Jean Carne - Don’t Let It Go To Your Head: The Anthology (2018)

Jean Carne
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Jean Carne’s immense musical talent has always been evident to anyone who comes into her orbit. And some pretty significant musical figures have been drawn to Carne and her five-octave vocal range throughout a career that has spanned more than five decades.

Carne’s collaborators include band leader and former husband Doug Carn, Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire, Duke Ellington, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelphia International Records, Grover Washington, Jr., Norman Connors, and Stevie Wonder, just to name a few. And after listening to Carne’s vocal talent that shines throughout the 31 track Don’t Let It Go To Your Head: The Anthology, the latest in the Soul Music Records release, it’s easy to see why.

Jean Carne’s immense musical talent has always been evident to anyone who comes into her orbit. And some pretty significant musical figures have been drawn to Carne and her five-octave vocal range throughout a career that has spanned more than five decades.

Carne’s collaborators include band leader and former husband Doug Carn, Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire, Duke Ellington, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelphia International Records, Grover Washington, Jr., Norman Connors, and Stevie Wonder, just to name a few. And after listening to Carne’s vocal talent that shines throughout the 31 track Don’t Let It Go To Your Head: The Anthology, the latest in the Soul Music Records release, it’s easy to see why.

The artist was born Sarah Jean Perkins, and it is in the home of her parents in Columbus, Ga. where her musical talents were first cultivated, first in the church choir, then as a multi-instrumentalist and eventually as an opera singer and actress in musical theater at Morris Brown College. She planned to continue her musical studies at Julliard, but that changed after meeting jazz pianist Carn and becoming the featured vocalist in his jazz fusion band.

The couple relocated to Los Angeles where they released three albums. Carn (she added the ‘e’ to her name later in the 1970s), served as backing vocalist with EW&F after White heard her rehearsing in the apartment complex where they all lived (I bet nobody complained about the noise there). 

By the 1970s, Carne would undergo a personal and career upheaval as her marriage and time in Doug Carn’s band came to an end. However, Carne was entering her career’s most commercially and creatively productive period. She began a long-term professional relationship with Connors that yielded on of soul music’s best loved ballads, and she toured with Ellington during the last year of the jazz legend’s life. Ellington worked with singers such as Bing Cosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney. That alone is a testament to Carne’s vocal talent.

Carne would eventually find herself working with Connors, Gamble, Huff, Dexter Wanzel and others at Philadelphia International Records, and much of the material found in this anthology covers that time. The tracks that received radio play on 1970s and 80s era R&B stations can all be found here: “Don’t Let it Go To Your Head,” “Valentine Love,” “Back for More,” “Free Love,” “And My Love Won’t Come Easy.”

Those tracks certainly played to Carne’s strength as a vocalist who made magic with the PIR formula of lush, jazz infused ballads and mid-tempo tracks as well as music that carried a message for the masses. However, Carne’s training in church, opera concert halls and musical theater meant that there was no genre that she could not handle. The anthology contains several cuts that reveal Carne as an artist who could sing disco and funk. Check her out on “Was That All It Was,” a track that fuses the lush strings of disco with the insistent on the one bass line of funk, or the smooth and classy disco of “Lonely Girl in a Cold World.”

The second disc features jazz work, particularly collaborations with legendary saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. on covers of “The Look of Love” and “Dindi.”

The depth of Carne’s talent and the timelessness of many of her recordings have earned her a loyal following in America and overseas, while songs such as “Valentine Love” and “Back For More” remain mainstays on quiet storm radio. While Carne did not achieve the level of stardom and notoriety of contemporaries such as Stephanie Mills, Natalie Cole or Deniece Williams, this anthology serves as a reminder just what a special artist she has been. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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