The Dream Babes series has been one of the more esoteric compilation series of girl group music, often contesting how girl group music itself is defined.
Sometimes this method works and sometimes it doesn't - wholly dependent upon how far you will bend your definition and how impressive the artist and song selection.
I had high hopes for Stonefree And Sassy, Dream Babes Volume 6, and while it didn't impress me like I expected it to, I still came away with a slew of favorites and some girl singers I am curious about who either have compilations of their own out, or will have. Included herein are obscure late 60s cuts by Marilyn Powell, Clodagh Rodgers, Barbara Ruskin, Liz Christian, Paula Parfitt, Life & Soul, Cinnamon, Joyce Bond, Sandra Bryant, Sue Lynne, Doris La Belle, Jeannie Dee, The She Trinity, Samantha Jones and Val McKenna & Lesley Duncan.
I think the title is what threw me. I was expected more emphasis on the psychedelic, but Stonefree And Sassy is more about the rock and the soul, with only a bit of psych here and there.
The collection starts with Something To Hold On To by Marilyn Powell, which was the b-side to an English language cover of Sheila's Adios Amour (retitled Kiss Me Again). It's a nice enough track, and since I'm a Sheila fan, I'm curious to hear the a-side someday.
I've always thought of Clodagh Rodgers as an early 60s singer, but here we're treated to a Reparata styled Come Back And Shake Me (a tune written by Kenny Young, who also wrote Reparata and the Delron's Captain of My Ship), a fine highlight. It reminds me of Jackie Lee's late 60s work.
Both Pawnbroker Pawnbroker by Barbara Ruskin and Climb That Tree by The She Trinity were guitar fuzzed out psych tracks released on the President label. These two tracks were the sound I was expecting to hear on this compilation, thus these were two of my favorites.
Barbara Ruskin wrote Hold Me Just a Little While Longer for The Foundation and Love Can Be The Sweetest Thing for Valerie Mitchell (who in turn wrote Go Go Away from Me for Janie Jones, which can be heard on Dream Babes, Vol. 4: Go Girl).
The vocal harmonies by The She Trinity (a Canadian group transplanted to the UK and augmented by some Brits) on Climb That Tree reminded me of The Cake, which was a nice surprise, while the music is heavy rock, a route The Cake only dabbled in slightly. I wish there were more tracks like these. Climb That Tree was a b-side to a cover of the theme song from Hair.
Pawnbroker Pawnbroker by Barbara Ruskin combines a flute melody with a fuzzed guitar for a cool fuzzy 60s workout.
Cinnamon's You Won't See Me Leaving (also covered by The Triplets) and Jeannie Dee's Come Into My Arms (also covered by The Vogues and Pat Boone, and in French as Jusqu'au Prochain Soleil by Jennifer) were both written by Barbara Ruskin. You Won't See Me Leaving has a galloping rhythm, a Motown sound, and a Petula Clark type vocal, very nice. Come Into My Arms has a fuller wall of sound ballad sound.
For more from Barbara Ruskin and the President label, there's a full cd of her work called A Little Of This: The Barbara Ruskin Songbook.
Something's Coming Along, Hey Girl (No Need To Push), You've Gotta Tell Me, and (Your Mama Said) Roll On were all recorded by The Ministry of Sound a group which featured John Carter (from Ivy League and Flowerpot Men) and Val McKenna, working with the likes of Lesley Duncan and Robin Shaw.
Something's Coming Along is a funky soulful sweet tune, while Hey Girl (No Need To Push) has a rawer male/female duet style. (Your Mama Said) Roll On has a harder rock sound and is superfine. Hey Girl (No Need To Push), You've Gotta Tell Me, and (Your Mama Said) Roll On were all previously reissued. Other Val McKenna tracks that didn't work as well for me were House For Sale and I'll Be Satisfied. She's all over this compilation and apparently RPM plans to release a full Ministry of Sound disc.
Samantha Jones offers up two Mark Wirtz productions - Today Without You being her highlight with a gummy groove which is like her work on the Magpie and Backcomb N' Beat compilations. Do I Still Figure In Your Life is a slower groover, but still has a relaxed soulful Dusty Springfield feel. She has an RPM disc called Surrounded By a Ray of Sunshine: The UA Recordings which collects her solo work with producers/arrangers Charles Blackwell, Mark Wirtz, Gerry Granahan, and Bill Justis. These two tracks are included on her second collection called Sam Leads the Way (also on RPM).
Bye Bye Baby by Life & Soul sounds like an early Abba influenced track that features Billy Ocean when he was known as Les Charles.