LaSalle, Denise

Band members               Related acts

- Denise LaSalle (aka Denise Craig, aka Denise Jones) --





- none known




Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Trapped By a Thing Called Love

Company: Westbound

Catalog: WB-2012

Year: 1971

Country/State: Jackson, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: die cut cover; gatefold cover; minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6027

Price: $20.00

Cost: $66.00


I wandered into a local record store (yes they still exist and no I won't give you the name or address) that specialized in alternative and metal.  I really didn't expect to find much of interest so you can imagine how dumbfounded I was when I discovered they had a large stash of soul records !  Not only that, but the store clearly didn't have a clue what they had on their hands since virtually all of their soul catalog was priced at cutout rates (the weird exceptions were James Brown and Commodores LPs).  Anyhow, I grabbed about 50 soul LPs and walked away with a bill that was under $100.  The twelve year old clerk (I'm sure he was older than that), even gave me a 20% discount for buying so much and seemed more curious about my odd tastes than anything while he was ringing up my pile of treasures (virtually every one of the albums was older than he was).  Among the things I grabbed - Denise LaSalle's 1971 debut "Trapped By a Thing Called Love".   


LaSalle's biography is readily available via a number of hardcopy and online references, so I'm not going to waste a lot of time on it.  She was born Denise Craig in Jackson, Tennessee and raised in Belzoni, Mississippi where her musical career started in local churches.  In spite of that, her own tastes seemingly turned to secular tunes and as a 16 year old she moved to Chicago where she sang in the female Gospel group The Sacred Five.  Originally interested in being a writer, she shifted her focus to music. Working as a bar maid she began writing songs on the side, giving them to local blues men.   


Her initial break as a performer didn't come until 1965 when recording artist/Chess Records executive Billy Emerson heard a tape of one of her compositions.  Emerson convinced Chess to sign her to a contract, but the company never got around to recording her.  Frustrated with her situation, in 1967 she signed with Emerson's small Tarpon label.  Recording as Denise LaSalle (guess producer Emerson thought it sounded classier), she enjoyed a substantial hit with her debut single:



- 1967's 'A Love Reputation' b/w 'One Little Thing' (Tarpon catalog number T 6603)


Recognizing their earlier mistake, Chess acquired national distribution rights to the song reissuing it:


- 1967's 'A Love Reputation' b/w 'One Little Thing' (Chess catalog number 2205)


That was followed by two more singles, neither which matched the debut's success:


-1968's 'Private Property' b/w 'I've Been Waiting' (Chess catalog number 2044)

-1968's 'Count Down' b/w 'A Promise Is a Promise' (Chess catalog number 2058)


Once again frustrated with Chess Records and her recording career, LaSalle again turned her attention to writing. In 1969 she met Chicago businessman Bill Jones. Jones became her manager with the pair forming Crajon Productions, using it as an umbrella to start a number of small Chicago-based labels including Crajon, Gold Star, and Parka.  The two subsequently married.  By 1969 Crajon was working extensively with Willie Mitchell and the Hi rhythm section.  In addition to writing and recording material for Crajon acts such as Bill Coday The Sequins, and Duke Turner, LaSalle resumed her own recording career, releasing a 45 on Crajon:



- 'Heartbreaker Of The Year' b/w 'Too Late To Check Your Trap' (Crajon catalog number 48201)


The single and other demos attracted the attention of Armen Boladin who signed her to his Westbound label. 


Recorded in Memphis with Jones and LaSalle producing (Mitchell arranged the material), 1971's "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" was a forgotten classic.  In my book LaSalle's simply one of soul's overlooked talents and she never sounded as good as on this debut LP.  Easy on the eyes, she had a dynamite voice that was capable of whipping from soft and vulnerable to in-you-face bitchy.  She was easily as talented as her better known contemporaries - I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.  Even more impressive, unlike most of those contemporaries, LaSalle was a prolific writer - she penned about two thirds of the material on this album.  Exemplified by tracks such as 'rapped By a Thing Called Love', 'Now Run and Tell That' and 'Heartbreaker of the Year', LaSalle had a knack for penning great Southern-soul material that was memorable and highly commercial.  This was the kind of material that Clarence Carter and other soul storytellers could only dream about.  Featuring five LaSalle originals, side one was simply impeccable from start to finish and side two wasn't far behind.


- All hyperbole aside, 'Trapped By a Thing Called Love' is a lost soul classic.  Yeah, it was a modest R&B hit, but should've been a massive pop and R&B hit.  A fantastic melody, great soul lyric, and killer tug-at-your heart vocal !!  This song alone was worth the charge of admission and a copy will go in my jukebox.  Easy to see why Westbound tapped it as one of two singles off the album.   rating: ***** stars 

- Kicked along by some punchy horns and with LaSalle adopting her best take-no-crap voice, 'Now Run and Tell That' was an even better performance.  A true lost classic, how this one was overlooked as a single is simply beyond my understanding.   rating: ***** stars 

- A mid-tempo ballad, 'Heartbreaker of the Year' sported one of the album's best melodies and one of LaSalle's most sophisticated and clever lyrics. Extremely commercial, this one was tapped as the album's leadoff single.  My only complaint with this one were the painfully out of tune backing singers ...   rating: **** stars

- With its great guitar riff, goofy chorus and hysterical backing vocals, 'Good Goody Getter' was one of my favorite performances.  The lyrical nod to Christmas eve and Santa Claus never fails to makes me laugh.   rating: ***** stars 

- 'With a too-die-for melody and breathless vocal, 'Catch Me If You Can' was perhaps the album's most blatantly pop and commercial offering.  Another one where you were left to scratch your head and wonder why it wasn't tapped as a single ...   rating: *****

- Opening up with some funky Steve Cropper-styled guitar and a punchy Memphis Horns arrangement, 'Hung Up, Strung Out' was probably the album's funkiest offering.  Another up tempo, highly commercial number with a hook that won't let go of you.   rating: *****  

- The first disappointment, 'Do Me Right' wasn't a bad song, but simply couldn't compete with her original material.   rating: ** 

- I've never heard the Crajon version of  'The Deeper I Go (The Better It Gets)' , so I don't know if this was the same song, or a different version.  Regardless, this was a textbook slice of southern soul.  My only complaint with the song is that it should have been longer.  Easy to see why it was tapped as the album's third single.   rating: *****    

- A sultry southern soul ballad with some fantastic keyboard flourishes, 'If You Should Lose Me' served to showcase LaSalle's lower vocal range.  Once again, the song and performances were both great.    rating: ****    

- The first time I heard 'Keep It Coming' I mistook it for an Aretha Franklin tune.  Elsewhere the album featured a tasty trumpet solo.     rating: ****

- I really didn't expect much from LaSalle's cover of Carole King's 'It's Too Late'.  Shame on me.  While LaSalle's version wasn't a major departure from the original, she gave it a distinctive soul spin that proved surprisingly impressive and enjoyable.  One of the album's highlights !      rating: *****


The album was tapped for a series of four singles:


- 1971's 'Heartbreaker of the Year' b/w 'Hung Up Strung Up' (Westbound catalog number W 162)

- 1971's 'Trapped By a Thing Called Lover' b/w 'Keep It Coming' (Westbound catalog number W 182)

- 1971's 'The Deeper I Go (The Better It Gets)' b/w 'Now Run and Tell That' (Westbound catalog number W 201)

- 1971's 'Good Goody Getterr' b/w 'Don't Nob' (Westbound catalog number W 221)


Powered by the singles and strong critical reviews the album sold extremely well, going #13 pop and # 1 R&B.  Sadly today it's almost completely forgotten so here's your chance to rectify this criminal oversight.


"Trapped By a Thing Called Love" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Trapped By a Thing Called Lovec 2:36

2.) Now Run and Tell That   (Denise LaSalle) - 3:19

3.) Heartbreaker of the Year   (Denise LaSalle) - 2:48

4.) Good Goody Getter   (Denise LaSalle)  - 3:19

5.) Catch Me If You Can   (Denise LaSalle) - 3:03


(side 2)
1.) Hung Up, Strung Out   (Denise LaSalle) - 2:27

2.) Do Me Right  (A. Tilmon - J. Mitchell) - 2:50

3.) The Deeper I Go (The Better It Gets)   (Denise LaSalle) - 2:23

4.) If You Should Lose Me   (Barbara Lynn Ozen) - 2:37

5.) Keep It Coming   (Denise LaSalle - Martha Stubbs) - 2:32

6.) It's Too Late   (Toni Stern - Carol King) - 3:10





Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  On the Loose

Company: Westbound

Catalog: WB2016

Year: 1973

Country/State: Jackson, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4655

Price: $15.00

Cost: $66.00



Like her debut, 1973's "On the Loose" was recorded in Memphis and offered up another wonderful collection of old school southern soul.  LaSalle's voice was nothing short of spectacular throughout, but she continued to shine as a songwriter - her four contributions including 'A Man Size Job' and the snarling gospel-turns-to-blues workout 'Breaking Up Somebody's Home' were nothing short of amazing - easily as impressive as anything on he debut album.  Other highlights include her stab at social commentary 'There Ain't Enough Hate Around (To Make Me Turn Around)' and a nice cover of Bill Withers' 'Lean On Me'.  In fact, the only mis-step on the album was a needless cover of Jeannie C. Riley's 'Harper Valley P.T.A.'. 


"On the Loose" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) A Man Size Job   (Denise La Salle) - 2:49

2.) What It Takes To Get a Good Woman (That's What It's Gonna Take To Keep Her)   (O.B. McClinton) - 2:59

3.) Harper Valley P.T.A.   (Tom T. Hall) - 3:36

4.) What Am I Doing Wrong   (John Footman) - 3:14

5.) Breaking Up Somebody's Home   (Denise La Salle) - 3:31


(side 2)
1.) There Ain't Enough Hate Around (To Make Me Turn Around) - (Haywood - Lewis) - 3:40

2.) Your Man and Your Best Friend   (Denise La Salle) - 3:01

3.) Lean On Me   (Bill Withers) - 4:07

4.) Making a Good Thing Better   (Denise La Salle) - 3:09

5.) I'm Over You   (Martha Stubbs) - 2:49

6.) I'm Satisfied   (Maurice Dollison) - 2:53





Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Right Place, Right Time

Company: Malaco

Catalog: 7417

Year: 1984

Country/State: Jackson, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1145

Price: $9.00

Cost: $66.00


While hopelessly out of synch with contemporary mid-1980s musical tastes, 1984's "Right Place, Right Time" was a worthy addition to Denise LaSalle's recording catalog.  Co-produced by LaSalle, Tommy Couch and Wolf Stephenson, the album offered up a wonderful collection of old school soul, LaSalle's growling voice simply sounded great on lyin' and cheatin' tales of woe like the title track, 'Good Man Gone Bad' (is it just me, or did she sound like Gladys Knight on this one?) and 'Your Husband Is Cheating On Us'. Other highlights included the opening title track duet with Latimore, the subtle morality tale 'Keep Your Pants On' and the bluesy grinder 'Boogie Man'.  Malaco tapped 'Treat Your Man Like a Baby' b/w 'Come To Bed' as a single (Malaco catalog number MAL 2105). (Snotty fashion suggestion - don't wear stripes in the future ...)

"Right Place, Right Time" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Right Place, Right Time   (Denise LaSalle) - 4:15
2.) He's Not Available   (Joe Shamwell - A.D. Prestige - Walter Godbolt) - 3:19
3.) Treat Your Man Like a Baby   (Jimmy Lewis - Denise LaSalle - Frank Johnson) - 4:12
4.) Good Man Gone Bad   (Frank Johnson) - 4:03
5.) Boogie Man   (Frank Johnson) - 3:00


(side 2)
1.) Your Husband Is Cheating On Us   (Denise LaSalle) - 4:33
2.) Why Does It Feel So Right   (Denise LaSalle) - 3:40
3.) Keep Your Pants On   (Sam Dees) - 341
4.) Bump and Grind   (B.T. Lexing) - 3:38
5.) Love School   (Elliott Small - Milton Cottrell) - 3:27



Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Rain and Fire

Company: Malaco

Catalog: 7434

Year: 1986

Country/State: Jackson, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5507

Price: $15.00


Denise LaSalle has one of those voices that I've always found extremely attractive - deep, rugged, pained, but full of self assurance.  She comes across as a woman you simply wouldn't want to get pissed off at you.  In other words, she epitomized the genre of Southern soul.  And that's at least part of the problem.  No matter how great a singer she is, popular tastes have moved on leaving these vinyl jewels to be overlooked by virtually everyone outside of collector circles.  LaSalle's other problem stems from her over-reliance on one gag - playing the bitchy, revenge seeking wife, or girlfriend.  Mind you she's good at it, but all too often she comes across as a Southern version of Millie Jackson.


So what was the story with 1986's "Rain and Fire"?  Co-produced by LaSalle, Tommy Couch, and Wolf Stephenson stylistically this wasn't a major departure from her standard niche, though the earlier X-rated lyrics were toned down to a PG-13, or R level.  Tracks like 'It Be's that Way Sometimes', 'I'm Sho Gonna Mess with Yo Man' and 'What's Goin' On In My House' were built on the themes of wronged wife and partner.  Lyrically it certainly got a little repetitive (you could figure out where most of these narratives were going), but when packaged with LaSalle's spirited deliveries and some first rate old school melodies, you could overlook those shortcomings.  Find someone else capable of handling the funky 'Dip, Bam, Thank You Maam' with a much swagger and self righteousness.  Yeah it wasn't perfect.  Her cover of Sylvia Robinson's 'Shame Shame Shame' didn't add anything to the original and whoever decided to let LaSalle take a stab at updating her sound with a rap track should have been shot. The LaSalle original  'Look What Can Happen To You (If You Get Messin with My Tu Tu)' was pretty hideous, though you had to smile at any song that managed to name check the likes of Kool and the Gang, Little Milton, Prince, and Springsteen.  Like most of her catalog this one was a mixed success.   Malaco also tapped the album for a single in the form of:



- 1986's 'What’s Going On In My House' b/w 'Learnin' How To Cheat On You'' (Malaco catalog number MAL 2131


"Rain and Fire" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) It Be's that Way Sometimes   (Phillip Mitchell) - 8:35

2.) I'm Sho Gonna Mess with Yo Man   (Denise LaSalle) - 4:10

3,) What's Goin' On In My House   (George Jackson - Denise LaSalle) - 4:02

4.) Look What Can Happen To You (If You Get Messin with My Tu Tu)   (Denise LaSalle) - 3:58


(side 2)
1.) Shame Shame Shame   (Sylvia Robinson) - 3:39

2.) Dip, Bam, Thank You Maam   (George Jackson - Raymond Moore - Raymond Settle) - 3:16

3.) Learnin' How To Cheat On You   (Denise LaSalle) - 3:27

4.) Rain and Fire   (Larry Addison) - 3:44

5.) It Takes You All Night   (Denise LaSalle - Larry Addison) - 3:46

6.) Is He Lovin' Someone Else Tonight   (Frank Johnson - Denise LaSalle) - 3:50