Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Sixties r'n'b soul singer Jeanette Jones – if she is still alive – may be confused by the release of her debut album, more than 40 years after she abruptly ended her recording career.
She may be even more surprised to learn there was an album at all. Because at the time, in 1969 to be exact, she only ever released one single. And even though there were only 1000 copies pressed it failed to sell out.
And that was the sum total of her recording career.
After that Jeanette Jones disappeared and her name became a footnote in . . .
Actually not even a footnote.
Her name and music only reappeared when the Ace reissue label out of Britain picked up the catalogue of Golden State Recorders, the San Franciscan label for which Jones recorded that sole solo single.
Like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and so many other black women singers, Jones was a product of the church and was a key voice in San Francisco's long-running Voices of Victory choir.
Unlike those soul divas however, Jones failed to make any commercial or cultural impact . . . despite enthusiast support from Leo Kulka of Golden State who shopped the gospel choir around to major labels.
But he also singled Jones' voice out for attention.
In the account of researcher Alec Palao, Kulka had managed to persuade Jones to set aside the testifying for the Lord and record some secular songs.
He felt she had the voice and presence of a soul star.
She was reluctant but finally relented and jobbing songwriter Wally Cox penned Darling I'm Standing By You, I'm Glad I Got Over You and The Thought of You for her.
She recorded all three and Kulka released Darling and The Thought of You as a single – her only ever release – and although it failed to sell (jeez, what price a copy of one of those few?) he used it to try to get attention from Motown and Atlantic.
And nothing happened .
There were further sessions, Jones sang for a series of ads for a wine company in a radio campaign, did some modelling and . . .
And nothing happened.
Her final sessions were two demos in November '74 and, as Palao writes, “after that the trail runs cold”.
Maybe she went back to the church, maybe she just did no more singing.
But now there is an album Dreams All Come True -- on vinyl and CD distributed by Ace (through Border in New Zealand) -- and it collects all the known solo recordings by Jeanette Jones, just a dozen.
A couple have already appeared on other compilations like Golden Gate Soul, but to have her small but fascinatingly diverse catalogue in one place makes good sense.
Jones could certainly belt out the bigger numbers like the stomper Cut Loose and Break Someone Else's Heart in an r'n'b-cum-pop manner, but it is on the slower and more aching songs like Darling I'm Standing By You where she comes into her own (and you can hear the church in her).
And especially on the Gerry Goffin-Barry Goldberg penned What Have You Got to Gain By Losing Me where she comes close to Gladys Knight. She is superb on it, even if the arrangement isn't quite there.
"Almost" is the Jeanette Jones story.
The fact that latter song came from the pens of seasoned songwriters is the clue to perhaps why Jones didn't get the big break she deserved: The two songs Kulka released and touted hopefully just weren't distinctive enough.
Good, but not good enough to grab a casual listener -- or an overworked record company exec -- quickly.
It does seem odd that I'm Glad I Got Over You – which just a “sock it to me” away from a chart climber – wasn't one he chose to release. She channels the wicked Wilson Pickett.
And you wish someone at Stax had heard I Want Action and thought, "We can work with this gal" because it is almost there in a Stax-funk dancefloor killer.
Elsewhere you can hear where she also had mainstream soul-pop potential: The big and confident ballads Jealous Moon, I Want You Mine and the title track all penned by Jay G Barrett make for towering album tracks, although not possible singles.
And in Barrett's Quittin' the Blues you discern a cabaret career in soul was also beckoning.
But for a gal from the church she could also do the sweet speak-whisper into the mike at the start of The Thought of You which is sensually persuasive.
So more than four decades after she disappeared, Jeanette Jones releases her creditable Sixties soul-pop debut album.
Not at all bad for a women who never recorded a second single . . . let alone this -- or any -- album.
"Almost" -- and Ace -- finally got her there.
Jeanette Jones' Dreams All Come True is through Border in New Zealand, and they have an excellent catalogue of reissues. See their Facebook page here, and Elsewhere's previous articles and reviews of Ace/Border releases here.