Linda Jones - Stay With Me Forever
Linda Jones' untimely death in 1972 at age 28 robbed soul music of one of its most unique voices. Her recordings for Atco, Blue Cat, Loma, Warner Brothers, Neptune and Turbo show a singer with the most expressive use of melisma (more on that later) of any of her peers and total soul energy that made her recordings, be they Northern Soul groovers like "Hit Me Like TNT" or "Last Minute Miracle" or ballads like "For Your Precious Love," exciting and interesting. She started songs the way most singers would end them - Bill Pollak wrote that her performance of "Not On The Outside" "[made] Tina Turner sound like Judy Collins" - and her latter recordings featured more of that intensity than her better-known recordings, like the 1967 Top 10 R&B hit "Hypnotized" and the follow-up "What've I Done (To Make You Mad)" (which appears on Episode #6 of the podcast). A biography of Jones can be found here, and I'll defer to it for more details about her life and career.
Today's selection was her first 45 for All Plantinum's Turbo label, and what a song it turned out to be. "Stay With Me Forever" in other hands would be a stately, soulful song that would be perfect for wedding singers to perform. Linda Jones, however, turned the song into an emotion-charged (and emotion-draining) tour-de-force. Her melisma is all over the map on this record - check out her reading of the line "summer, fall, winter and spring" at the end of the first verse and how she leads into the second - and by the time she rolls into the final chorus she's singing so strongly that the phrase "stay with me forever" sounds almost more desperate than romantic. My wife dislikes the song, finding it to be just too over-the-top. I think it's great. Listen and decide for yourself what you think.