The Roberta Flack Thread

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I just picked up Roberta Flack's Chapter Two LP (Atlantic, 1970) from some guy on lower Broadway. Haven't heard it yet, but the track listing looks just swell -- "Just Like a Woman," "Let It Be Me," Jimmy Webb, Donny Hathaway/Curtis Mayfield... and Chuck Rainey plays bass on it! Joel Dorn and King Curtis produced; various arrangements by Donny Hathaway and Eumir Deodato. I'm VERY excited.

Elle a chaud au cul (Jody Beth Rosen), Friday, 6 August 2004 02:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I have a signed copy of this record. The song selection always seem a bit random, or maybe it just overreaches in its determined eclecticticism. Anyway, the Dylan cover just seems to exaggerate the worst aspects of that song, but the cover of "Do What You Gotta Do" is nice (hard to do anything wrong with that song). Flack has a habit of dragging out the codas as an excuse for various forms of vocal gymnastics; sometimes this really works, sometimes it seems contrary to the spirit of the song she's doing.

Anyway, if you haven't heard them already, I'd recommend First Take and (especially) Quiet Fire... the latter's second side is as perfect as Flack got: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (why did she add the "still"?)/"To Love Somebody"/"Let Them Talk"/"Sweet Bitter Love."

||amateur!st|| (amateurist), Friday, 6 August 2004 02:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

For an example of "oversouling," check out the begining of the first chorus on "Do What You Got to Do," which comes on so wrong it becomes difficult to follow the thread of the song. That bothers me. But I still think she does a good job overall. And she is magnificent on a lot of the tracks from those other two records.

||amateur!st|| (amateurist), Friday, 6 August 2004 02:20 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Freudian slip: I meant to write "comes on so strong."

Clarence Carter does a version of "Do What You Gotta Do" that's really instuctive in its 180-degree difference from the Flack cover. Carter follows the melody very closely; it comes across as perfect and pristine. I don't know why anyone would want to embellish it. I don't mind people embellishing or extemporizing on much-loved melodies, so long as the embellishments have something interesting to offer in exchange. I wonder if Flack's take on this song owes something to her conservatory background, and/or a greater concern for artistic individuality in a, er, rockist sense. Whereas Carter was content to be an (awesome) soul journeyman so he's happy to just present song (with a few of his trademark croaks, yes).

||amateur!st|| (amateurist), Friday, 6 August 2004 02:24 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i listened. verdict: i like the beginning tracks on side one and the closing three tracks on side two. the middle tracks (esp. the "just like a woman" cover) are draggy and she doesn't really do much with her voice through much of the record -- usually i like understatement in singing but her "understated" voice is too mellow considering that the arrangements on those songs are pretty spare anyway, and ostensibly exist as a springboard for her to do interesting things with her (considerable) chops (which she doesn't show off that often, and maybe it's for the best, because i find myself looking forward to those dramatic flourishes the most... but if only there was a middle ground between her resigned loungey mellowness and the big, belty moments).

surprisingly, the best track on there is her cover of "the impossible dream." great mix of schmaltzy broadway and snazzy gospel! i'm intrigued by the last song too, a nina simone-like "socially conscious" hymn/dirge about vietnam (songwriting credited to fred hellerman and fran minkoff, although it might as well be a more bleak, cynical rewrite of laura nyro's socially conscious hymn/dirge "christmas in my soul," which came out the same year).

Elle a chaud au cul (Jody Beth Rosen), Friday, 6 August 2004 19:05 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

First Take is my favorte for "Angelitos Negros" and "Compared to What," but there's something to love on every RF record.

briania (briania), Friday, 6 August 2004 19:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

First Take is pretty easy to find on LP for a couple $$. And it's a great record.

mcd (mcd), Friday, 6 August 2004 19:16 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

nine months pass...
what did jody think of these?

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Monday, 30 May 2005 06:58 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
amst, i posted my thoughts slightly upthread.

but how about that '72 album with donny hathaway?! "be real black for me"! c90 go: your favorite black power love ballads.

chief of chaff (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:36 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"you've lost that loving feeling" with sitar though, eh i dunno.

chief of chaff (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:41 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

black pearl, precious little girl / let me put you up where you belong. . .

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:49 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

exactly the song i was thinking of!

chief of chaff (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:50 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

has anyone ever heard her house tracks?? there's some pretty cool stuff there.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:56 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
Roberta Flack did house tracks? Where can I find those?

I just bought a CD rerelease of First Take, the vinyl I had was rather worn out, and my vinyl player's broken anyway. Damn that record's sublime! What else should I buy? The local store was selling "Killing Me Softly" for cheap, is is worth it besides the title track?

Tuomas (Tuomas), Saturday, 6 August 2005 17:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
Blue Light in the Basement is great, most especially the first song, "Why Don't You Move In With Me," which is completely incredible

Thomas Tallis (Tommy), Friday, 8 September 2006 23:27 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Tuomas, the one I know is called "Uh-uh Ooh-ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)" (as if it were DESIGNED to go on the "y'all ready for this" thread)

Euai Kapaui (tracerhand), Friday, 8 September 2006 23:47 (twelve years ago) Permalink


and PappaWheelie, author of Have You Ever Been Poxy Fuled? (PappaWheelie 2), Saturday, 9 September 2006 01:44 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I'd like to get some old Roberta Flack on cheap vinyl, man. Yeah, that sounds good.

I am not Ted Nugent (Bimble...), Saturday, 9 September 2006 06:28 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Wow this is weird, I went to see this black lady I work with sing tonight in a hotel lounge and she did "Feel Like Making Love" and I was like "wait - who does that song this is going to drive me crazy?" and they said "Roberta Flack" and I said "oh my god I was just about to ask if you could do one of her songs" and then I couldn't remember if my memory was really correct that I'd seen a thread about her here last night. I'm so glad to realize I'm not going crazy.

I am not Ted Nugent (Bimble...), Sunday, 10 September 2006 07:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I've never heard her version of "The Impossible Dream" . . . but I'd love to see someone (especially JBR) defend it as a song choice. I don't even hate it, but . . .

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Sunday, 10 September 2006 08:47 (twelve years ago) Permalink

where the hell did i talk about roberta flack on ilm? i know i did somewhere. anyway, ANYBODY who even likes her a little bit needs Quiet Fire. Such an amazing album. it's almost perfect. so beautiful. it'll give you chills. chapter two is good. but quiet fire is really something else.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 10 September 2006 09:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

A recent interview

Ned Raggett, Friday, 12 December 2008 02:17 (ten years ago) Permalink


"I Told Jesus"


Turangalila, Friday, 12 December 2008 02:21 (ten years ago) Permalink

Everybody NEEDS to hear her 13 minute aquatic bedroom funktasia "I Can See The Sun in Late December" . . . with arrangements credited to "Rubina Flake". So good.

Neotropical pygmy squirrel, Friday, 12 December 2008 03:26 (ten years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

apparently the artist once and now again known as prince is a huge fan, which makes sense when you consider the phrasing on some of his slow ballads.

figuratively, but in a very real way (amateurist), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 03:37 (eight years ago) Permalink

i like her version of "do what you gotta do" more than i evidently did upthread.

figuratively, but in a very real way (amateurist), Tuesday, 2 February 2010 03:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Where is the love?

_Rudipherous_, Thursday, 25 March 2010 05:44 (eight years ago) Permalink

omg i saw "play misty for me" last night. i thought it was gonna have rf playing in a club or something but actually "the first time i ever saw your face" is used as background music for an extended sex scene between clint and his love interest, including partial nudity (no penetrations shots unfortunately)

anyway at first i though wtf?!?!? but soon realized that mr. eastwood was simultaneously inventing both mtv and skinemax soft porn 10 years ahead of their time, plus breaking ms. flack to the world at large, and that he is a genius. also, "the first time ever i saw your face", wow - gave me chills. or maybe that was just the waterfall scene

messiahwannabe, Thursday, 25 March 2010 06:00 (eight years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

yeah i guess first time ever i saw your face is overused but it's way beautiful

by another name (amateurist), Saturday, 20 August 2011 07:26 (seven years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway doesn't get enough love on ILM

huun huurt 2 (Hurting 2), Saturday, 27 April 2013 03:49 (five years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

Everybody NEEDS to hear her 13 minute aquatic bedroom funktasia "I Can See The Sun in Late December" . . . with arrangements credited to "Rubina Flake". So good.

― Neotropical pygmy squirrel, Thursday, December 11, 2008 10:26 PM (7 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

seriously anybody who doesn't know this jam and the whole album, you're missing out. it is such a great immersive listen.

The bald Phil Collins impersonator cash grab (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 22 May 2016 13:06 (two years ago) Permalink

Okay, fair enough, will have a listen. But what's your take on First Take?

The Wally Funk Bible (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 22 May 2016 13:12 (two years ago) Permalink

I think it's really good - her voice is just incredible, the clarity of her tone - but I like Roberta Flack best when she gets a little poppier. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Feel Like Makin Love and Blue Light in the Basement, those are peak RF for me

The bald Phil Collins impersonator cash grab (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 22 May 2016 13:28 (two years ago) Permalink

I've loved First Take since I first got it 30 odd years ago. It seems pretty natural, organic etc. Chapter Two always struck me as more formulaic though I haven't heard it in quite a while. It certainly seemed more forced when I first heard it.

I quite like Quiet Fire. Need to get a physical copy.

I know there was an Original Artist series or equivalent box set but not sure what's in it.

Stevolende, Sunday, 22 May 2016 13:47 (two years ago) Permalink

It has five of her first six albums, but for some inexplicable reason it omits Chapter Two (which is indeed in the same mold as First Take, but since FT is awesome, this should be taken as a praise!). Still, you can get it for cheaper than the CD reissue of Quiet Fire alone.

And Joan Crawford is so right about "Late December". When talking about quiet storms soul epics, it's on the same level as Minnie Riperton's best - and that's a high level indeed.

Tuomas, Monday, 23 May 2016 13:29 (two years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

It drove me crazy every time I heard the Flack track but I finally just this moment realized that the synthline in T.I.'s 'What You Know' is the same as the bassline in Roberta's 'Gone Away'. It's like the heavens just split open. Mind blowed.

the smartest persin in the room (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 10 January 2018 20:43 (one year ago) Permalink

I'm kind of glad taht the box omits Chapter Two cos i think it's a pale retread of the sublime First Take.
I should have grabbed the box while i was in FOPP cos i think it was among the sets they had in there reasonably cheaply and it is one taht I have meant to pick up for years. Well, think it's back on my to get list along with the Mike Nesmith First National band one.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 10 January 2018 21:13 (one year ago) Permalink

"I can see the sun in late December"is absolute perfection.. an extremely beautiful and intoxicating sound world

brimstead, Friday, 12 January 2018 01:30 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

feel like makin' love is one of my favorite albums ever. every song is made of clouds

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Wednesday, 4 April 2018 01:22 (nine months ago) Permalink

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