Lulu’s first album promised Something to Shout About, and indeed, throughout a career now spanning six decades, the Scottish pop singer has always delivered with her full-throated, soulful belt. In 1972, Lulu wrapped up her tenure at Atco Records – in which she reinvented herself in full southern soul mode – and signed to Wes Farrell’s RCA-distributed Chelsea label. At Chelsea, she released two albums: 1973’s Lulu and 1976’s Heaven and Earth and the Sky. Both of those LPs have just returned to CD on a single-disc two-fer from Edsel.
Wes Farrell (“Hang On Sloopy,” The Partridge Family) had produced one of Lulu’s final singles for Atco for his Coral Rock Productions, and so was well-acquainted with the singing star. Lulu joined an eclectic roster also including Wayne Newton, Johnny “Mr. Bass Man” Cymbal, Tommy Boyce a.k.a. Christopher Cloud, Boyce’s partner Bobby Hart, and the Thom Bell-produced soul outfit New York City. For her self-titled Chelsea debut, Farrell enlisted the crème de la crème of L.A. session players including Wrecking Crew veterans Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn, Don Peake, Louie Shelton, Max Bennett, and Gary Coleman, as well as Dean Parks, Tom Scott, Chuck Findley, Victor Feldman, Michael Omartian, Tom Hensley, and John Bahler. Producer Farrell crafted a potpourri of an album, with Lulu touching on all of her musical personas.
Lulu drew heavily upon both covers and songs from within Farrell’s enterprise. Lulu bowed to her European roots with the opening “Make Believe World,” an attractive ballad composed by U.K. tunesmith Tony Macaulay (“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” “Build Me Up Buttercup”). In a more uptempo vein, she offered breezy MOR takes on two songs from The Young Rascals. “Groovin'” wouldn’t have been out of place on a Partridge Family record, and “A Boy Like You” replaces the sleek rock groove of the original with a big, brassy production led by her gutsy lead. Lulu also tackled Alan O’Day’s oft-covered “Easy Evil” in an arrangement clearly inspired by Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” and invested Willie Nelson’s evergreen “Funny How Times Slip Away” with feeling in a lush, Nashville Sound-style rendition. Dan Penn and Chips Moman’s “Do Right Woman” harkened back to the deep soul sound of her Atco recordings.
The singer was in a funky vein on Tony Ritchie, Del Spence, and Miki Dallon’s “Hold On to What You’ve Got,” and from the Chelsea label roster, Austin Roberts supplied the carousel-esque waltz “I Wish.” Farrell co-wrote “Could It Be Forever,” also recorded by David Cassidy, with his longtime collaborator Danny Janssen, and gave it a soulful, gospel-flecked treatment here. “Help Me, Help You,” from the pen of Farrell, Janssen, Bobby Hart, and Austin Roberts, was recorded earlier by Wayne Newton, and likewise drew on a rootsy R&B framework in Lulu’s recording.
Lulu’s next album didn’t arrive until 1976, but she wasn’t idle during that period. Heaven and Earth and the Stars would incorporate four sides she recorded in the interim – two that would become among her most heralded recordings. These were David Bowie’s productions of his own “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Watch That Man.” Bowie and his frequent collaborator/guitarist Mick Ronson ushered Lulu in the studio and brought out her inner glam-rocker with their high-octane reinterpretations of songs originally released on Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World and Aladdin Sane. “The Man,” which became a top five hit for Lulu, reset the central riff on saxophone rather than guitar. Lulu’s fiery vocals fit right into the Bowie milieu, with his own background vocals featuring prominently. (Alas, further tracks recorded by Bowie and Lulu remain in the vaults.) Another illustrious collaborator was film maestro John Barry, who gifted Lulu with his and Don Black’s “The Man with the Golden Gun” from the 1974 James Bond film of the same name.
Singer-songwriter Kenny Nolan’s two-part “Take Your Mama for a Ride” also arrived on 45 RPM to precede Heaven and Earth and the Stars; the buoyantly uptempo admonition returned Lulu to the U.K. top forty after the success of “The Man Who Sold the World.” Nolan’s songbook was heavily tapped for Heaven and Earth and the Stars: a total of six songs including both sides of the single. Naturally, the Bowie and Barry tracks lent Heaven and Earth a grab-bag feel especially next to the straightforward pop of Nolan’s songs like “Boy Meets Girl” and “Mama’s Little Corner of the World.” The album was rounded out by the attractive, Don Costa-arranged title ballad, and a song written by Lulu and her brother Billy Lawrie, “Baby I Don’t Care.” The fine arrangement has a tinge of Lesley Duncan’s “Love Song,” and Lulu sings with great sensitivity.
Edsel’s reissue has been newly remastered by Phil Kinrade, and includes a 16-page color booklet with new liner notes by Alan Robinson. Lulu is currently wrapping up a rare North American tour, with European dates set in the fall! Lulu/Heaven and Earth and the Stars happily restores a key period of her recording career to CD, and is available now at the links below!
- Make Believe World
- Easy Evil
- I Wish
- A Boy Like You
- Hold On to What You’ve Got
- Could It Be Forever?
- Funny How Time Slips Away
- Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
- Help Me Help You
- Heaven and Earth and the Stars
- Boy Meets Girl
- Mama’s Little Corner of the World
- The Man with the Golden Gun (Main Title)
- Baby I Don’t Care
- Take Your Mama for a Ride (Pt. 1)
- Honey You Can’t Take It Back
- The Man Who Sold the World
- Watch That Man
- Old Fashioned Girl
- Take Your Mama for a Ride (Pt. 2)