Valerie Simpson


Band members                             Related acts

- Valerie Simpson -- vocals, keyboards

 

  backing musicians: (1972)

- Nat Adderley Jr. -- keyboards

- Joshie Armstead -- backing vocals

- Nickolas Ashford-(RIP 2011)  -- backing vocals

- Francisco Centeno -- bass

- Charles Collins -- drums, percussion

- Keith Loving Illdge -- guitar

- Ray Lucas -- drums, percussion

- Ralph MacDonald -- percussion

- Buddy Williams -- drums, percussion

 

 

 

 

- Ashford and Simpson

- The Followers (Valerie Simpson)

- Valerie and Nick

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ***

Title:  Valerie Simpson

Company: Tamla/Motown

Catalog: STMK 11219

Year: 1972

Country/State: New York City, NY

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2347

Price: $30.00

 

If I had to come up with a list of Motown album's that were "lost" classics, 1972's "Valerie Simpson" would be in the top-five.

 

Having listened to this album dozens of times, about the only thing I can say is Berry Gordy Jr. put his money on the wrong artist.  Selecting Diana Ross as Motown's leading lady was fine, but Gordy had an even more talented artist in the stunning Valerie Simpson.  Classy, easy on the eyes, and amazingly talented, you just had to wonder what Gordy was thinking when he bet on Ross.  As for the album cover, well about all you could say is Simpson had come a long way from her Church roots.  Nice heels.

 

Written and produced by Simpson and Nickolas Ashford (not yet her husband), this was one of those rare album's which didn't have a single weak tune across the grooves.   Yeah, there were a couple of slack moments, including the ballads 'One More Baby Child Born' and 'Genius I', but even those were worth a spin.  Musically the collection was a wonderful platform for Simpson's amazingly sexy and chameleon-like voice - listen to the way she purred through the opening ballad 'Fix It Alright'.  The album also underscored the Ashford-Simpson team's knack for penning incredibly commercial material.  Virtually every one of these ten tracks had a hook that most writers would kill to have create.  Hearing this set it also became much easier to believe the rumors that Simpson had occasionally doubled for  Motown artists who were unavailable to record for various reasons.   Both of those characteristics were capably showcased on this set.  The title track, 'Fix It Alright', and 'I Believe I'm Gonna Take This Ride' were all songs that had radio 'hit' written all over them.  Elsewhere the biggest revelation was the Gospel-flavored 'Drink the Wine'.  Sung in an atypical deep baritone, folks tend to forget that Simpson was brought up in the Church (she and Ashford met in a Harlem Church).   

 

Unhappy with Motown's failure to promote her solo work and the company's unwillingness to released an Ashford-Simpson project, she left the company the following year.  Five of these tracks reappeared on the 1 1977 Motown retrospective "Keep It Comin''".

 

"Valerie Simpson" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fix It Alright    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:10   rating: **** stars

'Fix It Alright' opened the album with one of the sexiest ballads Simpson ever recorded.

2.) Benje    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 2:51    rating: **** stars

'Benje' was a sweet and poignant ballad that showcased the lighter side of Simpson's voice - the way she cooed the refrain was incredibly sexy.  Actually, this has always struck me as being the kind of song that Berry Gordy Jr. would have placed with Diana Ross.  In fact, Simpson's voice reminded me a bit of Ross on this one.   Like most of the ten songs on the album, this one would have made a dandy single.  

3.) Drink the Wine     (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson)- 3:42    rating: **** stars

The tune's Gospel-ish feel has always reminded me of something Mavis Staples and company might have done.  Kicked along  by a killer Francisco Centeno bass line, it was nice to hear Simpson employ that part of her vocal spectrum and if you've ever wanted to hear a song that builds to a climax, here's a good one.

4.) One More Baby Child Born    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:07    rating: *** stars

'One More Baby Child Born' was another pretty and thought provoking ballad.  Always loved Centeno's jazzy and melodic bass line.

5.) Keep It Coming    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:20   rating: ***** stars

With a purring bass line that's always reminded me of something out of the Sly and the Family Stone catalog, 'Keep It Coming' has always reminded me of something the pair might have written for a post Diana Ross Supremes line-up.  Supremely melodic and a nice platform for showing Simpson was more than just a talented writer.  Another tune where you just had to wonder why Tamla failed to release the song as a single.

 

(side 2)

1.) I Believe I'm Gonna Take This Ride    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 2:54   rating: **** stars

Originally 'I Believe I'm Gonna Take This Ride' struck me as a throwaway effort.  Pleasant, but hardly essential.   My opinion has  changed over the years.   A breezy, looping vamp the song had one of those refrains that climbed in your head and would not leave.   I occasionally will find this one popping into my head at the least expected moments.  Got it on my iPhone playlist as well.   The tune also showed up as the 'B' side to her 'Silly Wasn't I' single.

2.) Could Have Been Sweeter     (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson)- 2:09  rating: **** stars

Damn, her voice is a treasure and the hook on this one should have been illegal.  Always wondered if Stevie Wonder provided the anonymous harmonica.   

3.) Silly Wasn't I    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson - Joshie Armstead) - 2:08

rating: **** stars

Ever heard a song that had a hook you couldn't let go of?   Well check out the way Simpson purrs the title refrain.  Sexy doesn't get much sexier than this tune.   Is it just my ears, of odes she sound uncannily like the late Tammi Terrell on this one?   The song was also Simpson's second single:

- 1972's 'Silly Wasn't I' b/w 'I Believe I'm Gonna Take This Ride' (Tamla catalog number T 54224F) # 63 pop; # 24 R&B

4.) Genius I     (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson)- 4:22    rating: *** stars

Simpson's stark, Gospel-flavored, piano melody was quite  beautiful and when combined with the unexpected ecological theme made for one of the album's more interesting performances.

5.) Genius II    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:15    rating:  **** stars

Part 2 saw the song abruptly shifting into an un-tempo, jazzy segment.  Nice and much strong then the stark opening section.

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Keep It Comin'

Company: Tamla

Catalog: T6 351S1

Year: 1977

Country/State: New York City, NY

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2345

Price: $10.00

 

I have to admit that I'm not 100% sure about these comments, but I believe 1977's "Keep It Coming" was a compilation pulling material from Valerie Simpson's two criminally overlooked early 1970s solo efforts (1971's "Exposed" and 1972's "Valerie Simpson").  Released in an effort to capitalize on her post Motown successes (with husband Nickolas Ashford), this compilation was fine, but I advise you to look for the two original albums.  Short of investing in those, this wasn't a bad place to start.  

 

I've always loved Simpson's chameleon-like voice and her knack for penning incredibly commercial material.   Hearing this set it became much easier to believe the rumors that Simpson had occasionally doubled for  Motown artists who were unavailable to record for various reasons.   Both of those characteristics were capably showcased on this set.  The title track, 'Sinner Man' (nominated for a Grammy award) and 'Can It Wait Until Tomorrow' were all songs that had radio 'hit' written all over it, but for some reason simply disappeared without a trace (as did Simpson's two LPs).  Blame an incompetent Motown marketing department ... Another killer was the environmentally sensitive 'Genius I' and 'Genius II'.  Part 1 was kind of plodding, but the up tempo second section may have been the album's stand out effort.   Elsewhere the biggest revelation was the Gospel-flavored 'Drink the Wine'.  Sung in an atypical deep baritone, folks tend to forget that Simpson was brought up in the Church (she and Ashford met in a Harlem church).  On this one she gave the late Tammi Terrell a run for her money.

 

"Keep It Comin'" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Keep It Comin'    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:12   rating: **** stars

The title track always reminded me of something the pair might have written for a post Diana Ross Supremes line-up.  Supremely melodic and a nice platform for showing Simpson was more than just a talented writer.

2.) Sinner Man (Don't Let Him Catch You)    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:23    rating: **** stars

And for anyone who doubted Simpson could sound down and dirty there was the sizzling 'Sinner Man (Don't Let Him Catch You)'.   Simply one of the best things she ever wrote, or performed.

3.) Drink the Wine    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:59    rating: **** stars

The tune's Gospel-ish feel has always reminded me of something Mavis Staples and company might have done.  Kicked along  by a killer Francisco Centeno bass line, it was nice to hear Simpson employ that part of her vocal spectrum and if you've ever wanted to hear a song that builds to a climax, here's a good one.

4.) Silly Wasn't I    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson - Joshie Armstead) - 2:08   rating: **** stars

Ever heard a song that had a hook you couldn't let go of?   Well check out the way Simpson purrs the title refrain.  Sexy doesn't get much sexier than this tune.   Is it just my ears, of odes she sound uncannily like the late Tammi Terrell on this one?   The song was also Simpson's second single:

- 1972's 'Silly Wasn't I' b/w 'I Believe I'm Gonna Take This Ride' (Tamla catalog number T 54224F) # 63 pop; # 24 R&B

5.) Now That There's You    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 5:01   rating: *** stars

When did I put a Diana Ross album on the turntable ?   Seriously, this one sounded uncannily like Ross, which might be one of the reasons Ross covered it.   A bit over-orchestrated and over--vamped, but still a nice ballad.

 

(side 2)
1.) Love Woke Me Up This Morning    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:57
    rating: **** stars

I first heard this one on the 1969 Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terrell album "easy".  As good as the Gay-Terrell version was, Simpson's breezy, heartfelt, and sexy as all version was even better.  I believe you can hear Nikolas Ashford on backing vocals ...

2.) Can It Wait Until Tomorrow    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:13    rating: **** stars

The "stay baby" lyrics were hysterical and sound amazingly dated, but there was no denying the glistening melody and refrain were among the best things she'd ever penned.   

3.) Genius I    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:36   rating: *** stars

Simpson's stark, Gospel-flavored, piano melody was quite  beautiful and when combined with the unexpected ecological theme made for one of the album's more interesting performances.

4.) Genius II    (Nickolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:59 rating:  **** stars

Part 2 saw the song abruptly shifting into an un-tempo, jazzy segment.  Nice and much strong then the stark opening section.

 

 

 

 

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