Two Soul Sisters
Mary "B" Something for Baby 45 (Fling, 1962)
Maxine Brown You Upset My Soul 45 (Wand, 1964)
Along with the 45 version of I Idolize You by Ike & Tina, these two songs are my favorite early Sixties, female-fronted R&B singles. Both have everything I like from that style: rawness, sass, strong upfront vocals, and a great groove. And when I hear them, I think, "What other music is this good?" (which is a question I asked myself when I listened to the Ray Barretto single I posted last and the Nobody's Children side a month or so ago and the....).
I found Mary "B"'s Something for Baby in Diamond Springs about 10 years ago. Came home, dropped needle and nearly pee'ed with glee. It is a fantastic song and just one of a million examples of how American music was cruising along just fine before the Beatles "saved it" (a load of crap that just reinforces the racist notion that early R&B has nothing to do with rock and roll, the R&B tag just a then-PC way of saying Race Music. Grrrr). It sounds like it boiled up from the earth and the Heddy Lamar name drop makes me smile every time I hear it. I don't know anything about Mary B., other than her last name is Banks, she is probably from the San Francisco Bay Area, she wrote many of her own songs, and she has one other 45, Cut it Out, on Enjoy Records, which is also good.
Maxine Brown is well known in soul record fiend circles. She cut a lot of great records for Wand, including some killer duets with Chuck Jackson. Born in South Carolina, she made her way up in the music biz by singing in gospel groups and then walking down the secular path after Ray Charles made the safe break from gospel. Like Charles, she still kept her raw edge for a time, becoming a bit slicker after the massive success of Dionne Warwick. If you haven't checked her out yet, I'd suggest gobbling up her Wand singles, they are pretty easy to find for a couple bucks a pop. The Brits have collected her good stuff on CD if digital is your kick.