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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Monday, 30 May 2005 06:58 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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

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

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

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:49 (seventeen years ago) link

exactly the song i was thinking of!

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

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

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Wednesday, 6 July 2005 07:56 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (seventeen years ago) link

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 (sixteen years ago) link

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 (sixteen years ago) link


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

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 (sixteen years ago) link

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 (sixteen years ago) link

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 (sixteen years ago) link

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 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...

A recent interview

Ned Raggett, Friday, 12 December 2008 02:17 (fourteen years ago) link


"I Told Jesus"


Turangalila, Friday, 12 December 2008 02:21 (fourteen years ago) link

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 (fourteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

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 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

Where is the love?

_Rudipherous_, Thursday, 25 March 2010 05:44 (twelve years ago) link

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 (twelve years ago) link

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 (eleven years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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.

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 (six years ago) link

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

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 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

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 (five years ago) link

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 (five years ago) link

"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 (five years ago) link

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 (four years ago) link

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, September 8, 2006 6:27 PM (thirteen years ago) bookmarkflaglink


geoffreyess, Saturday, 1 February 2020 21:26 (three years ago) link

Great overview. Was just talking with a DC musician who had Roberta Flack as a school teacher here in DC and later played music with her at Mr Henry’s on Capitol Hill in DC, which still has music years later.

curmudgeon, Saturday, 15 February 2020 17:03 (two years ago) link

He says she is tough but fair as a bandleader and teacher

curmudgeon, Saturday, 15 February 2020 17:04 (two years ago) link

Was trying to recall how Movin' Out goes while cleaning, but it keeps turning into Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly in my head - something about that turnaround in the chorus is v similar

― Οὖτις, Tuesday, August 29, 2017 6:57 PM (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

strumming my pain with his fingers, is that all you get for your money

GAH Cannot un-hear that now, thanks a lot.

who needs a house out in Hackensack, singing my life with his words

― Tone-Locrian (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:10 PM (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

roberta flack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack

― fact checking cuz, Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:24 PM (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

Οὖτις, Sunday, 16 February 2020 03:56 (two years ago) link

two months pass...

got a full scholarship to go to age 15 whaaaaaaaaaat

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Monday, 4 May 2020 19:47 (two years ago) link

There's a 1970 video turned up on Dime yesterday. Not got a chance to watch it yet,
I think its several tracks played live as a trio.

Stevolende, Monday, 4 May 2020 20:04 (two years ago) link

Wish I could post Steve Hurley's House Remix of "Uh-uh Ooh-ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)" (it's referenced upthread) because it pops up in my head every now and then and it came up in a DJ mix I was listening to last week, but it seems to have been erased from YouTube. Hurley's sort-of-dub House of Trix Mix is all there's left.

No mean feat. DaBaby (breastcrawl), Monday, 4 May 2020 21:07 (two years ago) link

Roberta Flack to Host Live Charity Listening Party
On Rhino's YouTube Channel
To Benefit Feed The Children's COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Flack's First Take Celebrates 50 Years With Deluxe Reissue Out This Summer
Featuring 12 Recordings Never Heard Before

Broadcast Host And Singer Santita Jackson to Introduce the Set List
For Streaming Event on May 16 at 3:00pm Eastern

details etc. here:

dow, Monday, 11 May 2020 18:13 (two years ago) link

1970 show mentioned a few posts ago by me is Flack on Boboquivari so about 1/2 hour of her around teh time of Chapter two. Her on piano with a rhythm section.
Seems quite good. Hadn't realised there was more of a series than the Tim Buckley set . Hadn't realised it was a series.
So would like to know what else is in it if the rest is as good as the 2 I've seen.
Looks like it must be being repeated on some channel since there is on screen text happening , recommendations to listen to shows. thankfully didn't seem to be much in the way of clips across the bottom of the screen

THis was the one clip I could see on youtube from it

Stevolende, Tuesday, 12 May 2020 19:03 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Almost wholly because of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"--one of '70s greatest singles, I'd say, though it actually came out in '69--there's an American Masters on her airing next week.

clemenza, Wednesday, 18 January 2023 16:06 (two weeks ago) link

Meant to attach this link:

clemenza, Wednesday, 18 January 2023 16:06 (two weeks ago) link

let's not forget the supposedly-don-mclean-inspired "killing me softly."

Thus Sang Freud, Wednesday, 18 January 2023 17:53 (two weeks ago) link

speaking of which, there's a new lori leiberman record.

Thus Sang Freud, Wednesday, 18 January 2023 17:55 (two weeks ago) link

lieberman rather

Thus Sang Freud, Wednesday, 18 January 2023 17:55 (two weeks ago) link

American Masters special on her is on PBS now (here in DC area and maybe elsewhere)

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 02:03 (one week ago) link

I PVR'd it to watch later.

clemenza, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 02:12 (one week ago) link

It was superb.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 25 January 2023 15:57 (one week ago) link

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