If you are at all a music fan, you know Merry Clayton’s story.
That’s her, singing with Mick Jagger on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” That’s her, singing backup on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” That’s her, singing backup on no less than five Joe Cocker albums. She’s one of the greatest session singers of our time.
So it didn’t take me long to snap up one of her records from the dollar bins in my friend Jim’s back yard the other day.
Merry Clayton’s solo albums aren’t often seen in our corner of Wisconsin. There aren’t all that many to snap up, either. Clayton has cut just seven albums in the last 39 years, the last being “Miracles,” a gospel album released 15 years ago on A&M Records.
All of the others have their moments. Almost four years ago, Larry over at Funky 16 Corners wrote about her cover of “Gimme Shelter,” off her 1970 debut album of the same name. Last December, Dan over at Home of the Groove wrote about Clayton’s third album, “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow,” from 1975. Both gents rave about Miss Clayton, calling her voice “powerful” and “incendiary,” and deservedly so.
The album I found — “Emotion,” released in 1980 on MCA Records — seems well regarded, too. Just by looking at the songs covered on it, I had a hunch it might be good. It is, even if it has a more laid-back vibe than those earlier releases.
“Wasted Time” and “Sly Suite,” Merry Clayton, from “Emotion,” 1980.
The former, of course, is a cover of the tune from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” album. It gets a gospel-meets-orchestra treatment. Clayton’s voice is remarkable as usual, though a minute-long instrumental bridge that starts at 1:30 may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The latter is more of the Merry Clayton you know, doing a spirited, funked-up medley of these Sly and the Family Stone tunes: “Dance to the Music,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Everybody Is A Star” and “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin).”
Also covered on this album, Clayton’s second-to-last release: “Armed And Extremely Dangerous,” an R&B hit for First Choice in 1973, and “Melodies of Love,” the piano instrumental by the Crusaders’ Joe Sample with lyrics added and renamed “When The World Turns Blue.”