Sunday, December 22, 2013

Marva Whitney It's My Thing Polydor/King 1970 (2012 Repress)

Marva Whitney It's My Thing Polydor/King 1969 (2011 Repress) CAT #PD 1062

One year ago today, Marva Whitney passed away.  She was Kansas City born and raised and started her career in KC.  She played the Kansas City scene, leading the group Tommy & the Derby's, did the Motown revue's and opened for touring artists when they passed through.  She was asked to tour with Bobby Bland and Little Richard, but turned both down opting to join the James Brown Revue as a featured vocalist as she thought it was the best move for her career.

It certainly was the best move, Brown did all he could do to make her successful as a part of his act.  During the shows, Marva Whitney would provide the audience a couple of songs while Brown rested.  He recorded her and provided her some of his best material.  There are singles cut for Federal and King while she hung with Brown.  There is also the above album, as well as live LP from the King years.  The title song of this LP, "It's My Thing (Part 1)" was released as the single, "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who To Sock It To)" and as a response to the Isley Brother's "It's Your Thing".  It represented her highest charting single.

While she never became a mainstream R&B artist, her time spent with James Brown kept her active and in front of large audiences.  The move to go with James Brown far exceeded anything she would get by backing Bobby Bland or Little Richard.  However, most say that this was among the most difficult times of her life.  When she moved back to Kansas City after her time with James Brown she told friends and family just how true the name "Hardest Working Man In Show Buisness" was.  Brown was known to work his artists relentlessly.  She had a child from her marriage to Kansas City soul singer, Harvey Whitney.  However, she was never able to spend time as a mother due to constant touring and recording.  Homesick, she left the Brown stable in 1970.

She would record some unsuccessful singles for the T-Neck label afterward.  Afterwards, she would marry Ellis Taylor, the owner and operator of Kansas City's Forte label and cut some sides.  After little success on the regional label, her recording career largely ended aside a few sporadic singles and one-off LPS.  She only briefly stopped performing and would later be a member of the J.B.'s All Stars which were a group of former Brown artists.  She didn't stop performing until 2010.

This LP represents her best work.  The material is top shelf and the players were the best in the business as they were Brown's backing band.  It is a compilation of mostly singles released for the King label, some of which we re-recorded for the LP, others that were not.  It's absurdly collectible due to it's scarcity and the fact that Whitney is one of the greatest female funk performers of all time.

The girl did not hold back, she's a screamer.  The band gets most of the attention by the collectors, the cuts have been heavily sampled throughout hip-hop, especially the track "Unwind Yourself."  But, Whitney gives these songs personality.  She's got to be the only women that could match Brown's delivery.  Further, she's got to be the only women allowed to shout out "Maceo!" when the groove needed to get deeper.  You're not going to find any ballads (well, there is "If You Love Me," but she screams that one out, too) or anything that would have played well to a white Motown crowd, this is brassy, funk, floor stompers meant for the live crowds.  There were plenty of noted soul diva's out there, but only a few funk divas like Whitney belting out tunes like this.

Unwind Yourself
It's My Thing (Live TV Performance)
You Got To Have a Job (Duet with James Brown)

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