If you like Flack's first few albums before she went fully into a slick, mainstream direction, you're sure to like this.

01 All the Way (Roberta Flack)
02 This Could Be the Start of Something (Roberta Flack)
03 Groove Me (Roberta Flack)
04 Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (Roberta Flack)
05 Hush-A-Bye (Roberta Flack)
06 Afro Blue (Roberta Flack)
07 It's Way Past Suppertime (Roberta Flack)
08 Frankie and Johnny (Roberta Flack)
09 On the Street Where You Live (Roberta Flack)
10 The House Song (Roberta Flack)
11 Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Roberta Flack)
12 The Song Is Love (Roberta Flack)
13 To Sir with Love (Roberta Flack)

I couldn't find any photos of Flack from 1968, which isn't surprising since she was largely unknown back then. The one I used is from a series of promo photos that came out when her debut album was released in late 1969. It was a black and white photo, but I colorized it.


  1. Thanks - Is it confirmed that Trade Winds was recorded in 1969, not 1972? Was trying to figure that out myself. The first release of the song was by another group, The 3 Degreees, in 1972.

    1. Well, with a little searching I was able to answer my own question! According to the Atlantic sessionography, the track was cut July 24, 1971 during a stand alone session. I suspect it was cut to be an A-side but when "First Time" unexpectedly broke out in early '72 it got moved to B-side. Mystery solved. Thanks again!

    2. Really? In that case I should move it to my other Roberta Flack stray tracks album, where it fits chronologically. Thanks for the info.

    3. Hi Paul, the other tracks show up in the Atlantic sessiongraphies for years 1968-69 but Trade Winds shows in 1971. Here is a link, it's about half down the page. Easier to word search.

    4. That's a very interesting list. There are so many unreleased songs she did from 1971! I hope they make a big deluxe edition of her second album too, with all of those.

      You're right about "Trade Winds" though. Thanks to you, I just moved that song to the "Freedom Song" album. Thanks for checking that out.

    5. Oh, and by the way, it turns out Trade Winds is an old song. I think it was first done by Tommy Dorsey decades earlier.

    6. Hi Paul - Unfortunately most *unissued* Atlantic master session reels were destroyed in a warehouse fire in 1978 - including original the masters of Coltrane, Ray Charles, Aretha, the Drifters and many more. Despite this tragedy, a fraction of these lost tapes have been recovered because copies were made and squirrelled away in private collections, as was likely the case with these first Roberta Flack sessions. Hopefully some/all of other Flack material has been found too.

      Re Trade Winds: The first released recording was in 1972. The Trade Winds recorded by Glenn Miller is an entirely different song written by Cliff Friend & Charlie Tobias.

      Thank you again for all your amazing work on these projects!

    7. Sorry I wrote Glenn Miller (he recorded it too) but the Tommy Dorsey recording you mention is also the Friend-Tobias song. It's a different song than the one recorded by Robert Flack, Three Degrees and Rod Stewart.

    8. Thanks for the info. You really know your stuff. I got rid of the Tommy Dorsey mention for "Trade Winds." Too bad about that fire! I sure hope more of that music was saved.

  2. Fantastic find! Thanks so much.