Marie McDonald McLauchlin Lawrie, better known as Lulu, is best known in the United States for her series of late 1960’s pop hits including “To Sir With Love,” “Me The Peaceful Heart,” and “Best Of Both Worlds.”
Her career in her native England has now passed the half-century mark. She has been a successful recording artist, a television personality with her own series for seven years, and the first wife of Bee Gee Maurice Gibb.
One of the often overlooked periods of her career was her time with the Atco label during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Her pop hits had dried up and she decided to move in some new musical directions. Real Gone Music has just released all of her recorded material during this period of her career under the title The Atco Sessions 1969-72.
The release contains the 23 tracks that comprised her two albums for the label, New Routes and Melody Fair, plus a bonus disc of 16 tracks made up of single releases and previously unissued tracks from the sessions.
She decided to take her cue from Dusty Springfield’s soulful Dusty In Memphis. She cut the tracks for her first album New Routes with Hall Of Fame producers Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler, and Arif Mardin. The music from these sessions forms the simpler of the two albums. The focus is on her voice with just guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums as backing.
While she does not leave her pop routes completely behind as the two Gibb compositions, “Marley Purt Drive” and “In The Morning,” attest, it is on the soul and blues oriented material that she shines. Delaney Bramlett’s “Dirty Old Man,” with a bluesy guitar solo by Duane Allman and Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” are fine examples of the white female soul style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. “Mr Bojangles” is filled with emotion and “People In Love,” “Where’s Eddie,” and “Is That You Love” have a gritty nature to them.
Her second album for the label, Melody Fair, is anything but simple. Her soulful vocals are still present but they are enhanced by the backing vocals of the Sweet Inspirations, Eddie & David Brigati, plus Carol & Chuck Kilpatrick. The Dixie Flyers Rhythm Section is on hand as is the full complement of the Memphis Horns. It all adds up to a much fuller sound than the previous release.
The title track is a Bees Gees tune from their Odessa album, which she takes is a soulful direction. Also of note is the building ballad “Take Good Care Of Yourself,” the smooth single release “Hum A Song (From Your Heart),” and “Move To My Rhythm,” which is a gritty blues piece.
The 16 tracks on the second disc are a hit and miss affair. She continues the connection with the Bee Gees with their “Bury Me Down By The River” from Cucumber Castle, which she moves far from its pop origins. Likewise the Bee Gees “Back Home” is transformed in a rocking performance. While many of the other tracks are leftovers, they may have been recorded with a third album in mind.
Lulu is largely a forgotten figure in the United States but the Atco Sessions 1969-1972 present music that form some of the highlights of her long career.