Essential Listening: Ann Peebles – The Essential Ann Peebles (2CD)

The Essential Ann Peebles (2CD)

A delicate, slinky figure with a powerhouse voice, Ann Peebles occupied a special place among the many great talents that roamed the halls of Memphis’ iconic R&B label Hi Records in the 1960s and 1970s. While producer Willie Mitchell was the company’s heart, musicians the Hodges Brothers its soul and Al Green its top star, it was Peebles who gave the label its first national success and a lasting female identity.

Over the course of seven albums and dozens of singles for Hi, Peebles expressed a complex range of moods and emotions in her music. Her songs were alternately pleading (‘I Needed Somebody’) and defiant (‘I Pity The Fool’), seductive (‘Being Here With You’) and destructive (‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’) but always utterly soulful.

Released in 1973, ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ would provide the title track and foundation for Peebles’ breakthrough album. Defined by Mitchell’s evocative production touches - including the mesmerizing raindrop intro, played on a newly purchased studio gizmo, the electronic timbale - and some of Hi Rhythm’s most supple grooves, the song was transformed into magic. “Everybody was putting in their ingredients,” says Peebles. “That made it into something special.”

‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ would quickly become a Top Ten R&B hit and a Top 40 pop number and it earned the admiration of fellow artists like David Bowie and John Lennon; the ex-Beatle declared in Billboard that it was “the best song ever.” The success of ‘Rain’ would also net Peebles a Grammy nomination and send her touring across the world. “It certainly took my career to a different place,” she notes.

Peebles soon followed into a period of retirement in 1979. “I stepped away,” says Peebles, who would return a decade later to reunite with Mitchell for another album, ‘Call Me’, before taking a series of other sabbaticals from the business. In the meantime, ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ would become a constant presence on the musical landscape, covered by myriad acts (Tina Turner, Seal) and sampled by everyone from Japanese pop groups (Pizzicato Five) to rap and hip hop artists (Missy Elliott). • Even so many years later, Peebles remains, as she once proclaimed, “99 pounds of natural born goodness, 99 pounds of soul.”

CD1 Give Me Some Credit My Man Walk Away Part Time Love I’ll Get Along I Still Love You Generation Gap Between Us Crazy About You Baby Solid Foundation Slipped, Tripped, Fell In Love Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness Somebody’s On Your Case I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home I’ve Been There Before I Pity The Fool 99 Pounds I Can’t Stand The Rain Do I Need You (You Keep Me) Hanging On Run Run Run A Love Vibration I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down

CD2 Come To Mama I Don’t Lend My Man I Needed Somebody Doctor Love Power Beware Love Played A Game If This Is Heaven A Good Day For Lovin’ Being Here With You You Gonna Make Me Cry Lovin’ You Without Love It Must Be Love Old Man With Young Ideas The Handwriting Is On The Wall I Didn’t Take Your Man You’re More Than I Can Stand Livin’ In, Lovin’ Out If I Can’t See You Let Your Love Light Shine