It was a late summer’s day in 1990 when Marc Lessner appeared in the Acid Jazz office and suggested that Ed Piller and I might want to adjourn to his van as he had something a little special for us. Marc ran the Soul Trader van service, where he sold the latest releases around the network of small record shops that were everywhere in London. He had been importing in-demand deletions from the US and his recent trip to Chicago had yielded a couple of dozen copies of his latest discovery. From a box he pulled out two copies of an album with a mainly white cover and a picture of a woman in a hexagonal box in the centre. He flipped it over and pointed to one track – “‘Don’t You Care’, an absolute killer” – and told us that it would cost us £12 for a copy. I was never one to doubt a musical judgement from Marc, a man of impeccable taste, so cash exchanged hands and Ed and I walked away with a record that would soundtrack our lives for the next few years.
The LP was Alice Clark’s album on Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, and ‘Don’t You Care’ was indeed a killer that was played wherever we deejayed, becoming one of the anthems of the acid jazz era. It also gave up another floor-filler in the wonderful ‘Never Did I Stop Loving You’, which was comped on our “Totally Wired” series. Prices for the album rocketed and today a mint copy will set you back £100 at least.
Searching for more Alice Clark recordings we found there were also two singles: the GWP-produced northern soul classic ‘You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)’ on Warner Bros and the slightly more obscure ‘You Got A Deal’ on Rainy Day, but that was it. Alice herself remained and remains a mystery. Apart from the scant reminiscences of Billy Vera – who worked with her on one session over 40 years ago – nothing is known. For our release, Billy kindly shares his memories and our access to the Mainstream Records photo archive has given us some candid studio shots. Of course the music is wonderful. Both sides from each Alice’s singles are included, along with an unreleased cut from the Rainy Day sessions. The bulk of the compilation is made up with tracks from Alice’s 1972 album – fabulous big city New York soul with sophisticated arrangement from Ernie Wilkins.
Alice Clark’s recordings have entertained generations of clubbers and some of the finest I have ever heard. It’s a treat to be able to release her complete studio output.
By Dean Rudland