My Music Is Hot: Lalomie Washburn exuded confidence with the very title of her 1977 LP debut. With a husky voice entrenched in the spirit of the blues and a keen sense of herself as both a singer and songwriter, she seemed a prime candidate for soul stardom. While solo fame eluded Washburn, she left behind a great legacy of music that’s gone overlooked for far too long. Happily, Cherry Red’s Robinsongs label has just resuscitated My Music Is Hot for its first-ever CD version. This edition is hotter than ever, with a whopping eight bonus tracks added to the original LP’s seven songs.
Lalomie Washburn had worked her way up the showbiz ladder, opening for saxophonist Ernie Fields, Jr. and sharing a bill with artists like Ike and Tina Turner in the 1960s before fronting the soul-funk band High Voltage. After just one 1972 Columbia Records LP, however, the band split, and founding members Bobby Watson and Tony Maiden moved to join Rufus. They didn’t forget Lalomie, though, and two of her songs (“I’m a Woman” and “Your Smile”) were featured on the band’s 1974 smash Rufusized. She continued to place songs throughout the decade with Rufus (including the R&B chart-topper “At Midnight,” co-authored with Maiden) and with Buddy Miles, Aretha Franklin, and the solo Chaka Khan. In 1975, she led Love Craft (an offshoot of psychedelic band HP Lovecraft), but like High Voltage, the group fizzled out after just one LP. The stage was set for Lalomie’s solo debut. My Music Is Hot arrived in 1977 on Parachute Records, an imprint of the white-hot Casablanca label founded by veteran record man Russ Regan. Sye Mitchell produced and engineered the LP but its style is all Lalomie. With pure disco best left to the parent label, My Music Is Hot fused funk, soul, and pop into an appealing and dancefloor-friendly whole.
Washburn had a hand in writing every one of the tracks on My Music Is Hot, lending the album strength and consistency as well as a liberated spirit. The tone was set by the enthralling, upbeat opener “Give Me Love with the Music.” Without sacrificing the artist’s grit or originality, veteran arranger Gene Page (The Righteous Brothers, Barry White, Bobby Darin) added a note of sophistication to the basic melody as he enveloped the funky rouser in insinuating brass and subtle woodwinds. The band got a workout, too – and what a band it was, featuring such A-list personnel as guitarists “Wah Wah” Watson, Lee Ritenour, and Michael Sembello; keyboardists Greg Phillinganes, Lee Sonny Burke, and Joe Sample; percussionists Paulinho da Costa and The Funk Brothers’ Jack Ashford; bassist Henry Davis; and drummers Raymond Pounds and Ed Greene. The Waters family added their own vocal magic to the backgrounds.
Throughout My Music Is Hot, Washburn made it clear that she was an assertive woman in control of her sexuality. (The provocative photos adorning the original album artwork, reprinted here, make that clear, as well.) She’s vibrant on the explicit “Double Funkin'” (“It ain’t how you put it in/It’s how it fits,” goes one sample admonition) as well as on “Freaky Strangeness,” an ode to the joys of casual flings. In his beautifully written liner notes, collection compiler Charles Donovan quotes Lalomie’s friend and collaborator, guitarist Frank Capek: “Lalomie was a freak! Back when that was a good thing!”
An irresistible Latin groove that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Fania record earns the title track “My Love Is Hot” its subtitle of “Caliente.” Indeed, it sizzles. While My Music Is Hot doesn’t let up for any ballads, the beats are varied. “Man Power (Can You Do It)” is one of the most gutsy, rhythmic tracks on the album – prompted, Donovan reveals, by a request from Mercury Records executive Irwin Steinberg that Lalomie “write a song giving credit to men for all their accomplishments.” (!) She obliged by using Steinberg’s appeal as a mere starting point, first turning the tables to admonish the man to “make this song a hit” and then going back to the very beginning – of time! – all before the song’s 5+ minutes were out. There’s no doubt, despite the song’s title, who had the power all along.
“Shade of Blue,” like “Give Me Love with the Music,” finds Gene Page utilizing a lightly trilling disco flute, even as he ups the excitement quotient with a fiery background arrangement and cinematic use of horns. “What’s Love,” the only song written by Lalomie with no co-writers, closed out the original LP. The lithe, cool number boasts deliciously dry vocals and a forward-thinking use of synths from arranger Page, making for another self-assured rumination on lust and romance.
If My Music Is Hot had one central flaw, it surely was its fleeting length. This spiffy reissue handily more than doubles the number of tracks. Best of the bonuses is the non-LP cut “Two Sides,” a gentle Scott E. Davis song recorded by the Carpenters on their 1977 A&M release Passage. Richard and Karen’s attractive rendition employed light country flourishes. With prominent, lush strings from Page, Washburn’s shimmering single showed a more relaxed, if equally soulful, side of the singer. It’s presented in both mono and stereo. “Two Sides” is joined by 7-inch single versions of “My Love Is Hot (Caliente),” “Double Funkin’,” “Give Me Love with the Music,” and the 12-inch extended version of “Man Power (Can You Do It).” A 1989 single reissue of “Man Power” included a distinctive Rough Mix of the track, which is also included here.
Lalomie continued to perform in the decades that followed My Music Is Hot, and also occasionally returned to solo recording. She passed away in September 2004. Charles Donovan has paid loving tribute to her in his essay which includes contributions from Washburn’s sisters Shirley and Thelma; recording artist and friend Maxayn Lewis (herself the subject of a recent, splendid anthology on Cherry Red); Bobby Watson and Frank Capek; producer Michael J. McEvoy; and Washburn’s daughter Elainea. The 16-page full-color booklet also includes credits and full discographical annotation. Simon Murphy has remastered at Another Planet Studios, with the album and most of the bonus material derived from pristine master tapes.
The bold, freaky strangeness of Lalomie Washburn’s My Music Is Hot is ripe for rediscovery. This exemplary expanded edition is available now from Cherry Red’s Robinsongs imprint.
- Give Me Love with the Music
- Double Funkin’
- My Love Is Hot (Caliente)
- Man Power (Can You Do It)
- Shade of Blue
- Freaky Strangeness
- What’s Love
- My Love Is Hot (Caliente Un Amour) (7″ Version 1)
- Man Power (Can You Do It) (Extended 12″ Version)
- Two Sides (Stereo)
- Double Funkin’ (7″ Version)
- Give Me Love with the Music (7″ Version)
- My Love Is Hot (Caliente Un Amour) (7″ Version 2)
- Man Power (Can You Do It) (Rough Mix)
- Two Sides (Mono)
Track 8 from Parachute single RR 508, 1977
Tracks 9 & 13 from Parachute single RRD 20508, 1977
Tracks 10 & 15 from Parachute single RR 513 DJ, 1978
Track 11 from Parachute single RR 503, 1977
Track 12 from Parachute single RR 513, 1978
Track 14 from Casablanca single 874 131-1, 1989