Friday, May 20, 2005

Jean Wells - With My Love and What You've Got (We Could Turn The World Around)

Jean Wells
For a long time I knew Jean Wells by reputation only, i.e. seeing her 45s turn up on playlists/want lists all over the place. The first record of hers I actually owned was 45 on Philly’s Quaker Town label, produced by none other that Hammond master Charlie Earland. Then a couple of years ago, a friend in New Orleans sent me a mix tape (it always comes back to New Orleans with me, doesn’t it??). In addition to a number of local rarities (including my first listen to Little Buck’s ‘Little Boy Blue’) he included a couple of non-NOLA faves of his. The best of them was ‘With My Love and What You’ve Got (We Could Turn The World Around)' by Jean Wells. I remember the first time I listened to the tape, and being absolutely blown away by this track. It has a storming beat that would surely set the Northern crowd a-drooling, a stunning vocal by Miss Jean and an arrangement to make the sleepiest bench warmer jump out of their seat and onto the dancefloor like a dervish. The record opens with the drums, horns and vibes in a fanfare, with Wells dropping in on a steady 4/4 beat (almost a march) for the verse. When she edges up to the chorus, with cries of ‘Let Me Love you!’, and then everything stops so she can shout out the title it makes for the one of my favorite moments on a soul 45. The fact that she and the band manage to kick things up to yet another level, taking this record from the level of just a solid soul disc to a certified floor filler is incredible. As she cries -
‘Don’t throw in the towel baby! Don’t give up yet! If you let me love you baby, I’ll make you forget! Reach out for me, take my hand! I’ll always be there baby!
-the energy level of the song keeps growing until it reaches a delirious level, where it’s not hard to imagine a room full of dancers positively igniting.
There's also the brilliant conceit of the chorus, wherin the love in question is so strong that it won't just satisfy Jean and her man, it'll turn the world around. Certainly sentiments like that were a lot more common in 1968 (I wish they were today) but that doesn't take away any of their poetic power in 2005. The disc (an early 1968 release) has one foot stylistically in earlier sounds and another in the slightly funkier vibe that was becoming more prominent. The arrangement is credited to Horace Ott (who played on a number of Don Covay 45s and arranged for Nina Simone), and the tune was written by Wells herself. I don’t know that Wells ever got the chance to record a full lp. She had eight 45s on Calla and several others on other labels. I haven’t heard them all, but I can’t imagine many of them approaching this level of perfection. Her Calla recordings were collected on an import-only CD called ‘Soul on Soul” on the Ace label. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of the 45. It’ll become a cornerstone of your collection.


Blogger Dominik said...

Ok, Larry, what's the going rate for this 45?

I knew I came across this 45 before. Then looked at the label again and I remembered that I had seen this 45 in one of your "soul/funk 45's" sections on I just checked it, it's #12. I remember listening to the always-too-short mp3 of 20 seconds and had the feeling I would better keep this 45 in mind (what I didn't).
And now I could even listen to the whole song.
Yes, it's a bit northern-ish, but who cares? I don't, at least in this case!

(You know her "What have I got to lose" 45 on Calla? Is it in a same/similar vein?)

5/20/2005 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Dominik said...

Ok, I had a listen to the aforementioned 45 now.
Voice is outstanding but for me the song is too much in a crossover style.

5/20/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger MackMcCoy said...


Another great one, and one I played on my show just a month ago. Jean Wells absolutely did record an album for Calla, although turning it up is quite a chore. I got outbid the two times I have seen it on eBay since I started looking, with it going around $75.
Here's the stats:
Calla C-1103: World! Here Comes Jean Wells! Jean Wells [1968]
Have A Little Mercy/Drown In My Own Tears/Broomstick Horse Cowboy/What Have I Got To Lose/After Loving You/Our Sweet Love Turned Bitter/Try Me And See/Sit Down And Cry/I Feel Good/Easy Away A Little Bit At A Time

As for the going rate of the "With My Love" 45, I have found most Jean Wells 45 turn up when digging for pretty good prices, I have 4 of them, and they were all $1-3 in stores...on the net, this title goes for more than some others, but I would think you could score it cheap, at least if people would stop hyping it on their blogs! (I joke, I joke)

5/23/2005 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Thanks for the info! My copy of 'With My Love..." was scored for something like $15USD (and worth every penny).
I have to find that LP now...

5/23/2005 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can get "Have a Little Mercy" - one of my personal favourite tunes of all time - on Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures.

5/31/2005 08:19:00 AM  

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