Millie’s top-selling “Best Of” compilation reissued with a new cover and new sleeve note. Some of the finest soul music of the 70s and early 80s, performed by one of the genre’s all-time great voices.
Native Georgian Mildred Virginia Jackson was almost 26 years old when she made her first professional recordings for Spring, a New York-based label owned and operated by brothers Jules and Roy Rifkind. After moving to Newark, New Jersey as a teen in the late 50s, Millie had been combining a career as an occasional model with singing in nightclubs since the mid-60s, honing her rapport with audiences all the while. She somehow managed to evade any offers of a recording contract until the Rifkinds made one she did not feel inclined to refuse. Millie’s long period of woodshedding meant that the brothers were getting more-or-less the finished article when they signed her.
As it did her list of chart 45s, ‘A Child Of God (It’s Hard To Believe)’ kicks off this collection. A starkly dramatic depiction of the dark side of ghetto life, its appearance on Spring in November 1971 served to announce the arrival of a major new name in soul music. Millie had demo’d the song a few months earlier for its co-writer and co-producer Don French, and by the time they got to the studio to record a master she had perfected the intensely bleak narrative to a point where it was impossible to ignore. The track reached #22 R&B and narrowly missed the US Hot 100 as 1972 dawned. As opening gambits go, it was pretty impressive.
In all, “21 Of The Best” includes 17 songs that made the R&B charts (eight of them the Top 20), including six that crossed over into the Pop 100 – ‘Ask Me What You Want’, ‘My Man, A Sweet Man’, ‘It Hurts So Good’, ‘How Do You Feel The Morning After’, ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right’ and ‘If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday’. Other highlights include the dramatic ‘I Feel Like Walking In The Rain’, the undisputed highlight of Millie’s “E.S.P.” album, which brought the curtain down on her 14-year association with the Rifkind Brothers.
Behind the scenes goings on would keep her out of the studio for almost three years, save for a collaboration with Elton John on ‘Act Of War’. When she returned it was with Jive Records, for whom she scored two immediate R&B Top 10 hits, but that’s another story for another CD. For now, we invite you to reacquaint yourself with some of the finest soul music of the 1970s and early 1980s, performed by one of the all-time great voices of the genre.