Bettye Swann had one of those voices that was made for rhythm & blues. Her recordings for the Money and Capital labels during the 1960’s and early 1970’s consistently charted and sold millions of copies. Her material for the two labels, including such hits as “Don’t Wait Too Long” and “Make Me Yours” have been reissued a number of times and are well worth seeking out.
During 1972 she signed with Atlantic. Her five years with the label produced six singles, only two of which charted, no albums, and a total of 23 tracks, many of which were never released. Real Gone Music has now collected her entire output for the label and released them under the appropriate title The Complete Atlantic Recordings.
While her time with Atlantic may not have been as successful as that with her previous labels, the music was more polished, her vocals were transcendent, and most of the tracks have a very modern feel to them.
She also took a number of chances while with the label. Her cover of the Merle Haggard tune “Today I Started Loving You Again” completely re-imagines the country song and became her biggest hit for the label. The flip side of the single was “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which was originally a blues classic for Etta Kames. She smooth’s out the vocal and moves the whole thing toward the mainstream.
“The Boy Next Door” is a product of its times. Recorded during early 1974, it would have fit the Shaft soundtrack well. It is an in-your-face piece of funk, complete with wah-wah guitar and strings.
She traveled the duet route with soul-singer Sam Dees on a re-make of the Billy Vera/Judy Clay hit “Storybook Children.” The produced an up-tempo variation of song that contained a lot more passion.
The most interesting track is her cover of the Elvis Hit “Suspicious Minds.” As a female singer, she completely changes the listening experience.
Bettye Swann would quickly disappear from the public consciousness and music world. Swann retired from the music industry in 1980. It was not until 2013 that she performed on stage again and it was only one performance at the Rare Soul Weekend in Cleethorpes, England.
The Complete Atlantic Recordings resurrects a little-known part of her legacy. It is a wonderful ride through many of the styles and sounds of soul music during the 1970s. She is an artist well worth remembering and her music is worth exploring.