Blue-eyed soul, freakbeat and state-of-the-art girl pop, Sharon was one of the best voices of the time. This first-ever career retrospective features virtually all of her 1960s singles and several cuts from Sharon's legendary 1966 session at Stax in Memphis.
by ALEC PALAO
IT READS LIKE a tragic fairy tale: how a full-throated, music-mad young Jewish girl from the suburbs of Johannesburg fell in love with a man of mixed race, and followed him to England, not knowing really what to expect. Arriving in London virtually penniless, they marry, he becomes her manager and both are thrust into the forefront of a vibrant music scene, with records, TV dates and an impending sense of success. Our heroine becomes the envy of the industry via recording sessions and gigs with some of the greatest American soul legends of the day, whilst simultaneously enjoying the benefit of a highly regarded homegrown backing outfit for stage and studio. But just as it seems everything is about to happen, this tremendous visibility rapidly fades, leading only to fractured relationships, ill-health and eventual disillusion.
Sharon Tandy had a recording career in her native South Africa, on her return there in 1970, as she had before leaving for Europe in late 1964, but it is with the spectacular intervening period the singer spent abroad that the long overdue compilation YOU'VE GOTTA BELIEVE IT'S SHARON TANDY is concerned. It was a whirlwind five years for the shy youngster, lived fully in the eye of the Swinging London hurricane, and overseen by the Svengali-like machinations of Sharon's mentor/manager/ erstwhile husband, Frank Fenter, who brought her to the UK with the unswerving belief that Sharon had what it took to become a star. Fenter also used his enviable position as head of Atlantic to wangle Sharon an opening slot on the famed Stax-Volt UK tour in March 1967 and, more importantly, dispatch her to Memphis to sign with Stax, where she became the first European-based artist to record at the company's hallowed East McLemore Avenue studio.
Such an opportunity would have been an extremely daunting prospect for even the most confident of artists, but Sharon pulled off her Stax adventure because she was and is a naturally soulful performer, who places feel and instinct above precision. At the time, her exotic" voice was glibly described in the British press as being like "a good dry sherry", but Sharon Tandy was not the typical girl singer of the era. Her unusual phrasing instantly set her apart, and an attendant lack of training lent an organic intensity to her singing, an authentic rough edge that was absolutely in sync with the often bluesy material she chose to perform. On her early Pye sides, Sharon belts it out against the orchestrated arrangements with authority and power, but by 1967, signed to Atlantic, her taste moved to the funkier, rock-orientated repertoire performed she on stage with her backing band, UK freakbeat avatars the Fleur De Lys.
You've Gotta Believe It's Sharon Tandy includes virtually all the singer's UK singles 1965-69, upon most of which Sharon was accompanied by the Fleur De Lys - tracks such as Daughter Of The Sun and mod anthem Hold On have been sought-after collectors' items for years. Sharon was equally adept at pop, as evidenced by gems such as Perhaps Not Forever, and You've Gotta Believe It, the latter an absolute high-water mark of British girl recordings. And a full seven songs, including five previously unissued, derive from Sharon's legendary 1966 session at Stax, where she was backed by Isaac Hayes and Booker T & The MGs. The copiously illustrated package features an in-depth look at Ms Tandy's career, with her full co-operation.
Sharon's catalogue demonstrates the hugely versatile nature of her talent. Sharon Tandy was always a singer's singer, commanding wide respect within the industry. The nagging concerns of chart placement and commercial potential long since having faded, we are left merely with a great and unheralded body of work. Sharon's voice comes across on these recordings as many things - smooth and disciplined, achingly intimate, uncompromisingly soulful - but in the end, always simply and uniquely, Sharon."