Who Are You Trying to Fool
The Smile on Your Face
In a perfect world, Ann Bridgeforth would've been a major player in the story of Detroit soul and perhaps in the story of soul music itself. Unfortunately, like so many mysterious figures in this immense story, she did not. Her entire released output consisted of one side of a Ric-Tic single, the funky "Going Down a One-Way Street" (see this Soulful Detroit article about Ann and her one record). Bridgeforth recorded a handful of sides for Dave Hamilton in the mid-to-late '60s, and her marvelous voice and Hamilton's atmospheric backings made for phenomenal recordings. Any hope for any releases beyond the Ric-Tic single vanished when she, along with Hamilton associate Rony Darrell, moved to Canada to make a go of building a performing career there. With no artist to promote the records, Hamilton shelved the remaining material.
Fortunately, what could have been an open-and-shut story did not end there. An acetate of "What Should I Do" managed to wind up in Northern Soul circles in the UK (covered up as "When He's Not Around" by "Rose Valentine") and made a lot of noise in that scene. Some time later, Ace began its relationship with Dave Hamilton and learned the truth of that recording (which they promptly issued as a Town single, along with today's selection "Who Are You Trying to Fool"), and the revelation that there was unreleased material gave Ann her belated shot at renown.
All three of today's selections came from the first two volumes of the Kent Dave Hamilton's Detroit Dancers series. "Who Are You Trying To Fool" is a top-notch Northern Soul cut, featuring some nice sax work and Ann's strong singing. When reissued with "What Should I Do" it became a Northern Soul anthem in its own right, and for good reason. "Deep Shadows" is a slower number that is full of atmosphere. Ann's vocals are framed nicely by the background singers and the hushed accompaniment. My favorite of the lot, however, is "The Smile on Your Face." This recording seems to be the most unfinished of the three, with its over-recorded vibes and snare brushwork, but the sweet mid-tempo number features gorgeous lyrics and a "whisper to a scream" build-up by Ann. This beautiful song was accidentally included on Dave Hamilton's Detroit Dancers, Volume 3 but I'm sticking with the version on the second volume here, as the tune comes to a close and Ann is caught on tape saying, "That got me going!" It got me going, too, Ann! Bravo!
The reissue of all of this excellent material resulted in Ann getting a gig in the UK to perform for her appreciative Northern Soul fans. Although she was initially overwhelmed by the reception she received (after all, she had long been out of the music business and, like many artists who find themselves lionized by the Northern Soul crowd, she was totally unaware that her recordings had an audience overseas), all reports state that Ann gave a wonderful performance. Unfortunately, Bridgeforth would pass away in 2003, but fortunately she had the opportunity to know how enriched soul fans are to have her recordings around after so many years.