We’re now at the half way mark in our short series of sonically upgraded and content-expanded reissues of original Millie Jackson Spring albums. The recently released makeovers of “Caught Up” and “Still Caught Up” have been as well received as we had hoped they would be, both by long time Millie fans and new recruits to the MJ cause alike. Next month will see these two joined by Millie’s first really big album, 1973’s “IT HURTS SO GOOD”. Before that, we’re delighted to bring you a sublimely revamped version of her Spring debut, first released in the late Summer of 1972 and sounding as good as ever in this new expanded edition.
By 1974, Millie was able to call all her own career shots at Spring, including picking her own repertoire and co-producing her own sessions. But at her early sessions she was, as she told me recently, “doing whatever I was told ” by, mostly, Spring’s in-house songwriter-producer Raeford “Ray Godfrey” Gerald, who selected - and indeed wrote or co-wrote – a good number of the sides that Millie cut on her first three Spring albums. The fact that Millie had co-written A Child Of God, though, gave her an input that many new artists wouldn’t have got on their debut releases, and her lively personality shines through on every one of the album’s 10 tracks - even those she didn’t like.
As with many other soul albums of the time, there was no actual ‘concept’ about “Millie Jackson”. Spring brought together the As and Bs of Millie’s singles to date, augmented them with the two tracks that would become a fourth single from the album and added a couple of ‘extras’ that might or might not be used as flips to future 45s. Such was the quality of this repertoire, however, that Millie’s debut album sounded no less disjointed than the run of concept albums that were still a few years in her future. In less than two years, those four singles and the attendant album took our heroine from being a shipping clerk-cum-catalogue model, with one failed single and a part time singing career, to being one of the leading names in contemporary soul music.
“Millie Jackson” has been remastered from the original first generation tape that was used to cut the stampers from which the original vinyl album was made. A generous nine bonus tracks have been added to give the expanded CD a running time which doubles that of the original album. Four of these will be of particular interest to MJ completists, being the four tracks that she cut for Suron Productions in 1969. These were originally leased to MGM Records before Spring acquired them in the early 1970s. Two, A Little Bit Of Something and My Heart Took A Licking formed Millie’s debut 45 release, but the other two have remained unheard for 37 years. Actually, only Licking has ever been reissued previously, so this CD marks the first time that all four have appeared together in one compilation.
The other previously unissued material showcases alternate (sometimes VERY alternate!) versions of material that every Millie fan will be familiar with. I’ll let you discover the differences on most of these yourselves, but I can’t leave the topic without commenting favourably on the early version of Hypocrisy – which was re-recorded for Millie’s next album with a different lyric and, to my mind, a far less funky groove. For many people these bonus cuts will be worth the (extremely reasonable) price of this CD on their own.
Having penned all the sleeve notes to the CDs in this series, as well as each individual RT piece, I reckon that I’ll have written close on 30,000 words on Millie Jackson by the time the series finishes with the forthcoming upgrade of “Feelin’ Bitchy” (CDSEWM 242). Considering how many I’ve used along the way, I find that I experience no problems when it comes to finding new superlatives to heap upon Thoroughly Marvellous Millie. One listen to this CD will show you exactly why this is so.
By Tony Rounce