Lulu – The Atco Sessions (review)

Lulu – The Atco Sessions 1969-72 (Real Gone Music) review

To soul with love

Ahhh…that Atlantic Soul sound.  Cultivated in the South, it’s what makes those Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett records sound so good.  British singer Lulu might seem like an odd choice to record for the label, since her biggest US hit was the sweeping “To Sir With Love” in 1967.  But, the 5’1’’ sparkplug did indeed release two records on the Atlantic subsidiary, Atco – collected here as The Atco Sessions, a two-disc set that also features b-sides and unreleased tracks from the time period.

The blueprint for these recordings was definitely Dusty in Memphis, which had been released just months before these initial sessions.  The backing is very similar in its smoothed-over soul.  Yet, while Ms. Springfield was very sultry in her delivery, Lulu gives these tracks some much-needed grit.

“Marley Purt Drive,” an obscure Bee Gees’ album track, might seem like an odd way to open New Routes, until you consider that Lulu was married to Gibb brother Maurice during this time.  “Feelin’ Alright” takes the very popular Traffic/Joe Cocker track and switches the gender – proving she could rock just as well as the boys.  “Dirty Old Man” features some breathtaking guitar from none other than Duane Allman, who was still doing session work during this period.  “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m a Fool For You Baby)” is a gorgeous ballad.

Her second Atco record, Melody Fair, is arguably better, it’s certainly got a harder edge.  Her cover of the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” is decent, but it’s tracks like slow burner “I Don’t Care Anymore” and the groovin’ “Move to My Rhythm,” which show off Lulu’s versatility.  The country blues “Hum a Song” features the Dixie Flyers – this certainly doesn’t sound like the same singer of “To Sir With Love.”

Disc two features rare singles and unreleased tracks.  Of note is her sparse rendition of Elton John’s “Come Down in Time,” which is worth the price of the disc alone, while “Back Home” is another Bee Gees’ nugget which bares a strong resemblance to “Green River” by CCR.

Fans of classic soul will find these underrappreciated recordings a real treat.  —Tony Peters