Each week reporter Shane Weinstein drops the needle and reviews different vinyl records from used record bins.
My roommate and I have, for some reason, an incredibly strong affinity for disco music. Whether it be KC and The Sunshine Band, the Jackson 5 or any other artist in between, when it’s late and we get bored, we’ll throw on some disco jams and groove. So, when we saw Johnny Depp’s “Black Mass” it was only natural that our biggest takeaway was the catchy song playing in the background of a scene of a night club. That life changing night was the one when we discovered Thelma Houston’s hit single “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
Last week when we were at Zia Record Exchange and Thelma Houston’s 1976 record, “Any Way You Like It,” was sitting on top of the disco records as if someone had forgotten to put it back, Stephen and I knew that was the record we were meant to purchase that day.
Therein lies the longwinded story behind this week’s review.
Houston’s fourth record is a bit of a tale of two sides. The A-side features three outstanding disco tracks whereas the B-side has five power ballads, all of which provide Houston the opportunity to showcase her incredible vocals. Though some may be disappointed that the two types of tracks are not mixed, I think separating them makes the record stronger. Doing so allows the listeners to decide which side they want to listen to depending on their mood and furthermore, I think separating them helps showcase Houston’s range as a performer even more than the album already does.
Top Cuts 5/5
This is the second time in two weeks I’m giving the top tracks on a record a perfect score, and honestly it was nearly impossible not to do so. Houston’s powerhouse vocals are on full display on every single track.
For personal reasons, clearly “Don’t Leave Me This Way” has to be my favorite track on the A-side, let alone the entire album. Though this version is a bit different than the one we first heard in “Black Mass,” the song is just as catchy and the vinyl pressing really lets the song’s bass line during the chorus shine. Houston won the Grammy for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for this song in 1977, and after hearing the song, that should come as no surprise.
The record’s B-side starts on an incredibly strong note with a ballad entitled “Come to Me.” Accompanied by some strings in the background, Houston's silky smooth voice grows stronger as the track goes on, resulting in a crescendo that see’s her belting out the lyrics. The result is one of the best moments on the entire record.
Most Underwhelming 2.5/5
I suppose if I had to pick one track from this album that doesn’t quite reach the peak that the other seven do, I would choose the B-side’s sophomore track “Don’t Make Me Pay (For Another Girl’s Mistake).” While it certainly isn’t a bad song by any means, there’s just nothing that really stands out about it. The song, which is a plea to a man not to let another woman’s actions impact his romantic opinions of Houston, just seems a bit run of the mill compared to the record’s other tracks. Her vocals are outstanding as always, however, the song just is just a bit too cookie-cutter ballad for my personal taste.
Most Underrated 5/5
Houston closes the A-side of the record with a fantastically soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t Know Why I Love You.” Though the track may fall by the wayside due to it’s closing out the first half of the album, it’s more than worth listening too. Houston’s unique voice and disco-inspired take on the song make it an inspired cover that could potentially be one of the most criminally overlooked tracks on the record.
Although “Don’t Leave Me This Way” has been playing on repeat in my apartment since October, the track marked my first listen to any of Houston’s work beyond that, and I think it’s safe to say this record will become a staple of my collection. Houston’s impressive vocals on the ballads and catchy disco tunes balance each other out excellently and it’s fair to say that this record will garner some serious playing time in the weeks to come at my apartment.
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