by: LaVern Baker

LaVern Baker's Saved, which appeared on Atlantic in the early 1960s, is arguably her greatest album. Not exactly a conceptual album, it was instead a collection of singles and B-sides she tracked between 1956 and 1962, which explains why it has such a random and varied flow to it. But that very randomness is why this set makes such a good introduction to this brilliant and fiery R&B singer --the inclusion of the B-sides allows her to stretch out a bit and shows her range. “Saved,” a gospel scorcher that was written by Leiber & Stoller and leads this set off, is one of the best sides Baker ever did, while her take on “Bumble Bee” shows that she deserved the kind of acclaim and audience that Etta James and Ruth Brown garnered later in the century. There’s an interesting set of players on these sessions, too, including Phil Spector on guitar and Taft Jordan on trumpet. Baker, who died in 1997, never quite found the large audience she should have, maybe because, unlike James or Brown, she was unable to transition her career past the early '60s for whatever reason (taking up residency for over two decades in the Philippines probably didn’t help much in that regard), but she had every bit as much talent, and all of it is on display in this fiery collection. ~ Steve Leggett

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