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Keep Your Eye On the Sparrow

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Album Review

Merry Clayton was among the most ubiquitous session singers of the 1970s when she provided background vocals for everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, Carole King, and Jerry Garcia to Billy Preston, the Blackbyrds, and the Brothers Johnson. She is especially famous for her contributions to the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" in 1969. But regrettably, Clayton wasn't as successful as a solo artist. One of the solid, but overlooked, solo albums Clayton recorded in the '70s was Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow, which was produced Gene McDaniels. While Clayton sang background on countless rock sessions, this 1975 LP is very much an R&B album — and a diverse one at that. On this decent to excellent release, Clayton successfully tackles everything from tough, raw, southern-style soul to sleeker northern soul. The album's best tracks range from the gritty "Do What You Know" and a very funky remake of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" to Deniece Williams' "Slip Away," which Clayton recorded before either the Emotions or Williams herself. The title track, meanwhile, is the memorable theme song from the 1970s cop show Baretta. (Note: fans of the ABC series are probably more familiar with Sammy Davis, Jr.'s version). Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow has been out of print since the late '70s, but the LP is worth picking up if you're able to locate a copy.


Born: 25 December 1948 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Best known for her background vocal work on the Rolling Stones' legendary single "Gimme Shelter," Merry Clayton had a long and successful career as backup singer, solo artist, and actress. Born December 25, 1948 (hence the rather "holiday" feel of her first name), in New Orleans, LA, Clayton recorded tracks with Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Ray Charles, and Joe Cocker, as well as being a member of Ray Charles' Raelettes in the early '60s. Her solo debut, "The Doorbell Rings," was released in 1963,...
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Keep Your Eye On the Sparrow, Merry Clayton
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