12 Songs, 33 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Sweet Inspirations were seasoned professionals long before Atlantic Records gave them the opportunity to wax their debut LP. The group, whose roots lay deep in the Southern gospel circuit, had struck secular gold in 1963 when their work on chart-scraping soul hits like Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” and Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” made them the most sought-after back-up vocalists in the business. Given these credentials it is unsurprising that the Sweet Inspirations’ first full-length is an absolute knockout. They cut the record in Memphis in the summer of 1967, and the album is saturated in the sultry down-home atmosphere of that city, from the Stax-evoking groove of their reinterpretation of the Staple Singers’ protest anthem “Why Am I Treated So Bad” to their impassioned take on Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” which gives Aretha Franklin’s iconic version a run for its money. Simply put, The Sweet Inspirations is essential listening for anyone with an interest in late-‘60s soul music.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Sweet Inspirations were seasoned professionals long before Atlantic Records gave them the opportunity to wax their debut LP. The group, whose roots lay deep in the Southern gospel circuit, had struck secular gold in 1963 when their work on chart-scraping soul hits like Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” and Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” made them the most sought-after back-up vocalists in the business. Given these credentials it is unsurprising that the Sweet Inspirations’ first full-length is an absolute knockout. They cut the record in Memphis in the summer of 1967, and the album is saturated in the sultry down-home atmosphere of that city, from the Stax-evoking groove of their reinterpretation of the Staple Singers’ protest anthem “Why Am I Treated So Bad” to their impassioned take on Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” which gives Aretha Franklin’s iconic version a run for its money. Simply put, The Sweet Inspirations is essential listening for anyone with an interest in late-‘60s soul music.

TITLE TIME
2:38
3:25
2:23
3:02
3:04
2:29
2:56
2:41
2:09
2:23
3:05
2:49

About The Sweet Inspirations

If one was cutting a soul, R&B, pop, rock, or girl group record in New York in the '60s and needed female backup vocals, chances are they'd try to get the Sweet Inspirations first. The group found their way onto numerous recordings, including hits by the Drifters, Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Garnett Mimms, and most famously, Aretha Franklin (with whom they sometimes toured).

The group evolved from the '50s gospel group the Drinkard Singers. At various points soul singers Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick, and sister Dee Dee Warwick were members. By the time they began to record on their own in 1967, their leader was Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney), and the women were renamed the Sweet Inspirations.

As an Atlantic recording act, the group cut some fine sides that rank among the clearest illustrations of the close links between soul music and gospel harmony. Usually sticking to material by famed soul and pop songwriters, they had about a half-dozen moderate R&B hits in the late '60s; the biggest, "Sweet Inspiration," was a Top 20 pop single. Houston left the group at the end of the '60s and the Inspirations left Atlantic in the early '70s, sometimes working with Elvis Presley and recording the album Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia for Stax in 1973. ~ Richie Unterberger

  • FORMED
    1963

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