Saturday, July 2, 2022

P. P. Arnold - BBC Sessions (1967-1968)

This is possibly the shortest album I've posted yet. It's more like an EP than an album. But in this case, it's quality over quantity. These BBC sessions by soul singer P. P. Arnold are really great.

I'm not sure whether to refer to Arnold as an American or British soul singer, because she's both. She was born and raised in the US. But after a couple of years as a backing singer in the US, including backing Ike and Tina Turner, she moved to Britain. She's lived there for the vast majority of the rest of her life, up to the current day. (She's 75 years old as I write this in 2022.) Her move was a smart one, based on supply and demand. In the late 1960s, there was great interest in soul music in Britain, but very few talented black female singers, so she went from being a backing vocalist to being a minor star. She had a couple of British hits with "First Cut Is the Deepest" in 1967 and "Angel of the Morning" in 1968.

Here's her Wikipedia entry if you want to know more:

P. P. Arnold - Wikipedia

Unfortunately, the amount of recorded material she did as a lead vocalist is relatively small. She put out the album "The First Lade of Immediate" in 1967, and "Kafunta" in 1968. But her planned third album stalled out, despite featuring lots of big British stars. For instance, it was co-produced by Eric Clapton, and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. That album, "The Turning Tide," wasn't finally finished off and released until 2017. After that, she mostly returned to backing vocals work, although she occasionally sang guest lead vocals on singles, and had a few dance hits in the 1980s and 1990s that way.

So given the paucity of her released material, these unreleased BBC performances are a significant addition. What's especially great is that they contain two killer cover versions that she never officially released: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Tin Soldier." She was closely associated with the British band the Small Faces, singing backing vocals on some of their songs, including "Tin Soldier," but here she actually sang lead on that.

There are only six songs here from BBC studio sessions, totaling 19 minutes. Although they're all unreleased, they come from BBC transcription discs and sound great. Five of those six songs suffered from the usual problem of this era of BBC DJs talking over the music (the ones with "[Edit]" in their titles). As usual, I applied the X-Minus audio editing program to fix that. 

Unfortunately, in the case of "Tin Soldier," in the first ten seconds or so, X-Minus wasn't able to completely get rid of the talking - I can still hear faint traces. I tried a couple of other similar programs, and they didn't do any better. If anyone can do a better job cleaning up that one, please let me know. I'd really appreciate it.

Since 19 minutes is an extremely short album, I looked around for other TV or radio show performances of hers to include. But there is virtually nothing from this time period that isn't lip-synced. However, I did find two more performances from French TV shows: "To Love Somebody" and "(If You Think You're) Groovy." This second song was written by the Small Faces for her, and she was backed by them on the studio recording. For this French TV show version, she appeared with them on the performance, but only the vocals were actually live. Unfortunately, her lead vocals were way too low. So I used X-Minus to boost them up, which is why that version has "[Edit]" in the title too. 

Note that this song also appears earlier in the album as one of the BBC tracks. I normally hate to have two versions of the same song on the same album, but I've made an exception here since there's so little of Arnold's material from this time period available.

Finally, as kind of a bonus track, I added an A-side Arnold did with Primal Scream in 1996 called "Understanding." It's from a totally different era, but I've included it because it's a cover of a Small Faces song and it sounds exactly like it was recorded in the late 1960s.

As I mentioned above, the BBC tracks alone are only 19 minutes long. With the three extra songs I've added at the end, this album is still very short at 29 minutes long.

01 The First Cut Is the Deepest [Edit] (P. P. Arnold)
02 Something Beautiful Happened (P. P. Arnold)
03 The Time Has Come [Edit] (P. P. Arnold)
04 [If You Think You're] Groovy [Edit] (P. P. Arnold)
05 [I Can't Get No] Satisfaction [Edit] (P. P. Arnold)
06 Tin Soldier [Edit] (P. P. Arnold)
07 To Love Somebody (P. P. Arnold)
08 [If You Think You're] Groovy [Edit] (P. P. Arnold & the Small Faces)
09 Understanding (P. P. Arnold & Primal Scream)

https://www47.zippyshare.com/v/hdpSp9a5/file.html

The cover photo comes from a 1967 publicity shoot.

8 comments:

  1. It may be short, but it is awesome. Thanks so much.

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  2. This is a great addition to your already fine blog.

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  3. "Unfortunately, in the case of "Tin Soldier," in the first ten seconds or so, X-Minus wasn't able to completely get rid of the talking...."

    Just leave it as is. No technology can remove the talking without degrading the sound. Moreover, those DJ announcements are part of the history of radio recordings. That's why they are called BBC sessions!

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    1. We'll have to agree to disagree. I hate talking over the music with a passion. I wish more DJs could have been like John Peel, who respected the music enough not to talk over it.

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  4. What an interesting post. My wife came in and ask who I was listening too, she loved the vocals. I went down the rabbit hole reading about her. Damn, she sang on a lot of stuff I own and I never noticed the name. I found your blog because I was looking for Ronnie Lane stuff because I'm a big Small Faces fan. Never notice she's credited on thier version of Tin Soldier. Thanks a lot.

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    1. I'm happy to hear you and your wife enjoy this so much. :) I just wish there was more. If you're a big Small Faces fan too, you should watch this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF4HIWX_vxE

      I fixed Arnold's quiet vocals on that one.

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    2. That was great. Thanks again.

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