1974, Music

Nightbirds (1974) by LaBelle

Because of my age, I’m actually more familiar with the turn-of-the-century cover than the original of “Lady Marmalade”, but I’ve still heard it a bunch of times. I don’t think I had ever heard another LaBelle song before (consciously, anyway) so I had no idea what I was in for.

This is funky soul which occasionally almost veers into disco, but fortunately usually doesn’t quite get there. (Did disco even exist in 1974? I didn’t think so, but it’s one of the genres listed.) LaBelle are grittier singers than I expected based upon the cliche of female vocal groups and they are compelling performers. They are very capably backed by the Meters, Allen Toussaint and some horns, which gives the whole thing a definite New Orleans vibe, which is also very welcome. I came in expecting something similar to Chic and got something very different, and I’m glad of it.

This being Soul, the songs are not the greatest, but they are definitely of a higher quality than many Soul records, though obviously performances remain the main thing. There’s a decent variety in the songs and having contributions from more than one person absolutely helps.

This is so much less slick than I was expecting that it’s almost exciting. It’s the kind of record that makes me interested in listening to what else they did, something I really didn’t imagine was possible when I imagined what it would sound like ahead of time. (Again, sort of assuming they weren’t that dissimilar to Chic.)


All tracks written by Nona Hendryx, except where noted.

  1. “Lady Marmalade” (Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan) 3:56
  2. “Somebody Somewhere” 3:25
  3. “Are You Lonely?” 3:12
  4. “It Took a Long Time” (Raymond Bloodworth, L. Russell Brown, Bob Crewe) 4:03
  5. “Don’t Bring Me Down” (Allen Toussaint) 2:48
  6. “What Can I Do for You?” (Edward Batts, James Budd Ellison) 4:02
  7. “Nightbird” 3:09
  8. “Space Children” 3:02
  9. “All Girl Band” (Allen Toussaint) 3:50
  10. “You Turn Me On” 4:37
  • Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx & Sarah Dash – lead and backing vocals
  • Allen Toussaint – keyboards, percussion, guitar, arrangements
  • Art Neville – organ
  • George Porter, Jr., Walter Payton – bass guitar
  • Leo Nocentelli, Rev. Edward Levone Batts – guitar
  • Smokey Johnson, Herman Ernest III – drums
  • James “Budd” Ellison – piano
  • Earl Turbinton – alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
  • Alvin Thomas, Lon Price – tenor saxophone, flute
  • Clyde Kerr, Jr., Steve Howard – trumpet
  • Lester Caliste – trombone
  • Carl Blouin – baritone saxophone
  • Clarence Ford – alto saxophone
  • Jeffrey Shannon – drums
  • Hector Seda – bass guitar
  • Leslie “Chuggy” Carter – percussionist

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