Saturday, February 24, 2024

Roberta Flack - Feel Like Makin' Love (1975) + Bonus Live Tracks

 (U.S 1968 - 2022)

Classy, urbane, reserved, smooth, and sophisticated -- all of these terms have been used to describe the music of Roberta Flack, particularly her string of romantic, light jazz ballad hits in the 1970s, which continue to enjoy popularity on MOR-oriented adult contemporary stations. Flack was the daughter of a church organist and started playing piano early enough to get a music scholarship and eventual degree from Howard University. After a period of student teaching, Flack was discovered singing at a club by jazz musician Les McCann and signed to Atlantic.

Some of legendary singer Roberta Flack’s most popular albums include her debut "First Take" and later "Killing Me Softly", gospel-leaning soul albums with immortal ballads like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and the latter album’s famously Fugees-covered title track. But my favorite is the under-appreciated 'Feel Like Makin’ Love', a lush and sensual foray into the Adult Contemporary sound that defined many hits of the mid-70s.

The Album
Musically, 'Feel Like Makin’ Love' is a little like Carol King, its breezy title track earning a #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 as well as three Grammy nominations including Song of the Year.

The vibe here is resolutely mellow and sexy, with a much larger band than previous Flack recordings, including but not limited to jazz legends Bob James (keyboards), Idris Muhammad and Alphonse Mouzon (drums), and Joe Farrell (oboe). Though quite accessible, the record is expertly arranged and performed, with an early highlight in “I Can See the Sun in Late December”.

“I Can See the Sun” was penned by Stevie Wonder, who was at a career peak around this time. It shows: the nearly 13-minute epic feels less than half that length, with Flack carrying the soaring melody and the band filling out the sound like sunlight shining into the forest of the album cover. It’s a wonderful song on an album full of them.

This album did not come easily however. Her producer of five years, Joel Dorn, departed the album's sessions before they had started, in a flurry of dissension with Atlantic brass. "I didn't know nothing about nothing," Flack stated in the Aquarian. "I had nobody to help me finish the album, so I did it myself. It was one of my worst experiences."

Dubbing herself Rubina Flake, she admitted she was not exactly a whiz at the job. "I knew what I wanted musically but I didn't know a lot of technical things or the business aspects of producing. I learned the hard way," she admitted in the Washington Post. Despite their misgivings, Atlantic Records allowed her free reign, though she "spent a fortune" and took eight months to finish. "If you know what you're doing you can't spend too much time on a album, though you can certainly spend too much money," she defended in the Aquarian.

However, the final product is an outstanding collection of smooth soul, ideal for summer days and nights.

Roberta Flack scored her third No. 1 hit in 1974 with "Feel Like Makin' Love," also her sixth Billboard Top 40 hit. Co-written by Flack and Eugene McDaniels, the single first charted on July 6, 1974, and spent a total of 13 weeks on the chart. It was the title track from Flack's sixth album, "Feel Like Makin' Love", which first charted Mar. 29, 1975, peaking at No. 24 on the Hot 200 album chart and remaining on the chart for 26 weeks.

This post consists of FLACs ripped from my prized vinyl and includes full album artwork for both vinyl and CD media. Although the title track is certainly the pinnacle track on this album, I also think that “I Can See the Sun in Late December” is a standout track, with some wonderful instrumental music by her backing band, as reviewed above. 
As a bonus, I have decided to include live recordings of three of her best known hits, taken from the 1992 Newport Jazz Festival and a concert held in Tokyo, Japan in 1993.

Track List:
01 Feelin' That Glow 5:48
02 I Wanted It Too 2:51
03 I Can See The Sun In Late December 12:48
04 Some Gospel According To Matthew 2:37
05 Feel Like Makin' Love 2:55
06 Mr. Magic 3:55
07 Early Ev'ry Midnite 5:54
08 Old Heartbreak Top Ten 4:22
09 She's Not Blind 5:24
10 Killing Me Softly with His Song (Live At Newport Jazz Festival, 1992)
11 Feel Like Makin' Love (Live At Newport Jazz Festival, 1992)
12 The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Live in Tokyo, 1993)