Roberta Flack – First Take (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (1969/2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 02:13:14 minutes | 4,32 GB | Genre: Jazz, Soul
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front cover | © Rhino Atlantic
Earlier this year, Roberta Flack joined an illustrious circle of honorees as a 2020 recipient of the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Now the 1969 debut album that set the singer-pianist’s 50-year professional career in motion — First Take — is available again for a limited time.
First Take: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, released today (July 24, Rhino), comes packaged as a two-CD, one LP remastered set. The vinyl LP replicates the original Atlantic Records eight-track album — produced by Joel Dorn — which features “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
Flack’s first No. 1 pop and adult contemporary single topped those charts after Clint Eastwood tapped the song to appear in his 1971 film directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. The song later won Flack the first of two consecutive Grammy Awards for Record of the Year. She won the category again the following year for “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” whose imaginative cover by the Fugees became a huge hit for the hip-hop group in 1996.
The first of the deluxe edition’s two CDs sports the original eight tracks plus three bonus cuts: single edits of the aforementioned hit and the Les McCann/Eddie Harris jazz classic “Compared to What” plus the song “Trade Winds.” However, the 12 previously unreleased demo recordings comprising the second CD further foretell the success to come.
Opening with a live version of Flack performing the Frank Sinatra standard “All the Way,” the CD spotlights a dauntless newcomer switching effortlessly as well between folk (“Frankie and Johnny“), jazz (“Afro Blue”), R&B (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and pop (“To Sir With Love”).
Roberta Flack’s debut album, titled First Take in true underachiever fashion, introduced a singer who’d assimilated the powerful interpretive talents of Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, the earthy power of Aretha Franklin, and the crystal purity and emotional resonance of folksingers like Judy Collins. Indeed, the album often sounded more like vocal jazz or folk than soul, beginning with the credits: a core quartet of Flack on piano, John Pizzarelli on guitar, Ron Carter on bass, and Ray Lucas on drums, as fine a lineup as any pop singer could hope to recruit. With only one exception — the bluesy, grooving opener “Compared to What,” during which Flack proves her chops as a soul belter — she concentrates on readings of soft, meditative material. A pair of folk covers, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” are heart-wrenching standouts; the first even became a surprise hit two years later, when its appearance in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me pushed it to the top of the pop charts and earned Flack her first Grammy award for Record of the Year. Her arrangement of the traditional “I Told Jesus” has a simmering power, while “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” summons a stately sense of melancholy. Flack also included two songs from her college friend and future duet partner, Donny Hathaway, including a tender examination of the classic May-December romance titled “Our Ages or Our Hearts.” The string arrangements of William Fischer wisely keep to the background, lending an added emotional weight to all of Flack’s pronouncements. No soul artist had ever recorded an album like this, making First Take one of the most fascinating soul debuts of the era. – John Bush
1. Roberta Flack – Compared to What (2020 Remaster)
2. Roberta Flack – Angelitos Negros (2020 Remaster)
3. Roberta Flack – Our Ages or Our Hearts (2020 Remaster)
4. Roberta Flack – I Told Jesus (2020 Remaster)
5. Roberta Flack – Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye (2020 Remaster)
6. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (2020 Remaster)
7. Roberta Flack – Tryin’ Times (2020 Remaster)
8. Roberta Flack – Ballad of the Sad Young Men (2020 Remaster)
9. Roberta Flack – Compared to What (Single Edit; 2020 Remaster)
10. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Single Edit) (2020 Remaster)
11. Roberta Flack – Trade Winds (2020 Remaster)
12. Roberta Flack – All the Way (Live; 2020 Remaster) (24/44.1 kHz)
13. Roberta Flack – This Could Be the Start of Something
14. Roberta Flack – Groove Me
15. Roberta Flack – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
16. Roberta Flack – Hush-A-Bye
17. Roberta Flack – Afro Blue
18. Roberta Flack – It’s Way Past Suppertime
19. Roberta Flack – Frankie and Johnny
20. Roberta Flack – On the Street Where You Live
21. Roberta Flack – The House Song
22. Roberta Flack – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
23. Roberta Flack – The Song Is Love
24. Roberta Flack – To Sir With Love