Freda Payne

Band members                             Related acts

- Freda Payne - vocals




- none known




Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Reaching Out

Company: Invictus

Catalog: KZ 32493

Year: 1973

Country/State: --

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

catalog ID: 3271

Price: $40.00



There's no denying Freda Payne's talents.  At her best, she had a voice that was instantly recognizable and to my ears, incredibly attractive and appealing.  At the same time her albums for Invictus were uniformly frustrating.  Produced by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Ronald Dunbar, 1973's "Reaching Out" was no different.  About a third of the album was fantastic; about a third was okay, and the remaining third was made up of lounge act throwaways. So who to blame?  While Payne certainly had a role in this one, I'd point to the Holland-Dozier-Dunbar production team for most of the shortcomings.  Like their work on many Motown albums, they simply couldn't decide what they wanted to do with Payne.  At one extreme tracks like 'Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right', 'Mother Misery's Favorite Child' and 'We Gotta Find a Way Back To Love' were clearly geared towards a younger, radio-friendly audience.  All three songs were catchy, underscoring Payne's soul roots.  In contrast 'Reaching Out', a cover of The Carpenters' 'Rainy Days and Monday', and 'If You Go Away' were all lounge act schlock ballads that probably wouldn't have even registered with your grandmother.  Shame they didn't steer her towards a more soul oriented sound.  


With respect to the album cover, about all I can say is forty year onwards the photos remain stunning.   I can't imagine the reaction the cover must have created in 1973.

"Reaching Out" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - R.Wylie) -3:18  rating: *** stars

Payne had a great voice, but on 'Too Wrongs Don't Make a Right' Holland-Dozier-Wylie seemingly decided to turn her into a cross between Diana Ross and Donna Summer.  The purring, sex kitten tone of her voice was clearly meant to be scintillating, but to my ears it came off as almost funny.  Shame since the song was actually pretty good and had she put a little more "band of gold" energy into it, the song would have been magnificent.  I'm guessing you were hearing Nickolas Ashford on the backing chorus.  The song was also tapped as a single:

- 1973's 'Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right' b/w 'We Gotta Find a Way Back To Love' (Invictus catalog number ZS7 1255)

2.) Reaching Out  (Michael Smith - Ronald Dunbar) - 3:15   rating: ** stars

The title track found Payne revealing her full bodied voice (unlike the previous tune).  The problem with the ballad 'Reaching Out' was it sounded like something written for a Hallmark movie of the week.  Big and bland ballad that couldn't be saved by her wonderful voice.

3.) For No Reason  (Michael Smith - Ronald Dunbar) -2:33   rating: ** stars

'For No Reason' was the perfect example of how frustrating this set was.  The song was actually quite good, but the combination of a big, overblown arrangement, and Payne's MOR delivery left it flat and bland.

4.) The Man of My Dreams   (Michael Smith - Ronald Dunbar) - 4:09   rating: ** stars

While Payne sounded good, 'The Man of My Dreams' was another MOR-ish ballad, though not as bland as the title track.  Not hard to imagine her singing this one on the Mike Douglas Show, or some prime time variety television show.

5.) Mother Misery's Favorite Child  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 5:02  rating: *** stars

Opening up with a killer bass line (James Jameson ?),'Mother Misery's Favorite Child' demonstrated Payne could handle more than MOR-pop.  With a hard edged, socially relevant lyric it made for a nice change of pace and one of the album's highlights.  Invictus released it as a promo single, but the lyrics were apparently too risque for radio.





- 1973's 'Mother Misery's Favorite Child' b/w 'For No Reason' (Invictus catalog number  ZS7 1257)




(side 2)

1.) We Gotta Find a Way Back To Love  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 3:05  rating: **** stars

If I had to pick a favorite performance off the album, 'We Gotta Find a Way Back To Love' would win the race by a country mile.  Classic slice of Holland-Dozier-Holland material with a melody you couldn't shake loose and one of Payne's best vocals.   Shame it wasn't longer.  Easy to see why its been sampled a number of times - A Tribe Called Quest 'Find a Way' comes to mind. 

2.) Mood for Love   (Greg Perry - Angelo Bond - General Johnson) - 3:03  rating: *** stars

I won't even try to convince you that 'Mood for Love' was a great song.  It wasn't, but Payne's vocal was awesome.  Not sure I can quantify it, but she reached back to the same characteristics that made 'Band of Gold' and 'Bring the Boys Back Home' such winners.

3.) Rainy Days and Monday   (Roger Nicholas - Paul Williams) - 4:36   rating: ** stars

I can't say I have any great affection for the slice of saccharine, mid-'70s pop, but if I had to listen to a version, I'd stick with the Karen Carpenter original.  Payne actually did an okay job until she got to the end of the song and decided to turn it into a lame slice of lounge act aural gymnastics.

4.) If You Go Away   (Rod McKuen - Jacques Brel) - 6:22   rating: * stars

Seriously, why would anyone agree to record a McKuen - Brel composition?   Opening with martial drums, breathy vocals, semi-spoken interludes, even a little bit of French lyrics, and an arrangement sounded like something from a soon-to-close Broadway show, 'If You Go Away' was simply horrible.  And naturally it was the longest song on the album.  Where's that Richard Harris album when you need it?

5.) Right Back Where I Started From    (Michael Smith - Ronald Dunbar) - 3:40   rating: **** stars

Capturing that unique Invictus/Hot Wax sound, 'If You Go Away' was the album's best ballad with a nice refrain and Payne finally cutting loose on the vocals.  




Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Contact

Company: Invictus

Catalog: SMAS 7307

Year: 1971

Country/State: --

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold, fold out sleeve; small cut out hole in front cover

Available: 1

catalog ID: 4308

Price: $20.00



While it sports a knock-you-to-the-floor, three panel cover of the attractive Ms Payne, 1971's "Contact" was a  disappointment to my ears.  This time around producers/writers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland seem to have decided that Payne's future lay in a more MOR oriented sound.  Mind you, tracks such as 'Suddenly It's Yesterday' and 'The Road We Didn't Take' were okay, but Payne's sweet voice was largely wasted on the surprisingly anonymous material.  Why in the world would anyone bother trying to make her sound like a second rate Diana Ross - aka the over-the-top ''I'm Not Getting Any Better'?  Adding to the problem, much of the album suffered from gross over-orchestrated.  On tracks such as 'You've Got To Love Somebody (Let Me In)' Payne was all but drowned out by strings and waves of backing singers.  That said, Invictus stable of writers was simply too talented to churn out an album without a couple of first rate songs.  In this case 'You Brought the Joy' was a great up tempo dance number, while 'Bring the Boys Home' may be the best anti-war song ever written.  Direct, to the point and boasting a wonderful melody, Payne and company deserved considerable credit for being willing to sacrifice airplay and sales by tapping the latter as a single - 'Bring the Boys Home' b/w 'I Shall Not Be Moved' (Invictus catalog number IS 9092).

"Contact" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I'm Not Getting Any Better   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 6:45   rating: ** stars

Geez, why in the world would Holland-Dozier-Holland elect to burden Payne with a second-rate take on Richard Harris' 'MacArthur Park' ...   Simply hideous MOR pop that was more suited to late inning The Fifth Dimension.   A complete disservice to Payne's considerable talents.  And it seemed to go on and on and on ...

2.) Suddenly It's Yesterday  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier) - 4:24   rating: *** stars

If you could sit through the horrible MOR-ish orchestrated intro, 'Suddenly It's Yesterday' got a lot better when Payne started singing.  Yeah, the backing singers were intrusive and thoroughly irritating, but lukily Payne managed to overpowered them when it mattered the most.   

3.) You Brought the Joy  (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier) - 3:00

4.) Bring the Boys Home   (Angelo Bond - Greg Perry - General Johnson) - 3:22

5.) You've Got To Love Somebody (Let Me In)   (W. Weatherspoon - R. Miner) - 3:01

(side 1)

1.) Prelude (instrumental)   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier) - 0:53

2.) The Road We Didn't Take   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier) - 4:17

3.) Odds and Ends   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 3:50

4,( Cherish What Is Dear To You (While It's Near To You)   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - A. Bond) - 3:56

5.) I Shall Not Be Moved   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier)  - 2:43

6.) Mama's Gone   (General Johnson - Greg Perry - Ronald Dunbar) - 3:23





Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Payne & Pleasure

Company: ABC Dunhill

Catalog: DSX-

Year: 1971

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6244

Price: $14.00


I guess this will show a certain bias, but to my ears Freda Payne had one of the best voices in popular music.  She simultaneously managed to sound soulful and classy (I can only imagine that contemporaries like Millie Jackson and Dionne Warwick would have killed to have been blessed with her chops - to say nothing of her devastating good lucks).  All of those talents were aptly displayed on 1974's "Payne & Pleasure".    (Compared to some of the stuff you see in this day and age the cover on this one was downright tame, but it still made for pleasant viewing ...  Besides, I'd rather spend time looking at Ms. Payne as opposed to some band of dweebs in leather pants any day of the week.)  Unfortunately as a non-writer, the album also demonstrated just how dependent Payne was on advice from producers and selecting material that suited her skills.  


With the collapse of Invictus Records, Freda Payne found herself signed to ABC Dunhill (which would shortly collapse itself).  Teamed with producer McKinley Jackson, "Payne & Pleasure" wasn't a major departure from her earlier work.  Tracks like 'It's Yours To Have', 'Didn't I Tell You' and 'Run For Your Life' offered up a likeable mixture of soul and pop moves that sounded very much like the Invictus signature sound ('course producer Jackson had been a big part of that label's sound).  Unfortunately, rather than sticking with that approach, the second side of the album seemingly sought to broaden Payne's audience to an older, more mainstream audience.  Like those hideous Motown albums that forced classic soul acts like The Supremes and The Temptations to cover lame MOR and Broadway tracks, a similar fate struck Payne.  Starting with the MOR ballad 'Shadow On The Wall' things only got worse with the next three performances - a Paul Williams song, followed by a Marvin Hamlisch number, and then a lame Leon Russell cover.  Payne's performances on these tracks weren't bad, but there was simply no way to recover from these fatal covers.


"Payne & Pleasure" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) It's Yours To Have   (R. Dozer - McKinley Jackson) - 2:50   rating: **** stars

With an infection melody and a wonderful vocal, 'It's Yours To Have' opened the album with a song that would have sounded right at home on one of Payne's Invictus albums.  Like the best of the Invictus catalog the song melded an infectious, heavily orchestrated melody with some surprisingly gritty vocals.  Released as the leadoff single, it's hard to believe this one didn't do better on the charts.  


- 1974's ' It's Yours To Have' b/w 'Run For Your Life' (ABC Dunhill catalog number D-15108)

2.) Didn't I Tell You   (R. Dozer - A. King) - 3:15   rating: **** stars

'Didn't I Tell You' slowed things down, but wrapped the results in an even stronger hook.  This one was a perfect example of Payne's ability to simultaneously sound sultry, soulful, and in prime payback form. Shouldn't have ticked her off ...  One of my favorites songs on the album; for goodness skae, one of my favorite Payne performances ever.  

3.) I Get Carried Away   (R. Dozer - A. King) - 4:19     rating: ** stars

A pretty, but rather pedestrian ballad, 'I Get Carried Away' would have been stronger had Jackson scaled back the backing orchestration.   For some reason, this was tapped as a single.  Shame since there were several far better choices.


 1974's ' I Get Carried Away' b/w 'Shadows On the Wall' (ABC Dunhill catalog number 12079)

4.) Run For Your Life   (McKinley Jackson - B. Perkins) - 3:32   rating: **** stars

 I'm a sucker for soul songs that incorporate gimmicks and 'Run For Your Life' managed to meld a 'Shaft'-styled sense of urgency and arrangement with an Indian war dance beat.  Payne's in-your-face vocal was simply fantastic and the only thing wrong with the song was that it faded out too soon.  

5.) Don't Wanna Be Left Out   (R. Dozer - McKinley Jackson) - 5:40  rating: **** stars

'Don't Wanna Be Left Out' opened with an extended orchestral arrangement which led you to wonder if this was actually an instrumental.  It the morphed into another big ballad, but Payne actually managed to transform the song into a driving up-tempo number.  Most other singers would have simply drown in the arrangement.  
(side 1)

1.) Shadow On The Wall   (McKinley Jackson - B. Perkins) -  5:09   rating: ** stars

Penned by producer Jackson, 'Shadow On The Wall' was another pretty, but forgettable ballad.  'Course compared to the rest of side two, it was fantastic.  

2.) I Won't Last A Day   (Paul Williams - B. Nichols) - 4:27   rating: ** stars

The first couple of times I heard this version of Paul Williams' 'I Won't Last A Day' I thought it was being sung by Lulu.  To be honest, Payne gave it her best shot, but the song was just way too MOR to salvage.  

3.) The Way We Were   (Marvin Hamlisch - Peter Allen - M. Bergman) - 3:52   rating: * star

C'mon, as if opening up with a pretty harpsichord segment was going to save 'The Way We Were' ...  bad song and once again there simply wasn't anything Payne could have done to fix this one.  Pure elevator music.   Dreadful.    

4.) A Song For You  (Leon Russell) - 5:40   rating: * star

Congratulations for winning the lame song trifecta with this cover of Leon Russell's 'A Song For You'  ...  By the time Payne kicked the song into gear, it was simply too late to recover.  Part of the problem may have to do with the fact Donny Hathaway's cover is simply the classic version of the song.    


This one remains a major puzzle to me.  How could anyone manage to record one side of material that was so good (I'd give it four stars) and a second side that was sooooo bad (I'd be charitable giving it one star) ?  Split the difference and you end up with two stars.