California Soul / Wade in the Water
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Not so long ago Marlena Shaw was a forgotten figure. The talented vocalist had made several LPs for respected labels such as Cadet and Blue Note, and she’d performed regularly throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. But she hardly had what you might call diva status. Falling into the unfortunate category that slips uneasily between soul and jazz, she was accepted - but not especially admired - by aficionados of either genre. Then came the ‘90s, and an open-minded enthusiasm for soul and jazz - and more importantly - everything in between - soon changed that. Marlena Shaw became an icon, and the diva status soon blossomed amongst her new-found soul-jazz fans.
Respect is a word that means much to any singer. The artist who stands up in the bright lights before an audience that has handed over their hard-earned cash has only their physical presence and naked voice to rely on. There is no hiding when you’re on stage, you’re the focus of attention and everybody is gawping at you. The singer yearns to communicate and entertain, and in return not only asks for appreciation and acceptance, but respect. To this end Marlena Shaw has endured decades of singing in the shadows, and she has only now finally found her niche.
‘California Soul’ is probably the most enduring and well-known of her many songs, but just a few seconds listening will tell you that it is much more than that. It’s already a classic amongst those who have already seen the light and have danced and swayed to its timeless swing. Now is the time that this wonderful song is released once more, and upon hearing it all lovers of soul, jazz – or any other kind of good music - will feel an aural glow as warm as the Californian sun.
The flipside, ‘Wade in the Water’, is an ancient song rumoured to have been developed by African slaves in American south. The message is to pass on the notion that by running through streams and rivers, the scent that bloodhounds may follow will be obscured. Marlena romps through this uptempo number, which has long been a favourite dancefloor filler since its 45-only release back in 1966.