Evelyn "Champagne" King - The Complete RCA Hits and More! (2016)

Evelyn "Champagne" King
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Evelyn "Champagne" King - The Complete RCA Hits and More!

Many vocalists make their mark on various time periods of music, with a select few transporting their talents through multiple eras and stylistic shifts to reach listeners from all walks of life. The late-1970s burgeoning of disco infused with a funky bottom and soulful arrangements produced more than its share of merited singers capable of going beyond merely servicing a melody in club-friendly fashion. While some of those figures have unjustifiably been obscured over the decades, Evelyn “Champagne” King is one whose singular flair has remained ingrained in the hearts of fans even in the absence of new product in the marketplace.

Evelyn "Champagne" King - The Complete RCA Hits and More!

Many vocalists make their mark on various time periods of music, with a select few transporting their talents through multiple eras and stylistic shifts to reach listeners from all walks of life. The late-1970s burgeoning of disco infused with a funky bottom and soulful arrangements produced more than its share of merited singers capable of going beyond merely servicing a melody in club-friendly fashion. While some of those figures have unjustifiably been obscured over the decades, Evelyn “Champagne” King is one whose singular flair has remained ingrained in the hearts of fans even in the absence of new product in the marketplace.

From the get-go, King emitted a distinguished combination of strength and sophistication in her delivery of dance floor nuggets and romantic ballads. With tone and phrasing that belied her 16 years, she imbued the immortal “Shame” and “I Don’t Know If It’s Right” with a gutsy edge and cool knowing that roused audiences of many ages, races, and cultures to both boogie and listen. That special ability is displayed consistently on Real Gone Music’s new two-disc compilation of her ‘70s and ‘80s work, The Complete RCA Hits and More. The unedited disco mixes of the aforementioned gems kick off the set, which is comprised of 26 tracks spanning eight albums and several rarities.

Certainly the most comprehensive U.S.-released collection of King’s work to date, The Complete RCA Hits boasts 17 original, unedited 12” versions of her highest charters and fan favorites. Those held captive by the production of Morrie Brown, Kashif, and Paul Lawrence Jones will delight in the full versions of “Love Come Down,” “I’m in Love,” and “Get Loose,” while enthusiasts of her electro-charged material from the mid-‘80s will revel in the long mixes of the Jimmy Douglass-produced “Out of Control” and the obscure, rock-tinged soundtrack entry, “Give It Up” (co-penned by Bobby Caldwell). In each of these contexts, King injects a mixture of zest and fullness that elevates the engaging arrangements to bursting heights. This is equally true on the frequently overlooked 1980 jewel, “Let’s Get Funky Tonight,” a sizzling joint co-penned by King which delivers an impartible cross-section of funk, rock, soul, and jazz flavorings.

On the slower side, King’s 1981 duet with Kashif, “Don’t Hide Our Love,” serves as a reminder of the well-rounded musical vocabulary that she possesses. Recorded prior to Kashif’s own albums as a solo artist, the yearning number finds him passionately complementing King’s performance with an assured soulfulness. Meanwhile, the plaintive refrain of “Till Midnight” stands out as one of her most underrated records, meshing an almost lullaby-like hook with an expertly subtle groove courtesy of David “Hawk” Wolinski. Furthermore, the serene midtempo swing of “The Other Side of Love” (an album cut included here in a rare extended mix) is a nice showcase of her faculty for balancing low-key vocal conviction with impassioned enthusiasm.

As unflinchingly soulful as King is in an R&B or disco context, so does she maintain that quality in a pop-oriented soundscape. On the guitar-driven “I’m So Romantic” (produced by The System), she is at once coy and dynamic in her reading of the lovesick lyrics. Similarly, she evokes the shyness of Andre Cymone’s “Teenager” with an edge of experience. Then, there’s the sultry and kinetic “Just for the Night,” a flawless fusion of rock and soul on which both her lead and background vocals dazzle with fervor.

Additional noteworthy moments sometimes not covered on King compilations appear on The Complete RCA Hits: “Dancin’, Dancin’, Dancin’,” a Teddy Pendergrass-penned uptempo which was, in fact, her first single release (before “Shame”); and a vibrant disco adaptation of “Aquarius”/“Let the Sun Shine In,” also featuring Vicki Sue Robinson, Revelation, and the New York Community Choir.

Fans looking for an encapsulation of all the essentials from King’s peak commercial period, as well as devotees looking to add a few hard-to-find cuts and remixes to their collections, will be satiated with the comprehensiveness and quality of The Complete RCA Hits and More. David Nathan’s historical essay in the accompanying booklet is a sound companion to the wealth of impactful music on the CD’s, making for an all-around impressive package of a timeless nature. Highly recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 
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