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In 1970, the spirited R&B/pop singer Freda Payne had a monster success with "Band of Gold," a bouncy love-gone-wrong song that was probably the first top-40 hit ever written about impotence. Decades later, with undiminished pipes, beauty, and impressive energy, Payne returns to the spotlight with this big-band outing from Mack Records on its Artistry Music imprint.
Arranged and conducted by the brilliant pianist Bill Cunliffe, Come Back to Me Love features a full complement of brass and horns together with a cushion of violins, violas, cellos, and a guitar, vibraphone, and harp. It's an elaborate yet tasteful backdrop for the 14 songs in the session. These include six written by Gretchen C. Valade, the founder of Mack Records, whose lyrics are clever and ring true, but whose melodies don't rise to the classic level of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "The Island" and "Midnight Sun" (Note: the "Lately" on this track list is not by Stevie Wonder.) Payne's versatile voice, with its echoes of Dinah Washington, Marlena Shaw and Nancy Wilson, sounds best when belting through a blazing arrangement of "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," or sensuously wrapped around a beloved standard like "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry."
It's ironic, given the luscious colors of all those horns and strings, that one of the album's standouts would be this simple quartet arrangement of ..."Tears" (bass, piano, brushes, guitar). Moreoverat least to these earsPayne never sounds better than she does on "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," which is just a duo with Cunliffe's eloquent and lyrical piano. Perhaps the intimacy of the setting makes the communication deeper and more direct; maybe Payne just had a special love for the song. It's also possible that things in the studio were simply more relaxed when it was recorded. In any case, it's a moving and memorable beauty, the crown jewel of a thoroughly enjoyable and versatile collection.
Track Listing: You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; Haven’t We Met; Lately; Come Back to Me Love; Whatever Happened to Me; You Don’t Know; Save Your Love for Me; Guess I’ll Hang My Tears out to Dry; The Island; I Should Have Told Him; Midnight Sun; Spring can Really Hang You Up the Most; I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water.
Personnel: Freda Payne: vocals; Bill Cunliffe: piano, synth; David Stone: bass; Dan Lutz: bass; Jonathan Richards: bass; Curt Bisquera: drums; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Walter Rodriguez: percussion; John Chiodini: guitar; Alisha Bauer: cello; Vanessa Freebairn-Smith: cello; Pete Christlieb: saxophone; Tom Peterson: saxophone; Keith Fiddmont: saxophone; Brian Scanlon: saxophone; Bob Sheppard: saxophone; Nick Mancini: vibraphone; Bob McChesney: trumpet: Carl Saunders: trumpet; Bob Summers: trumpet; Kye Palmer: trumpet; John Papenbook: trumpet; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Jeff Driskill: flute; Ben Devitt: trombone; Andy Martin: trombone; Bob McChesney: trombone: Ira Nepus: trombone; Briana Bandy: viola; Scott Hosfeld: viola; Jessica Vanvelzen Freer: viola; Amy Shulman: harp; Clayton Haslop: violin; Sharon Jackson: violin; Peter Kent: violin; Barbara Porter: violin; Erica Walczak: violin; John Wittenberg: violin; Judy Yoo: violin.