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[Off The Record]
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Barbara Mason

Liner notes by soul-music specialist David Nathan narrate, after a 20-year absence, the story of Philadelphia’s Barbara Mason, most of whose best-known work is compiled here. Mason began her career as a teen singer, recording the nubile "Yes, I’m Ready" in 1965, at the age of 18. That version is not found here, though the re-recording of it she made in 1973 is, where she talks to her fans about the song and what she meant in it.

This was an era when red-clay soul ruled (Luther Ingram and Millie Jackson were in their prime) with its romantic predicaments and its sung monologues, and Mason became the genre’s sexiest presence. Hits like "Shackin’ Up" and "From His Woman to You" followed, winning even the disco audience (which always appreciated sexy naughtiness). The latter song was her answer to Shirley Brown’s big red-clay soul hit "Woman to Woman," and it pitted her cute ferocity against Brown’s dignified cool, a contest Mason was well equipped to win. She had wit and sarcasm, and she also had a tiny falsettoish soprano, as she showed in Curtis Mayfield’s "Give Me Your Love"; it sounds uncannily like the falsetto Prince would use to advantage a decade later. Also included here is "Me and Mr. Jones" (her answer to Billy Paul’s big 1973 "Me and Mrs. Jones"), "Caught in the Middle," and "Bed and Board," in which she flaunts her sexiness with relish but also with affection.


Issue Date: December 6 - 13, 2001

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