Barbara Acklin 

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- Barbara Acklin (RIP 1998) - vocals



- Barbara Allen

Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Love Makes a Woman

Company: Brunswick

Catalog: BL 754137

Year: 1968

Country/State: Oakland California

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; small cut out hole

Available: 1

Catalog number: 5998

Price: $40.00

Co-produced by Carl Davis and Barbara Acklin's husband Eugene Record, 1968's "Love Makes a Woman" remains a curiosity to me.  Widely regarded as one of Acklin's best albums, to my ears the set's always been a mild disappointment.  Musically the album's certainly highly commercial serving as a nice showcase for Acklin's great voice.  Also noteworthy, Acklin was credited with penning three of the songs including the album's best effort 'Please Sunrise Please'.  Unfortunately, produced Davis and Record badly misjudged Acklin's strengths in surrounding her with a disproportionate number of sappy, middle-of-the-road efforts.  Geez, what were they thinking giving her two Bacharach-David numbers to cover?  Tracks such as 'Come And See Me Baby' and 'I've Got You Baby' made it clear that Acklin was more than capable of handling hardcore soul and R&B, but too often the results sounded like something out of the Dionne Warwick catalog.  Anyone doubting those comments need only listen to a needless cover of 'What The World Needs Now Is Love', her cover of 'The Look Of Love', or 'Come and See Me' (where she actually sounded a little bit like Warwick).  What a waste of talent.  Elsewhere the title track provided Acklin with her first top-20 pop hit. In turn the parent album proved a substantial R&B hit, as well as her only brush with pop chart success (# 186). (Always loved the metallic outfit Acklin was wearing on the cover- reminds me of a mobile disco ball ...)   


As far as a debut went, this one wasn't bad.  With a couple of minor changes it could have easily been a soul classic, but that's nothing more than hindsight and speculation ...  Worth owning for the title track and 'Be By My Side.'


"Love Makes a Woman" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) What The World Needs Now Is Love  (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 2:25  rating: ** stars

As much as I love the song, Acklin's cover of 'What The World Needs Now Is Love' simply didn't have much going for it.  As mentioned before, this one literally sounded like Dionne Warwick trying to channel Dusty Springfield.  Competent, but hardly original, or engaging. 

2.) The Look Of Love   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) -2:23   rating: ** stars

Echo those earlier comments for Acklin's cover of 'The Look Of Love'.  Why bother covering a song if it was a rote cover of the original?.  

3.) The Old Matchmaker   (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 2:54  rating: ** stars

Co-written with husband Eugene Record, 'The Old Matchmaker' was an odd performance.  The pair seemed intent on showcasing Acklin' as an MOR talent rather than a soul artist.  In fact the best thing on this one were the backing vocals (The Artistics?).      

4.) Come And See Me Baby   (Eugene Record) - 2:47  rating: **** stars

Four songs into the album you finally got a chance to hear Acklin's true talents.  Another Record composition, 'Come And See Me Baby' was a nice soul ballad that served to showcase Acklin's vulnerable voice.  Great hook !   

5.) I've Got You Baby   (James Cleveland - Karl Tarleton) - 2:14  rating: ** stars

'I've Got You Baby' had a great melody, but it was buried under a hackneyed arrangement.  Adding to the problem, Acklin didn't simply sound very comfortable singing in such a high key.   

6.) Love Makes a Woman   (Carl Davis - Eugene Record - William Sanders) - 2:49  rating: **** stars

Thankfully the title track rescued side one.  A classic slice of late-1960s soul, this one had it all - great melody, that you'll be humming in an instant, gutsy vocal, great backing vocals ...  Great choice for a single.  


- 1968's 'Love Makes a Woman'  b/w 'Come and See Me Baby' (Brunswick catalog number 55379)


(side 2)

1.) Please Sunrise Please   (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 2:50  rating: **** stars

'Please Sunrise Please' may have been the album's prettiest song.  A slow, pleading ballad, the track had a great melody and one of Acklin's best performances.     

2.) Your Sweet Loving   (B. Butler) - 2:37  rating: ** stars

'Your Sweet Loving' was another pretty ballad, but on this one Acklin's voice sounded sharp and bitter.  When she reached for the higher notes it was actually almost painful to hear.   

3.) Yes I See The Love (I Missed)   (Eugene Record) - 2:34  rating: *** stars

Three ballads in a row is a lot for anyone to put up with and to some extent  'Yes I See The Love (I Missed)' suffered from poor placement.  Had it been separated by a couple of up tempo numbers it would have rated substantially higher.  That said, taken on its own the song wasn't half bad.  A shade too MOR-ish, but far better than the Bacharach covers.   

4.) To Sir With Love   (Marc Loudon - Don Black) - 2:24  rating: ** stars

Hum, another cover of a MOR-classic.  Like the pair of Bacharach-David covers, her version of 'To Sir With Love' was professional, but wasn't going to make you forget the original.    

5.) Be By My Side   (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 2:36  rating: ***** stars

As much as liked the title track, my pick for standout performance would go to the closer - 'Be By My Side'.  Another Record-Acklin original, this up tempo soul number was simply fantastic.  Anyone who was wondering if Acklin was really a soul singer, or simply a Dionne Warwick clone, need only listen to this one.   Warwick could never have pulled off such a gutsy performance.  This was the one that Brunswick should have tapped as a single.  


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Seven Days of Night

Company: Brunswick

Catalog: BL 754148

Year: 1969

Country/State: Oakland California

Grade (cover/record): VG/+VG+

Comments: --

Catalog number: --

Price: $50.00


Produced by Carl Davis and Eugene Record, 1969's "Seven Days of Night" makes a good argument that producers (and certainly husbands as in the case of Record), can be clueless impediments to a young artist's career.  


Barbara Acklin's second album for Brunswick, these eleven tracks repeatedly reflected a label that couldn't make up its mind what to do with the talented Acklin.  Did they want to continue to market her as a classic soul singer, or was there more money to be made in framing her as a pop crooner?  The end results managed to release an album that sought to tread the middle of the market.  Unfortunately in the end the album didn't accomplish either goal very well.  And for gawd's sake, why would anyone force an artist to record three Bacharach-David covers?  Seriously?  'Go with Love', 'Where Would I Go' and 'This Girl's In Love with You' on one album?  The good news is Acklin co-wrote four of the album's selections and two of those were among the album highlights.  The opening 'A Raggedly Ride' and 'Here Is a Heart' underscored Acklin's soul orientation. The album was far to MOR-ish for its own good, but combined with the title track, the classic 'Am I the Same Girl' and the blazing 'Just Ain't No Love' there were enough performances to make the collection worth a spin.  It was just a shame so much effort went into trying to position Acklin as a Chicago version of Dionne Warwick.  One Warwick was enough.


"Love Makes a Woman" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) A Raggedy Ride (Eugene Record - Carl Davis - Barbara Acklin) - 2:37 
rating: **** stars

One of three tunes she co-wrote, 'A Raggedy Ride' made a strong argument Brunswick should have pushed her as a soul belter. A pounding slice of soul with a slice of smile-inducing advice, the track had a great melody, killer hook and also displayed Acklin's seldom heard higher ranges.  Brunswick released it as the album's first single:






- 1969's 'A Ragged Ride' b/w 'Seven Days of Night' (Brunswick catalog number 755412)





2.) Go With Love (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 2:16  rating: ** stars

A perfect example of what not to do with Acklin, 'Go with Love' was the first of three Bacharach-David covers.  At least on this one Sonny Sanders' orchestral arrangement didn't drown Acklin out.  Unfortunately the end result made her sound like Dionne Warwick trying to be operatic.

3.) Seven Days of Night (Eugene Record - Carl Davis) - 2:44 rating: **** stars

I've always thought the mid-tempo title track was one of the best things she ever recorded.  If there was a track that managed to blend Brunswick's desires to market her to soul and pop audiences, then 'Seven Days of Night' was that track.  Great horn-powered melody; radio-friendly refrain; awesome Acklin vocals and a too-die-for good bass line. Hard to understand why it wasn't a single, rather than relegated to the "B" side of the 'A Raggedly Ride' single..

4.) Just Ain't No Love (Eugene Record - Carl Davis) - 2:49 rating: **** stars

Acklin takes it to church ...  Powered by some killer Hammond B3 and an awesome sax solo, 'Just Ain't No Love' unveiled Acklin's "tough girl" imagine. Wow, oh wow !!!   Brunswick released this as the second single.  Brunswick subsequently stripped off Acklin's vocals and released it under the Young-Holt Unlimited nameplate.

- 1969's 'Just Ain't No Love' b/w 'Please Sunrise, Please' (Brunswick catalog number 55388)

5.) Where Would I Go (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 2:44 rating: ** stars

The second Bacharach-David tune, 'Where Would I Go' sounded very much like a Warwick performance (Warwick had recorded the track a year earlier).  On this one Sanders' dramatic arrangement all but crowded Acklin out of the picture.  Waste of her time and talents.

6.) Am I the Same Girl (Eugene Record - Sonny Sanders) - 3:06 rating: ***** stars

This should have been Acklin's biggest hit and moment in the spotlight. A true soul classic, the song had an instantly recognizable melody with Acklin adding a tart, teasing vocal on top of it.  It was released as the album's leadoff single:

- 1968's 'Am I the Same Girl' b/w 'Be By My Side' (Brunswick catalog number 55399) # 33 R&B charts and # 78 pop


In another brilliant marketing move Brunswick had producer Davis take the original track, eliminate Acklin's vocals, add some more prominent keyboards and re-title the song 'Soulful Strut.'   Under the Young-Holt Unlimited nameplate (they didn't actually perform on the song), it was released as a single, putting it into direct competition with Acklin's version.  Young-Holt  promptly had their biggest hit with their instrumental version of the song.  


(side 2)

1.) Until You Return (Eugene Record - Carl Davis - Barbara Acklin) - 3:08 rating: ** stars

Unfortunately 'Until You Return' found Acklin guilty of co-writing a song that would not have sounded out of place in the Bacharach-David catalog.  Chi-Lites on backing vocals?  Awesome bass line, but the rest of the ballad is simply too MOR for her own good.

2.) This Girl's in Love With You  (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 4:28  rating: ** stars

Well I like the harpsichord opening, but after that it's a rote cover of a tune that will always be "owned" by Dionne Warwick.  

3.) Here Is a Heart (Eugene Record - Carl Davis - Barbara Acklin) - 2:43 rating: **** stars

Another Acklin co-write and another album highlight.  'Here Is a Heart' is my choice for the album's best performance.  The tune had a breezy melody and a sweet, confident vocal that I find hard to shake out of my head.  Perhaps just my old ears, but something about the melody has always reminded me of Bunny Wailer and Marcia Griffiths' 'The Electric Slide.'

4.) Mr. Sunshine (Where Is My Shadow) (Eugene Record - Carl Davis) - 2:40 rating: ** stars

The more I hear 'Mr. Sunshine (Where Is My Shadow)' the less I like it.  What I originally thought was one of the album's stronger tunes has subsequently shown itself to be firmly in the Dionne Warwick school of pop.  It's also one of the few song's where Acklin's vocals came off as shrill and borderline irritating.

5.) Love Had Come to Stay (Eugene Record - Carl Davis - Barbara Acklin) - 3:08 rating: *** stars

'Love Had Come to Stay' closed the album with another adult ballad.  The arrangement was very Dionne Warwick-ish; smooth, pop-chart oriented.  The saving grace was Acklin's powerful delivery.  Nah, it did totally salvage this track, but it was still far better than the Bacharach-David covers.




Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Someone Else's Arms

Company: Brunswick

Catalog: BL 754156

Year: 1970

Country/State: Oakland California

Grade (cover/record): G/VG

Comments: split spine; some ring wear; small cut out hole; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog number: 4108

Price: $20.00


Critics tend to slam 1970's Carl David and Eugene Record produced "Someone Else's Arms."  While there's some merit to those criticisms, the album isn't all that different than her previous Brunswick efforts, meaning it contains a couple of outstanding tracks that were unfortunately surrounded by way too much fluff.  To my ears the big problem here remains Brunswick's desire to market Acklin as a pop performer.  Surrounding her with faceless, over-orchestrated pop crapola like 'Is It Me', 'Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)' and 'More (Theme from Mondo Cane)' simply did nothing to showcase her considerable talents.  Acklin was far more impressive when she stuck to more soul-oriented material such as the self-penned 'Someone Else's Arms' and 'After You'.  In fact, if you want to hear how good she sounds when she toughens up her attack, check out the rock guitar propelled 'What's It Gonna Be.'  Unfortunately, for every standout track you' had to slog through something like 'The Spinning Wheel.'  Certainly a mixed success, but like most of her catalog, worth hunting for.

"Someone Else's Arms" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Someone Else's Arms   (Barbara Acklin - Eugene Records) - 4:16

2.) After You   (Barbara Acklin - Eugene Records) - 2:30 rating: **** stars

The first of three collaborations with husband Eugene Records, 'After You' offered up a classic slice of '"old school" soul.  My goodness Acklin had an amazing voice, revealing a touch of her higher range - her trills reminded me a touch of the late Minnie Ripperton. This one reappeared on her follow-up "I Did It" LP.  Easy to see why Brunswick tapped it as a single:

- 1969's 'After All' b/w 'More Ways Than One' (Brunswick catalog number B 755421)

3.) Is It Me   (Barbara Acklin - Eugene Records) - 3:41

4.) Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)   (Antonio Carlos Jobim - Gene Lees) - 3:37

5.) What's It Gonna Be   (Jerry Ragavoy - Mort Shuman) - 3:32

5.) More (Theme from Mondo Cane)   (Ritz Ortolani - Nino Oliviero) - 3:11


(side 2)

1.) He's Just a Little Guy   (Barbara Acklin - Eugene Records) - 4:57 rating: **** stars

TA collaboration with husband Record, the beautiful ballad 'He's Just A Little Guy' was seemingly a paean to the joys and concerns of motherhood.  The song was apparently inspired by Acklin's oldest son Marcus.  The Chi-Lites provided backing vocals, though I would love to know who provided the squealing fuzz lead guitar.  This was also one of the four songs to reappear on the "I Did It" album.  

2.) More Today Than Yesterday   (Pat Upton) - 3:18

3.) The Spinning Wheel   (David Clayton-Thomas) - 3:30 rating: *** stars

I wasn't expecting to hear a Blood, Sweat & Tears cover on a Barbara Acklin album..  BS&T weren't exactly a band that inspired a lot of covers; let alone covers by soul artists.  While Acklin's cover didn't stray too far from the original melody/arrangement, her vocals were quite nice.  Nah, it wasn't enough to forget David Clayton Thomas' growling original, but is was still worth hearing.

4.) More Ways Than On   (Carl Davis - Eugene Record) - 3:40


5.) You've Been In Love Too Long   (William Stevenson - Ivy Joe Hunter - Paul Clarence) - 3:02




Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  I Did It

Company: Brunswick

Catalog: BL 754166

Year: 1970

Country/State: Oakland California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink; opened

Available: 1

Catalog number: --

Price: $50.00


Barbara Acklin's fourth album for Brunswick was a bit of a marketing mystery.  Produced by husband Eugene Record, over half of 1970's "I Did It" repacked material from Acklin's previously released albums.  No idea what Brunswick's marketing logic was, other than wanting to piss off the buying public.  The covers 'To Sir with Love' and 'The Look of Love' had previously appeared on Acklin's "Love Makes a Woman" album.  A cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears' 'Spinning Wheel,' the "old school' 'After You, 'He's Just a Little Guy and 'More Ways than One'  were all recycled from her "Someone Else's Arms" LP.   It just seemed like a odd marketing concept.  Showcasing Acklin's crystalline soprano, the album wasn't a major departure from her earlier work.  Featuring three writing collaborations with Record (Acklin typically served as lyricist while Record handled the music), the biggest difference this time around was Acklin sounded far more comfortable and confident in the studio.  While the set featured plenty of ballads, including the previously mentioned covers, Acklin was far more impressive where she took some artistic chances.  Highlights included the title track which found her working in the same "empowered woman" niche as Laura Lee, Freda Payne and Betty Wright.  Even better, 'I Can't Do My Thing' and 'Make The Man Love You' featured  Norman Whitfield styled psych-soul.  Hardly a genre you would have expected to hear, but Acklin handled it effortlessly.  Certainly not a groundbreaking set, but, in spite of the material overlaps, a worthy addition to her catalog. 


"I Did It" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) I Did It (Eugene Record) - 2:33  rating: **** stars

In spite of Thomas Washington's heavy-handed arrangement, from the opening chords the title track just oozed a breezy charm.  Acklin's assured, but relaxed delivery of husband Eugene Record's stand-up-for-yourself lyrics was nothing short of charming.  Great choice for a single:





- 1970's 'I Did It' b/w 'I'm Living with a Memory' Brunswick catalog number B 55440) # 28 R&B






2.) I Can't Do My Thing (Eugene Record - Thomas Washington) - 2:38 rating: **** stars

On the blazing 'I Can't Do My Thing' Washington's arrangement sounded like he'd been listening to a lot of Norman Whitfield's psychedelic-soul work for Motown.  Complete with Dennis Coffey-styled fuzz guitar, this one was a wonderful showcase for Acklin, demonstrating she was capable of way more than sappy ballads.  Brunswick tapped this as the album's second single:




- 1970's 'I Can't Do My Thing' b/w 'Make the Man Love You' (Brunswick catalog number B 55447)






3.) The Spinning Wheel (David Clayton Thomas) - 3:25  rating: *** stars

I wasn't expecting to hear a Blood, Sweat & Tears cover on a Barbara Acklin album..  BS&T weren't exactly a band that inspired a lot of covers; let alone covers by soul artists.  While Acklin's cover didn't stray too far from the original melody/arrangement, her vocals were quite nice.  Nah, it wasn't enough to forget David Clayton Thomas' growling original, but is was still worth hearing.

4.) After You (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 2:27  rating: **** stars

Previously released as a single, the first of three collaborations with husband Eugene Records, 'After You' offered up a classic slice of '"old school" soul.  My goodness Acklin had an amazing voice, revealing a touch of her higher range - her trills reminded me a touch of the late Minnie Ripperton. 

5.) To Sir, with Love (Marc Loudon - Don Black) - 2:24 rating: ** stars

Acklin had previously recorded this for her 1968 "Love Makes a Woman" album.  As far as I can tell, this is the same performance which was itself pretty much a clone of the Lulu original.  I didn't like the original.  I didn't like the first Acklin cover and the repeat didn't do anything to improve it.


(side 2)

1.) I'm Living With a Memory (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 2:48 rating: *** stars

The breezy 'I'm Living With a Memory' found Acklin skating over a nifty, jazzy melody.  Loved the goofy male backing vocals.  On the downside, this was one of the isolated tracks where arranger Washington's orchestration pushed Acklin to the edge. The song also appeared as the "B" side on the 'I Did It' 45.

2.) Make the Man Love You (Eugene Record - E.R. Jones) - 2:32   rating: **** stars

Maybe I'm an outlier, but I'm always impressed when Acklin opts to explore a tougher sound.  Another track powered by Dennis Coffey-styled fuzz guitar, 'Make the Man Love You' has always reminded me of a good Staples Singers performance.  Shame this one was relegated to being the "B" side pf the ' I Can't Do My Thing' single.

3.) He's Just a Little Guy (Eugene Record - Barbara Acklin) - 4:55   rating: **** stars

Another "repeat" performance, the beautiful ballad 'He's Just a Little Guy' was seemingly a paean to the joys and concerns of motherhood.  The track was apparently inspired by Acklin's oldest son Marcus.  The Chi-Lites provided backing vocals, though I would love to know who provided the squealing fuzz lead guitar.  (The song appeared for a third time on her 1973 "I Call It Trouble" album.)

4.) More Ways than One (Eugene Record - Carl Davis) - 3:35    rating: **** stars

The final "repeat" performance, 'More Ways than One' found Acklin returning to classic Chicago ballad territory.  This one also sounded like The Chi-Lites were providing backing.  Extra star for the glorious "I'm Gonna Let You Know" refrain and the rolling bass line.

5.) The Look of Love (Hal David - Burt Bacharach) -  2:23 rating: *** stars

I grew up hearing the Dusty Springfield version of 'The Look of Love' so it's going to be hard for any other cover to replace it in my mental play list.  Kudos to Acklin for coming close.