Verdelle Smith - Exquisite - Alone (In My Room) and more
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A quote from the original liner notes says that, "(Alone) In My Room is the first of many emotion packed albums destined to catapult exquisite Verdelle Smith to the heights of entertainment fame and distinction." Perhaps that did not come true but the key word here is "exquisite". That is why we chose it for the title of this collection. Another key word comes from the name of one of the tracks on the original album, "Sexy". Aside from the exquisiteness, there is something else that comes through in each song that Verdelle sings whether it is heart breaking, uplifting or anywhere in between and that is sexiness. Not the va-va-voom kind of sexiness that is usually associated with the word "sexy" but a sensuality that has an appeal beyond the domain of the physical. Though one might be tempted to compare Verdelle Smith's voice to a sort of hybrid combination of part Dusty, part Dionne and part Mary Wells with bits of Ketty Lester and Mitty Collier tossed in, these comparisons might be better discouraged. Verdelle Smith has a sound all her own. She possesses heightened sensitivity that makes one feel as though they might disappear if one were touched too aggressively after listening to her.

Without really knowing what went on in the real world when the exemplary songwriting/producing team of Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss met up with Verdelle Smith one can perhaps project, the hope was that Miss Smith would become to Vance and Pockriss what Dionne Warwick(e) had become to Bacharach and David. The loss is ours that this did not chance to happen. This collection begins with the entire original Capitol album "(Alone) In My Room" and is followed by what we have ascertained to be all of Verdelle's other recordings.

The album is a mix of contemporary songs co-authored by Vance and Pockriss and standards, most of which are imaginatively reinvented, particularly the bossa nova section of "Autumn Leaves" and the cha-cha version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore". Also covered is Vance and Pockriss' own standard, "Catch A Falling Star". The blow-you-a-kiss-in-the-wind version of "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" is an enchanting and unexpected surprise akin to something Eartha Kitt might have done. "A Piece Of The Sky" and "Walk Tall" are perhaps the most top 40-esque songs. The former has an "Uptown"/"Down In The Boondocks" sort of vibe though the message of the song has environmental rather than socioeconomic love concerns. It was on the flip side of Verdelle's second single, "Tar And Cement" which was not on the album. The mod beat "Walk Tall" (the flip side of "Alone (In My Room)") was brilliantly covered by the duo 2 of Clubs becoming their only Hot 100 single and was also covered by Sandra Dee in the film "Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding". And no, we're not kidding.

The single of "Juanito/Life Goes On" had been released on Columbia in 1965. There was an additional Columbia promo with "Juanito" on both sides that was released in April of 1966, shortly after the single of "(Alone) In My Room" (on Capitol) had reached #62 on Billboard's Hot 100. This re-release was obviously Columbia's attempt to cash in on Verdelle's rising star but it wouldn't pay off.

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The next Capitol single, "Tar And Cement" had been an Italian song, "Il Ragazzo Della Via Gluck". After Vance and Pockriss did their magic on it by creating an English language version, it would become Verdelle's biggest hit. The song is all about finding loneliness and disillusionment in the big city and returning to home and nature only to find it paved over. Perhaps Joni Mitchell's humorous take on the same subject "Big Yellow Taxi" was inspired by the sentiment in this song - all of which continues to come to pass. The song reached #38 on Billboard's Hot 100 and was a #1 smash in Australia and a hit in many other countries around the world though, oddly enough, not in England. These records came out back in the day when if a single was making waves, an album was quickly packaged and released so frequently, the A side of a follow up single was not on the album which probably explains the absence of "Tar And Cement" from the album.

Subsequent singles failed to garner interest. Fans of the big, splashy 60's ballads will thrill to the sprawling, Dusty Springfield You Don't Have To Say You Love Me-esque "I Don't Need Anything" (which was ultimately a minor UK chart single for Sandie Shaw). You will feel the Bacharach-ish charm through the mildly sarcastic "If You Can't Say Anything Nice (Don't Say Nothin' At All)" but in those days, sarcasm wasn't an attitude in many hit pop songs outside records by the Rolling Stones. The festivities continue with 1967's moody "Carnaby's Gone Away" which was produced in a left turn from Tell It To The Rain/Bob Crewe sort of style and is fabulous, if not a hit song. The flip side, "Sittin' and Waitin'" is a cut above slice of blues. Though solid, interesting and good songs, these singles sides fall more into an album cut category rather than a hit single one. It's hard to imagine why hit tunesmiths Vance and Pockriss could not spin more gold for Verdelle.

The final single, There's So Much Love All Around Me/Baby, Baby was also released in 1967. This one was a Vance - Holtzman production and co-written by Paul Vance and Gary Illingworth. One wonders if the absence of Lee Pockriss' involvement on this record was due to a falling out over how to promote Miss Smith or if he was just on vacation. One side, "Baby, Baby" is a less than stellar co-composition of hit writers Tommy James (of Tommy James and the Shondells) and Ritchie Cordell and sounds as if they were trying to remold Verdelle into a more standard sounding R&B singer. While "There's So Much Love All Around Me" also seems to be attempting this approach, not only is it a better song, but the quality that exists in all of Verdelle's other recordings slips through so we are left believing that the goddess has remained virtually unsullied. Does anyone know why Lee Pockriss' name is absent from the final single? Does anyone know what happened to Verdelle Smith?

Here is the final quote from the original liner notes that will ring true no matter how old these recordings become, "…here it is, an inviting collection of golden oldies and contemporary hits, all made intriguingly current by the dynamically sensitive voice of Miss Verdelle Smith."

- Sun PK


1. (Alone) In My Room (Prieto - Vance - Pockriss)
2. You Only See Her (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
3. Oh, How Much I Love You (Dio, Come Ti Amo!) (Modugno - Vance - Pockriss)
4. Autumn Leaves (Kosma - Prevert - Mercer)
5. Over The Rainbow (Harold Arlen - E. Y. Harburg)
6. Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Kahn - Erdman - Russo - Fiorito)
7. A Piece Of The Sky (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
8. Catch A Falling Star (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
9. Don't Get Around Much Anymore ÓDuke Ellington - Bob Russell)
10. Sexy (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
11. Walk Tall (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
12. Life Goes On
(Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
13. Juanito (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
14. Tar And Cement (Il Ragazzo Della Via Gluck) (Vance - Pockriss - Beretta - Del Prete - Celentano)
15. If You Can't Say Anything Nice (Don't Say Nothin' At All) (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
16. I Don't Need Anything (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
17. Sittin' And Waitin' (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
18. Carnaby's Gone Away (Paul Vance - Lee Pockriss)
19. Baby, Baby (Richard Cordell - Tommy James)
20. There's So Much Love All Around Me(Paul Vance - Gary Illingworth)

1 - 11 are from the Capitol LP "(Alone) In My Room" released in 1966
12 is a 1965 Columbia single B side
13 originally released on Columbia in 1965 and re-released in 1966
14, 15 & 16 are from Capitol singles released in 1966
17, 18, 19 & 20 are from 1967 Capitol singles
1 - 18 Produced by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss
19 & 20 A Vance - Holtzman Production

 
 
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