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ALICE CLARK - The Studio Recordings 1968-1972

First things first: cue track two, “Don’t You Care”, a vocal and instrumental tour-de-force that became an anthem of the early-'90s London club-jazz scene, when it was rescued from oblivion by rare-groove crate diggers. The same cannot be said about the mysterious Alice Clark, who recorded the track for her only album and then disappeared into total obscurity. Nobody really knows very much about her beyond fuzzy recollections from her sessions. What we do know is that she lent her powerful vocals to the Mainstream label, better known for jazz releases but looking in 1972 to tap into the soul market (also check out A Loud Minority: Deep Spiritual Jazz from Mainstream Records 1970-1973,  which came out last month).

Clark’s self-titled album, found here along with a couple of sides she had previously recorded with Warner, gets an extra boost from the Mainstream players, especially from exceptionally propulsive drums and horns, and arrangements from Ernie Wilkins. The thrill I get listening to “Don’t You Care” (penned by Bobby Hebb of “Sunny” fame) has made it my most-listened-to track of the year so far. What makes this album such a unique thrill—much tighter and jazzier than typical soul, from a singer too Lyn Collins-raw for jazz—is what made it so unmarketable when it came out. It's a shame; she should have been bigger than this. 

(As a postscript, if I had known in January that this would be released domestically, I still would have bought the expensive Japanese import after sampling a few tracks. You just can’t pass up a discovery of such urgent greatness as this. This will surely be in my year-end list—highest recommendation!)

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