Her voice makes jelly of my innards. Etta James dead at 73. Two of my favorites:
"I'd Rather Go Blind"
"The Wallflower (Roll with Me, Henry)"
For the second time in about 18 months, I’ve found a copy of the single by Gloria Walker and the Chevelles "Talking About My Baby" on Flaming Arrow Records. Now you might know her from "You Hit the Spot Baby", a classic, much desired funk track collectors crap their knickers for, with its heavy drum and bass groove, scratchy and dirty guitar lead that cuts in under Walker's vocals. Scratchy guitar? I mean nasty! Nasty as the sound of hell on a sinner’s holiday!
Anyway back to where I started, "Talking About My Baby" hung around the R&B Charts for 9 weeks in late 1968 and into ‘69, eventually climbing to #7. Unfortunately, as was often the case with way too many great R&B records, it barely made a dent on the Pop Charts, peaking at #60. Now, this is a truly peculiar slab o’ vinyl. For example, on the flip side, the instrumental "The Gallop," (and yes it sounds like a lot like Cliff Nobles’ "The Horse"!), the Chevelles -- who I suspect were the label's house band -- play mostly tight, funky, perhaps a little over the top, but in tune. This is not necessarily true on Gloria Walker’s side!
In “Talking About My Baby,” Miss Walker is lamenting the behavior of her man in a monologue that ends with the lyrics from Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind”. At the top there’s an understated soulful bass line, some minimal guitar work with just a touch of vibrato. Mood … cool and laid back. So the saga begins with Gloria, a little sad, talking, reminiscing, about her boyfriend and what she used to think was true about her love. The story slides away for a second, then WHAM! Two second later she’s going off about what you really need to worry about is your close girl friends, because when they tell you about your man’s cheating ways, they’re just “trying to get some for themselves!" Set into motion is a deeply paranoid rant, and Gloria Walker’s monologue ends with her shouting “Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!” to her girl friends, to her ex, and to anyone else within earshot! Simply said, she becomes completely unhinged, (then again I may be over-reading this whole thing and just re-living some of my own personal shit …). The song ends with her super souled-up, desperate vocals digging into the Etta James melody, the Chevelles horns come in underneath, WHAM! In what can only be describe as an absolutely ragged and bloody mess … the band is completely out of whack and totally out of tune. But ultimately does it matter? Not really-- Gloria Walker’s performance is still unbelievable! I guess it’s just the sound you’d expect from a one-take-in-and-out-of-the-studio situation, second tier bands had to put up with because you’ve got your Ike’s or Lee’s or Slim’s waiting (and possibly packin’) in the hallway. I’m not sure what ever happened to Gloria Walker, but she is my kind of woman: an out of her freaking mind crazy, surreal, hot chick that can stop time with a song.