This album is something of a lost gem that i'm happy to bring you.
After her domestic Australian success with the album "Ready to Deal" in 1975 (see previous post), Renée Geyer recorded a live album called "Really Really Love You", which I'll post here another time.
In 1976, she was signed to RCA and sent over to Los Angeles to record the album "Moving Along" with famed Motown producer/arranger/songwriter Frank Wilson, the writer/producer of such classics as "Love Child"/"Stoned Love" (Supremes); "Keep On Truckin' " / "Boogie Down" (Eddie Kendricks); "Chained" (Marvin Gaye) and "You've Made Me So Very Happy" (Brenda Holloway, Blood Sweat and Tears).
Wilson had just left Motown, and brought an extraordinary collection of musicians to the studio : James Jamerson, Nathan Watts (bass); Ray Parker Jr (guitar); Raymond Pounds (drums) and many others - see the full list below.
The result was this beautiful collection of sophisticated soulful ballads and slick, orchestrated funk. Geyer was at the height of her vocal powers, and Wilson's arrangements are fantastic and tight. He co-wrote a few tracks - "Stares and Whispers" is like a Diana Ross movie theme on ecstacy, and was clearly set up to be the first single. (Wilson also got Freda Payne to record it as the title track on her album later in the year). Renee co-wrote "Be There In the Morning" - an uptempo soul number more recently 'rediscovered' by influential DJ Gilles Peterson and included on a few retro comps - with the two band members she'd brought along from Australia. It was later covered by Norman Connors on "Invitation". There's the rawer, bluesy funk vocal of "Tender Hooks", the philly-meets-gospel-pop "Quicker than the Eye", and many others.
After the mix was complete, RCA shipped copies - without photos or cover imagery - to hundreds of radio stations all over the USA, trying to create a buzz around this unknown soul singer. A wide range of RnB stations jumped on it, playing many different tracks on high rotation, and particularly focusing on the re-recorded "Heading in the Right Direction", which had been a single from her previous album.
Both Geyer's biography and legend have it as follows : it became clear that everyone away from the studio and record company assumed she was a black performer. The RCA execs suggested to her that they release the album without a photo of her on the cover, wanting to capitalise on black radio's rapidly expanding attention. Geyer (whose biography is titled "A Difficult Woman") refused, insisting on marketing the album complete with a cover photograph of what she later referred to as "my big pink face". And as it came to pass, the airplay stopped as soon as the album was released, an event that Geyer would later blame on her headstrong decision in regard to her marketing. I suppose no-one can know for sure why the album suddenly disappeared from the airwaves, and how much the story has changed over time ...
Although the album was a big success back home, that was the end of Renée Geyer's international career as a lead singer. She worked for some years with Chaka Khan and others as a studio/live backing singer, then briefly formed a band called "Easy Pieces" with former members of the Average White Band (!). Her later Australian albums moved more into pop, blues, rock and even country, and she still performs occasional jazz shows, but to me this is her finest album.
Hope you enjoy it, link below!
"Moving Along" - Renée Geyer (1977), RCA
01 Heading In the Right Direction - 3.00(Mark Punch / Garry Paige)
02 Be There In the Morning - 4.27(Renée Geyer / Mal Logan / Barry Sullivan)
03 Quicker Than the Eye - 4.09(Harry Booker / Judy Wieder)
04 Tender Hooks - 4.39(Ruth Copeland / Eric Thorngren)
05 Stares And Whispers - 3.29(John Footman / Frank Wilson / Terri McFadden)
06 Just To Make Love To You - 4.44(Greg Poree / Gralin Jerald)
07 Touch - 4.52(Frank Wilson / Pam Sawyer)
08 Moving Along - 6.11(Renée Geyer / Mal Logan / Barry Sullivan / Judy Wieder)
Producer, Arrangements: Frank Wilson: A Spec-O-Lite ProductionEngineers: Kevin Beamish; Frank WilsonRecorded at Crystal Sound Recording, Los Angeles, CaliforniaArt Direction: Basil Pao. AGIPhotography: Norman Seef
Vocals, Backing Vocals : Renée Geyer
Guitars : Ray Parker, Jr., Greg Poree, Stephen Beckmeier
Bass : James Jamerson; Nathan Watts; Barry 'Big Goose' Sullivan
Keyboards : Harry Booker; Jerry Peters; Mal Logan
Piano : Reginald Burke
Drums : Raymond Pounds
Percussion : Jack Ashford; Frederick Lewis
Background Vocals : Venetta Fields; Sherlie Matthews; Pat Henerson; Tiemeyer McCain; Otis Stokes; Frank Wilson.