Friday, May 30, 2008

Labelle reunion album on the way..

Hot off the comeback wire (I know that's what this blog has become lately, regular programming to return soon) - the return of Labelle is evidently fully official now. While this has been in the works for some time now, and even before this, the ladies have reunited on regular occasions, a new album, their first in 32 years (although the press release says 33, either their off with their math, or maybe they just thought 33 sounded better) is now in the pipeline. Set to be released on Verve Records the record is set to feature production from Gamble & Huff and Lenny Kravitz.

Although I'm still missing some of their albums, I can definitely say that together and individually Patti, Nona & Sarah released some stellar records in their careers. Their final album, "Chameleon" (1976, Epic) is an all time favourite of mine, not to mention Sarah's disco classic "Sinner Man," Nona's "Busting Out" with Material and her excellent 1983 album ("B-Boys," "Transformation" - written by Canadian rock icons Rough Trade, no less) and Patti's career goes without saying, obviously... Although I'm not sure theyll be able to fit in to them old space suits and feathered frocks and what not (well maybe Nona can), but I've no doubt the ladies can still deliver. Vocally, the three of them together are practically explosive..

There's a great recent interview with them on Gaywired on the reunion which is worth a read.. Here's a copy of the recent press release:
Labelle Reunites on Verve Records for First Album of Original Songs in More Than Three Decades
Music's Most Revolutionary Female Trio Hits Studio With Rock Icon Lenny Kravitz and R&B Giants Gamble & Huff Producing

NEW YORK, May 27 /PRNewswire/ -- There are reunions and then there are reunions ...

Embodying one of music's most enduring one-word brand names, and boasting a genre-defying legacy that has successfully spanned three generations, our era's most influential female powerhouse is about to show a stifled music industry how to really turn it out.

Labelle is back!

Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash, R&B's most original and formidable trio are reuniting via Verve Records to deliver their first full-length studio album in more than 33 years.

The new recording, to be completed in June and on course for a global unveiling in the fall of 2008, is being produced by a trio of icons equally up to the task: cutting edge funk rocker Lenny Kravitz and longtime Labelle collaborators and 2008 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, Gamble & Huff.

Transforming themselves from the classic-style 1960s girl group The Bluebelles into what one writer coined as 'the genre-bending rock supernova' of the 1970s, the innovative trio deftly combined glam rock, soul, funk, pop and gospel into a brash amalgam of breakthrough recordings such as "I Believe I've Finally Made It Home" from their pivotal second album Moonshadow (1972), and the groundbreaking "Lady Marmalade" from Nightbirds (1974)."

Labelle redefined the creative arc of the girl group, celebrating their three distinct personalities by donning outrageous costumes and addressing controversial issues in song and demeanor, shunning the cookie-cutter stereotypes that plagued most female singers of the era.

The group (which included Elton John on piano in its earliest incarnation) continually pushed gender boundaries in music of black origin, opening up for rock icons such as The Who and the Rolling Stones as they revolutionized the roles women played in R&B, rock'n'roll, and even fashion.

Often cited as a key influence for a new generation of female trailblazers such as Erykah Badu and Christina Aguilera, (the 2001 Missy Elliott-produced remake of "Lady Marmalade" featuring Aguilera, Mya, Pink and Lil' Kim snagged MTV's Video Of the Year, among other awards) the new songs crafted by Labelle also reflect the growth, wisdom and healing that exemplifies their individual storied paths after going their separate ways more than 32 years ago (though there have been several special events and live reunions since).

Braced, as always, by their trademark vocal firepower, the 2008 version of the supergroup still relies on their expansive range, show-stopping sense of theatricality, and as Nona puts it, their innate ability to "pull together as sisters and 'Labelle-ize' the music and the vibe and the spiritual side of what we do like nobody else on the planet."

Concocting an energized blend of uptempo songs and heart-wrenching ballads, the new recording includes the mesmerizing "Candlelight," the driving "System," the scorching "Superlover," and the old school/Gamble & Huff-helmed "Living Without You," resulting in an edgy but fan-pleasing album that once again finds Labelle embarking on a riveting musical narrative.

"The thread that always runs through is that we're sisters and we'll always be sisters," declares Patti. A connection between the three that may have frayed now and then over the years, but always remained unbreakable "The timing for us getting together was perfect," says Nona. "About a year and a half ago we met in the studio to record a tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks (the song "Dear Rosa" has yet to be released) and we just felt in our bones it was time to do this." It was Nona who tapped eclectic rocker Lenny Kravitz for initial production duty on the new disc. "We're friends and admirers of each other's work. We talked to him about the idea of us getting together and invited him to a session. He showed up that day at 5:00 and we haven't stopped working since."

Where Kravitz represents the next-generation appeal of the Labelle magic, legendary songwriters/producers Gamble & Huff were part of the Philadelphia/New Jersey nexus that helped launch the careers of the famous trio and give birth to the most popular soul sounds of the 1970s (O'Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and others). In fact, Kenny Gamble and Patti Labelle grew up on the same street in Philadelphia, and Gamble was instrumental in helping to launch Labelle's career.

Such foundational strengths anchor the new album, eliciting the same kind of confidence that enabled Labelle to break the mold back in the 70s, with each member eventually taking flight in inspired solo careers that accentuated their respective gifts. Patti went on to sign with Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records in the early '80s, releasing the seminal album I'm In Love Again that cemented her long and acclaimed solo career. Her subsequent duet with Michael McDonald, "On My Own," soared to #1 on the charts, with scores of hits and an impeccable live reputation rounding out more than two decades of acclaimed releases, television and film appearances, sold-out shows across the globe, and multiple awards, including her April 2008 Humanitarian Award presented in New York by the We Are Family Foundation chaired by Nile Rodgers.

Nona and Sarah (both hailing from Trenton, NJ) have also sustained compelling and highly successful individual careers. Sarah Dash has collaborated with such notable artists as Nile Rodgers and the Rolling Stones, (she even sang back-up on the Steel Wheels tour). Sarah also drew raves as a celebrated fixture of Keith Richards' solo outfit The Expensive Winos. She too, has written for the stage and is currently penning her autobiography, as well as staying involved in local Trenton community endeavors. Her recent appearance in San Francisco's hit interactive theatre presentation, Teatro Zinzanni, seamlessly blended her commanding performing style with European cirque, opera, and musical theatre.

Nona's songwriting and production ventures have led her to work with everyone from Dusty Springfield to the Talking Heads to Keith Richards, among dozens of other stars. A renowned tastemaker of both the rock and R&B worlds, she's contributed to the Showtime series Sleeper Cell soundtrack, working with Paul Haslinger, produced and written plays, and even launched her own label, Rhythm Bank, enjoying "sitting on the other side of the table for a change."

Labelle's long-awaited return to the studio signifies yet another chapter in the historic legacy of the group. But all three members are quick to assert it's not the final one. There will be a tour. After all, the live component of Labelle has often been cited as their most unforgettable dynamic.

"We're going to bring to the fans everything they've been asking for. We haven't lost our edge," assures Nona. "I feel we're better because of everything we've gone through," seconds Sarah. For a group whose roots indeed go all the way back to opening up for icons such as James Brown and Otis Redding, leave it to Patti to wrap it up -- true Labelle style. "I think all you gotta say is 'we're here.' We're like that caged bird. If you love it, you open the door and let it fly because you know it's going to come back stronger. Well, we're back, baby. Anyone that knows Labelle knows we don't know how to hold anything back."




M.E. Grant said...

The Chinese calendar cycle will have to start including "year of the comeback," the way 2008 is going. Everyone from New Kids On The Block to Soul II Soul is executing or planning a return. I usually expect these things to fizzle somehow, but oddly enough many of these acts are making good on their plans. It'll be nice to hear Patti Labelle sing against a raw sound. Hopefully her sisters in song will get equal attention. Skimpy space suits are due for a comeback too!

Anonymous said...

I love their music as much as their outfits! The last time I saw Patti Labelle was on the video of Kelly Rowland's 'Dillema', a remake of Patti's 'Love, Need And Want You' (a Gamble & Huff production).

Unknown said...


AMAZING!!!! This journalist did not get the year wrong!!!

Here is the link:

Never can say goodbye
Disco's back and two of its most famous monarchs — Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor — say there's a reason for that
ELIO IANNACCI | May 14, 2008 |

Tommy said...

Hey M.E. Grant - lol, yeah it's definitely the year of the comeback. I'd definitely like to hear Patti backed up with the rawer Labelle sound once again too.. Even though I do enjoy some of her solo work, that rawness is something that's been missing from her own solo material, for the most part..

Hey Professor :) I enjoyed the Nelly single with Kelly Rowland too. Intersting how she had a hit before Ms. Beyonce did :) I have to say also, Patti's last original album, "Timeless Journey" some four years back was great too. One of my favourite R&B albums of that year, for sure..

Hey John, thanks for the tip on the Macleans article! I came across that by accident last week after looking at another story on the Macleans site.. I was surprised (pleasantly) to see that kind of coverage on a Canadian news site, to say the least. I think I'll posting the article on the main blog very soon. Thanks again! :)

Anonymous said...

Praise god!!!!

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