A blog about my favourite movies, music, and TV.

03 February 2009

Evelyn "Champagne" King

I don’t normally think about reviewing compilations, but this one is so groovy I just had to. Love Come Down – The Best of Evelyn “Champagne” King is a joy from start to finish. It’s a stunning collection of the majority of her 70’s and 80’s singles for RCA Records from the full 12” mix of 1977 disco classic ‘Shame’ to the electro funk pop singles High Horse, presented here in it’s single version, and Your Personal Touch a UK Top 40 hit from 1985.

This collection is interesting as it acts as an excellent guide to the changing sounds of the times and how disco divas transformed themselves to dance queens, incorporating harder ever more synthetic beats and sounds into their music as the years went by. While Evelyn was equally capable of handling the emotional ballads and heart breaking soul slow jams, she is and always has been known for her booty shaking hits like Love Come Down and Shame.

The majority of the singles collected for this compilation play to this image and make this an absolute must for even the most casual of fans, and will provide an excellent introduction to an often overlooked legend of soul and dance. Evelyn was barley a teenager when she was discovered singing while doing a cleaning job with her mother. In 1977 she released Shame which became a big crossover hit in the US making a big impact on the dance, R&B, and the Billboard Hot 100, where it made #9, and her Gold-selling debut album, Smooth Talk, made the Top 20, which also included the smash hit, I Don’t Know If It’s Right, a Gold selling single in 1978.

Music Box followed in 1979 and while it was less of hit, it was by no means a sophomore slump, peaking at #35, selling enough copies to earn Evelyn yet another Gold disc. 1981’s single I’m In Love, from the album of the same name, also clicked with pop fans on both side of the Atlantic where the strong single made the Top 40, and the album followed suit into the Top 40 of the Billboard Top 200 albums.

However, it was 1982 that proved to be Evelyn’s biggest year of all. Helped by the smash hit single Love Come Down she stormed the album charts with her album Get Loose, which peaked at #5, and achieved Gold status. The album saw her sound move further away from the old fashioned disco and soul sound, and move toward a poppier and dance orientated groove. The 12” version is showcased in all its glory on this compilation, and it sounds every bit as good as ever! While the album didn’t produce any more major hits, Bet’cha She Don’t Love You is pretty cool too; it has a slower groove and takes a little longer to click. Get Loose was the final single, and follows the synth-driven funk of the previous singles, it made the UK Top 40. Love Come Down was a Top 10 hit in the UK and sold well over 200,000 copies.

The mid 80’s were pretty good to Evelyn as she rode out her contract with RCA, she had two albums in the Top 40 between 1984 and 1985. The single lead single, Just for the Night, from the album So Romantic is a lovely mid-tempo synth-pop gem co-written by Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard. Another cut Give Me One Reason, a rousing and highly successful attempt to appeal to the A/C audience, was another single, but didn’t make much of an impact.

The collection ends with two singles from her 1985 LP A Long Time Coming, the frenetic High Horse (Remix), and Your Personal Touch, which was her final UK Top 40 entry. It’s a great one too, very poppy, and highly danceable.

Evelyn signed to EMI Records for the LP, Flirt, in 1986, which failed to arouse record buyers anywhere, though she looked absolutely smokin’! Evelyn has released albums sporadically since but hasn’t really been a major chart mover and shaker. In 2008 she released her first album in 12 years, Open Book, featuring the Billboard Dance/Club Play hit, The Dance, thanks to a storming remix by the Soulseekerz which sampled Love Come Down, which is included on the CD.

While she was never a major pop star, Evelyn was a big star of the R&B and dance scene throughout the 80’s. Her rich, deep, and soulful vocals make her songs instantly recognisable. While this compilation is pretty hot, there are a couple of omissions, notably 1985’s Give It Up, a single for Private I records from the movie Fright Night, and Out Of Control a moderate Top 20 US dance hit from 1983. It’s still an excellent set. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live last summer and she raised the roof with amazing renditions of all her hits as well as The Dance!
Video - Bet'cha She Don't Love You (Soul Train performance)

1 comment:

Mike said...

Evelyn is fucking brilliant! I've been slowly tracking down her albums for years and she never fails to inspire me with her fabulousness. I just wish her material was easier to come by. Congrats on another stunning post!!!