Graham Reid | | 3 min read
When the pub quiz question comes up, be prepared: The guy who wrote Wild Thing, Chip Taylor, is the brother of actor Jon Voight and therefore the uncle of Angelina Jolie. For bonus points, he also wrote the country song Angel of the Morning which was a big hit for Merrilee Rush and further popularised by Olivia Newton-John and Juice Newton.
Unfortunately it wasn't a hit for the first person who recorded it, the sometimes remarkable and largely overlooked Evie Sands.
Then again, it seemed Sands was doomed to never get a hit despite her impassioned voice and assured delivery.
She also recorded Take Me For a Little While (her test pressing was lifted and given to Jackie Ross whose version got the radio play) and its follow-up I Can't Let Go (lost in the kerfuffle over Take Me) became a hit for the Hollies when they covered it.
Then came Angel of the Morning (its progress knobbled by problems within Taylor's record company so others walked away with it) . . . and the closest she came to fame was with Taylor's Any Way That You Want Me which was a regional hit in various US cities and territories in the late Sixties.
But it didn't translate into much of a career.
Born in Brooklyn, Evie Sands was recording in the early Sixties when in her early teens and toured with the Shangri-Las. What might have seemed a profitable association began when she was signed to Leiber and Stoller's Blue Cat label in '65 and was teamed up with Taylor and fellow songwriter Al Gorgoni which – despite the vicissitudes working against her – was quite enduring.
They seemed loyal to each other and when you looked at the circumstances surrounding each failure of a single, they were all different. So it was upward and onward . . .
It was ironic that her best known song (albeit in specific territories like Ohio and Houston) was her version of Taylor's Any Way which – like Wild Thing – had already been recorded to decent success by Britain's Troggs. But Taylor slightly rewrote it and it proved hugely popular in some Northern soul corners in the UK . . . and was later covered by Spiritualized.
It was also the title track of her debut album in '70, a collection which also included her self-penned It's This I Am which has more recently been covered by Beck and Beth Orton.
If Evie Sands is known at all these days it is because singers like Dobie Grey, Dusty Springfield, Helen Reddy and Jose Feliciano covered her songs, but you do have to read the fine print to know that.
In the Eighties she rarely performed live although continued to write (to no great acclaim beyond a few famous fans) and then, against the odds, she reconnected with Taylor and Gorgoni and in '99 released the rootsy country rockin' album Women in Prison which was critically acclaimed . . . and typically went nowhere, despite the presence of Lucinda Williams on one song, the excellent Cool Blues Story.
Sands' Southern soul, sometimes swamp-funk, album with Billy Vera (on Taylor songs) Queen of Diamonds/Jack of Hearts in 2014 came and went. The few reviews were favourable, the public – once more -- stayed at home.
Anyone writing about Sands cleaves to a similar line: “one of the more remarkable hard luck tales”, “the unluckiest woman in Sixties pop” and so on.
And it's true.
But there's another side too: It's fair to say the Hollies' version of I Can't Let Go is far more energetic and vital than her treatment, and that others did Angel of the Morning better too.
However as a white soul singer with some country in her – despite that Brooklyn upbringing – Evie Sands is waiting to be rediscovered because her Seventies albums have been reissued, she's on Northern Soul compilations (check her out on Spotify) and . . .
Her version of Any Way That You Want Me appears on Bobby Gillespie's recent Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down collection (Ace, through Border in New Zealand), Belle and Sebastian got her up for their live recording of Take Me For a Little While . . .
And she's still out there playing to those who love and respect her.
And that's why we need to talk about Evie Sands.
For other articles in the series of strange or different characters in music, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . go here.