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Swamp Dogg Presents Doris Duke & Patti Labell and the Bluebells

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Album Review

It's hard to fathom why Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles get equal billing with Doris Duke on this archival release from Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg, since it features two full-length albums in their entirety from Ms. Duke and a mere three songs from LaBelle. Duke and Williams have had a stormy business relationship in the past (the booklet features several letters from Williams and his lawyers asserting his control over her recording career), so perhaps Duke's co-star status is intended as a subtle jape, but that doesn't make this any less puzzling for fans of either artist. The tracks from LaBelle & the Bluebelles are fine, and "(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days" is a rare number that was left in the vaults until it appeared on a collection of Atlantic rarities in 2006, but LaBelle's East Coast sound is somewhat at odds with the Deep South tone of Duke's work. As for the two Doris Duke albums featured on this disc, 1969's I'm a Loser and 1971's A Legend in Her Own Time rank with her finest work, and present this oft-overlooked soul queen in marvelous, heart-tugging form. From the palpable heartache of the opening "He's Gone" to the defiant closer, "To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)" (which became one of Duke's few hit singles), I'm a Loser is a triumphant example of powerful deep soul, and A Legend in Her Own Time very nearly matches it. This could be readily recommended as the best Doris Duke collection extant if it weren't for the fact the British Kent label has also released these two albums on a single disc under the title I'm a Loser: The Swamp Dogg Sessions and More, which ups the ante with better artwork and liner notes as well as three early single sides by Duke taking the place of the Patti LaBelle tracks. The Kent release of this material is markedly superior, but this still features 23 superb performances by Doris Duke, and serious soul fans would do well to own this material regardless of the packaging or the bonus tracks.


Born: 1945 in Sandersville, GA

Genre: R&B/Soul

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

Deep soul diva Doris Duke was born Doris Curry in Sandersville, GA, in 1945. After stints in a series of gospel units, including the Raspberry Singers, the David Sisters, and the Caravans, by 1963 she was settled in New York City, working as a session vocalist in addition to backup duties at the legendary Apollo Theater. Under her married name of Doris Willingham, she cut her debut solo single, "Running Away from Loneliness," for the tiny Hy-Monty label in 1966; "You Can't Do That" followed two years...
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Swamp Dogg Presents Doris Duke & Patti Labell and the Bluebells, Doris Duke
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