Music Legend Roberta Flack’s
“Remarkable” Debut LP, First Take,
Returns as a Deluxe 50th Anniversary
Remastered Release on 7/24
Set of Two CDs & Vinyl Album
Includes 12 Never-Before Released
1968 Demo Recordings for Atlantic Records
In Her Own Words – Roberta telling her First Take recording story: “I recorded 40 songs in about three hours. And out of those 40 songs, the songs that are on that album were from that session. So I did them in one take. It was like a 10 hour thing, overall, that this album came together.”
(NEW YORK) “First Takeis an opening statement of remarkable vision, authority and maturity,” says Uncut magazine of recent Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Roberta Flack’s debut album. Its impact echoed to yield the 1972 #1 Pop and Adult Contemporary hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” which won Flack her first Record of the Year Grammy out of a historic two such awards in a row.
For the first time ever, 12 tracks from Flack’s demo recordings, that preceded the landmark album, in the July 24 release ofFirst Take: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition will be released. These tracks will be included with the limited edition of 3000 copies, available for pre-order now at SoulMusic.com, who holds exclusive sales for one year before the Deluxe Edition will release to streaming in the summer of 2021.
The 2CD/1LP set’s bonus disc of never before heard tracks, opens with a live recording made by McCann at Mr. Henry’s of Flack performing “All The Way,” a song first made famous as a hit by Frank Sinatra in 1957. The rare and unreleased demos that follow reflect the stylistic breadth of Flack’s artistry that would be a hallmark of her distinguished musical career. They range from “The Street Where You Live” from the famed 1956 musical “My Fair Lady” to the oft-recorded folk landmark “Frankie and Johnny” to songs associated with jazz masters like “Afro Blue” (written by Mongo Santamaria and a staple of John Coltrane’s live performances) and “All Blues” (by Miles Davis) to Flack’s distinctive take on Lulu’s 1967 #1 hit “To Sir With Love” and her “spine-tingling version” (Uncut) of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (a Top 20 hit in 1967 for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell that hit the charts again in 1970 in a #1 single by Diana Ross).
All 13 songs on the bonus disc display Flack’s sure-handed feel for stamping her own inimitable imprint on whatever she sings. They offer a “pretty good picture of what it would have been like to wander into [the Washington, DC jazz club] Mr. Henry’s and listen to this unknown singer-pianist leading her trio” (Uncut). That’s what happened in 1968 when jazz legend Les McCann heard her sing and play piano and was inspired to help her win a deal with his label, Atlantic Records.
This year NPR Music published an in-depth feature on Flack, noting “starting with First Take, she established her own parameters and then continually transcended them. …The wide scope of Flack’s appeal, and her fearlessness about traveling beyond artistic borders, helped make her a major figure in 1970s popular culture.” Looking at her career as a whole, they also reflected, “Roberta Flack’s career demands a new way of thinking about the word ‘genius.’ Flack’s impact as a performer in the pop music space in the 1970s was sudden and massive. Over the next four decades, Flack built a legacy on a quiet belief in limitlessness.”
Included on the collection’s CD of First Take – produced by Joel Dorn with such noted players as guitarist John Pizzarelli and bassist Ron Carter – are the single versions of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Compared To What,” the jazz benchmark later made famous by McCann and Eddie Harris, plus the song “Trade Winds.” The vinyl LP replicates the album’s original 1969 release.
The set of remastered tracks includes liner notes by music aficionado David Nathan and two essays by pianist/vocalist McCann, who says of his discovery of Flack, “What I heard touched me on a level that I have never heard since…. When my time on this earth is over, in my heart, I want to carry Roberta’s voice back home so the Angels can hear.”
As Rolling Stone noted in its review of the album’s original release, “Flack immediately established herself as worthy to enter the pantheon with the two other truly great black female singers of the Sixties, Aretha and Nina Simone.”
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” became a hit nearly three years after it was issued on First Take after Clint Eastwood heard it on the radio and called Flack to ask her permission to use it in his debut as a film director, “Play Misty for Me.” It also won her the Song of the Year Grammy.
In addition to her being one of popular music’s preeminent singers and song interpreters, Flack is a dedicated philanthropist and humanitarian as well as educational activist (who was a junior high school music teacher prior to her recording career). The North Carolina native earned a full music scholarship to Howard University at 15 years old. She sang at the funeral of groundbreaking baseball star Jackie Robinson, and was the first African-American to purchase an apartment in New York City’s famed Dakota building, where she earned the friendship and admiration of her neighbors, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Her most recent new album release in 2012, Let it Be Roberta, is a collection of her versions of songs by The Beatles.
As Flack recently told The Guardian, “I didn’t try to be a soul singer, a jazz singer, a blues singer – no category. My music is my expression of what I feel and believe in a moment.”
Winning the Lifetime Achievement Grammy earlier this year was “a tremendous and overwhelming honor,” says Flack. “This award is a validation to me that my peers heard my thoughts and took in what I have tried to give.”
As Uncut concludes, “She was her own woman from the start.” The 50th Anniversary edition of First Take is available exclusively for preorder at SoulMusic.com.
For further information: www.robertaflack.com
FIRST TAKE: 50th ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION
CD Track Listing
Disc One1. “Compared To What”
2. “Angelitos Negros”
3. “Our Ages Or Our Hearts”
4. “I Told Jesus”
5. “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”
6. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
7. “Tryin’ Times”
8. “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men”
Bonus Tracks9. “Compared To What” (Single Edit)
10. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Single Edit)
11. “Trade Winds”
- “All The Way” (Live)
- “This Could Be The Start Of Something”*
- “Groove Me”*
- Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”*
- “Afro Blue”*
- “It’s Way Past Suppertime”*
- “Frankie And Johnny”*
- “On The Street Where You Live”*
- “The House Song”*
- “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”*
- “The Song Is Love”*
- “To Sir With Love”*
* previously unreleased
LP Track Listing
- “Compared To What”
- “Angelitos Negros”
- “Our Ages Or Our Hearts”
- “I Told Jesus”
- “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”
- “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
- “Tryin’ Times”
- “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men