February 2008

Betty Harris - Intuition
Evidence Music ECD 26135-2
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

Betty Harris had one hit in 1963 with a simmering version of "Cry to Me," which she took at a slower pace than Solomon Burke had just one year earlier. Harris went on to make a series of great records that never brought her the fame she deserved. She turned her back on music in 1970 to take business classes and raise a family. Harris wasn’t completely forgotten, however. "Cry to Me" showed up on soul compilations, such as Rhino’s great Soul Shots series, and British soul fans, bless them, included her in their pantheon of deep soul greats.

When Harris heard that people remembered her, she decided to start singing professionally again. Jon Tiven, whose production credits include Little Milton’s final release, Think of Me, took the helm for Ms. Harris’s first recording in 38 years. Intuition opens with a fierce rocker, "Is It Hot in Here?" Harris grabs the song and shakes it hard. Her voice is gritty, but it’s still supple and she sings confidently. Freddie Scott, another singer who never got his due, joins her on "Since You Brought Your Sweet Love" and together they deliver a master class in soul singing.

Tiven wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes on Intuition, and it’s to Harris’s credit that she’s able to sell even the songs that don’t quite get off the ground. Tiven should have taken the spare recordings of the classic soul era as a guide and given Harris more space -- there’s often too much going on, most of it extraneous guitar soloing. In the end, Harris makes Intuition work, but next time around Tiven should give her a few more good songs and get out of her way.