Evie Sands - Take Me For a Little While
Miss Evie Sands
Music history, especially when you’re talking about lesser known artists is often a mire composed of facts, factoids, rumor and out and out falsehood. The fun – and hard – part is sorting out which is which. I’m always happy to learn something new, even if it (often) exposes my ignorance on a topic I should have known better. At my age, I like to think I’ve heard it all, but then someone like Evie Sands rises out of the dustbin of history (to which she has been unfortunately relegated) and smacks me in the face. Here’s how this particular story plays out. A few months ago, I was surfing the net, looking at a list of new reissues, and I happened upon a review of an LP called ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ by an artist named Evie Sands. In that review the writer mentioned that Sands had recorded the original version of ‘I Can’t Let Go’ which was a big hit for the Hollies. I was stunned! The Hollies version of ‘I Can’t Let Go’ has long been one of my favorite British Invasion records, featuring prominently on mix tapes for years (I even enjoyed Linda Ronstadt’s late 70’s version). How could it be that I never knew that the song was a cover? I mean, it’s entirely possible that that fact passed me by (god only knows what I was paying attention to) but one of my best friends is a certified tea drinking, ascot wearing anglophile record collector who probably owns everything the Hollies recorded in the 60’s. It’s also possible that he did in fact know the tune was a cover, and that we never discussed it. Either way, I was surprised that I hadn’t encountered Evie Sands’ music at some point in the last 20 years. So I started rooting around for information (and records) , and discovered that Evie Sands was not only one of the more compelling female vocalists of the 60’s but that she had seen her original recordings of songs passed over by more popular re-recordings three times in three years. Sands was born in Brooklyn, and recorded her first records while still a young teenager. In 1965 she hooked up with Leiber & Stoller’s Blue Cat label. Blue Cat, along with sister labels Tiger, Red Bird and Daisy was home to some of the great soul, R&B and girl group records of the mid-60’s. Artists as diverse as Alvin Robinson, Bessie Banks, the Dixie Cups, Shangri-Las, Ad Libs and the Jelly Beans recorded for the labels with songwriters and producers like Leiber & Stoller, Ellie Greenwich, and Chip Taylor & Al Gorgoni. It was with the last pair that Sands made her two 45s for Blue Cat. Today’s feature was her first recording for the label. ‘Take Me For A Little While’ should have been a huge hit. Featuring Sands expressive, soulful vocal and a marvelous arrangement by Gorgoni and Taylor, it’s a classic example of female ‘blue eyed soul’, putting Sands on the same level as singers like Timi Yuro and Dusty Springfield (who apparently held Sands in high esteem). Sands was - even in her mid-teens - a sophisticated singer with a distinctive style, transcending the ‘girl group’ sound. It speaks volumes that her records have been warmly embraced by Northern Soul fans in the UK. In the summer of 1965, it looked like Sands was going to have a hit on her hands, with ‘Take Me For a Little While’ breaking into the Top 20 (sometimes Top 10) in several West Coast markets, and skirting the Top 50 in the East. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous promoter had taken a test pressing of the record to Chess records in Chicago, where they had Jackie Ross (who had just had a Top 10 hit with ‘Selfish One’) record a cover, which was rushed into the market, effectively torpedoing Sands version. Later that same year, ‘I Can’t Let Go’ was released, and instead of coasting on the momentum that should have been there from ‘Take Me For A Little While’, the record (also excellent) was met with indifference until the Hollies cover hit the Top 40 in the spring of 1966. That year, Sands moved from Blue Cat to Cameo, where she continued to work with Taylor and Gorgoni. Her third 45 for that label ‘Angel of the Morning’ was a rising hit in June of 1967 when Cameo went belly-up. Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts covered the record and had a Top 10 hit in the spring of 1968. She moved to A&M records in 1969, where she would have her biggest hit with another Chip Taylor song, ‘Any Way That You Want Me’. Sands recorded for Columbia in the mid-70’s, but after that dropped out of sight for almost 20 years. She has since returned to recording and performing. As I said before, Sands’ 45s are popular with the Northern Soul fans (there weren’t all that many of them in the first place) and are fairly hard to come by, even at inflated prices (in the interest of complete disclosure, I got 'I Can't Let Go' on a late 70's UK comp of Red Bird/Blue Cat stuff). Her best Blue Cat sides are available on "Girl Group Sound: 25 All Time Greatest Hits From Red Bird Records", and the reissue of the ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ LP - is available over at Dusty Groove.