Millie Jackson’s career began in the early 1970’s- never having had any professional training as a singer, she compensated by embellishing her songs with what we’d call rap sections. Hugely innovative for the time, nowadays Millie is mostly known for some questionable cover art on past albums; when what she should really be canonised for is the amazing Caught Up. First released in 1974, it’s got to be my favorite soul album. A tightly realised concept album, it’s a riff on a love triangle with half of the album sung from the perspective of a mistress of a married man, and the other half from the perspective of his wife.
What is amazing is what Millie does with what can often be a really tired narrative- she takes it some where that feels raw, and for want of a better way to put it, real. Millie has a super expressive soul voice, slightly husky, charming and conversational, especially in her spoken sections of songs, where I feel as though I’m listening to a friend in a dilemma. She has that kind of intimacy about her. My favorite track from the mistress’s point of view, ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right’ has a kind of bravado, a mistress who feels conflicted but at the same time unrepentant about her love, justifying her relationship and at the same time extolling the virtue of independence that one could have as she does. While in my pick from the Wife’s view ‘It’s All Over But The Shouting’, we hear the implications of the infidelity and the Wife’s state of mind, which moves from rage, pride and righteous anger, to tiredness and sadness. In other words, Millie runs us the full gamut of emotions in the complicated business of relationships. Backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the music is faultless and the musicians seem to trace and follow the vocal with a real intuitive bent, mirroring Millie- if she’s up, we get punchy horns, if tired, a slow groove. One more thing- the tracks below will cut off abruptly, this is because the album is recorded as a suite, not quite so suited to MP3 sized snippets I’m afraid.
Anyway, I can’t possibly say how much I love this album, so have a listen to the tracks below and grab it if you can. I’ve not seen a copy on vinyl around, and as far as I can tell it hasn’t been reissued. If you’re hankering after more Millie, I can also strongly recommend Still Caught Up, which continues the concept with more wonderful results!
(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right
It’s All Over But The Shouting