The "Queen Of Soul Blues" is a title that rightly belongs to this survivor who's been recording for over three decades. Not only does she have a phat, supple blues voice but she's a great songwriter and even a producer.
She was born July 16, 1939, as Denise Craig. LaSalle moved north to Chicago when she was in her early twenties and would attend shows at the Regal Theatre, always returning home to write songs. She got to know blues musicians and began giving her songs to them, until one day a Chess Records executive stopped by at Mixer's Lounge, where LaSalle was working as a bar maid. He listened to one of her songs and took it down to Chess Records, and the company later signed her as a vocalist, but never recorded her. Two years later, LaSalle recorded and produced her own record with the help of Billy "The Kid" Emerson, the Chess executive who'd originally shown an interest in her. After the record made some waves on local radio, Chess stepped in and purchased the master and took it to Europe. Meanwhile, LaSalle continued writing songs and sitting in with blues musicians around the Chicago clubs.
LaSalle's first big hit came about in 1971 when her "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" broke on the radio in Chicago and then Detroit. That record was for the Westbound label and then she signed with ABC Records in 1975, cutting three albums in three years until the label was sold to MCA. After MCA dropped her because of the label's "difficulty in promoting black acts" at that time, she continued performing as much as she could in Chicago and Memphis. In 1980, a Malaco executive called to ask her to write a song for Z.Z. Hill. A positive relationship with the company was quickly developed, which resulted in LaSalle recording 11 discs for the label, including the classic "Lady In The Street".
"Trapped By A Thing Called Love" (Westbound 1972)
1. Trapped by a
Thing Called Love
**** Southern soul LaSalle style is born with this set of Stax grooves and assured vocal prowess. LaSalle, the Diva, wrote 7 of the 11 tracks including the #1 R & B smash "Trapped By A Thing Called Love" (also reached #13 Pop). The album reached #38 R & B and #120 Pop in Billboard.
"On The Loose" (Westbound 1973)
1. Man Size Job, A
**** Followup scored the #4 R & B smash "Man Sized Job" (#55 Pop) and two lesser hits, "What It Takes To Get A Good Woman" (#31 R & B) and "Your Man And Your Best Friend" (#92 R& B). LaSalle's groove-oriented backdrop and earthy phrasings evoke her influences Ruth Brown, Millie Jackson & Betty Wright.
"Here I Am Again" (Westbound 1975)
1. Here I Am Again
**** Once again the Memphis Horns back Lasalle for more southern soul ala Stax and Hi Records. LaSalle displays power and flexibility throughout, whether bouncing atop a cool-breeze groove ("Stay With Me Awhile"), digging into a bit of shuffle-bump salaciousness ("I Wanna Do What's on Your Mind"), or hitting the vocal heights on a rootsy ballad ("Don't Nobody Live Her"). LaSalle also invades Barry White territory on the sultry "Here I Am Again".
"Second Breath" (ABC 1976)
1. Freedom To Express
*** Set includes two LaSalle songs that were hits for Bill Coday ("Get Your Lies Straight" & "I'm Back To Collect"). "I Get What I Want" is a sassy, assured funky-soul number.
"The Bitch Is Bad" (ABC 1977)
1.The Bitch Is Bad
*** The influence of disco rears it's ugly head here ("Move Your Body") but the title track has become one of her more popular compositions. "Love Me Right", however, was the hit (#10 R & B #80 Pop). The album was her highest charting (#47 Black Albums) since her debut despite the lightweight material and overproduced arrangements.
"Under The Influence" (ABC 1979)
1 P.A.R.T.Y. (Where It
**1/2 Because of the moderate success of her last discofied funk-lite album ABC has he try it again to slightly less payoff. The smokin' "I'm So Hot" was a minor R & B hit (#82)
"Unwrapped" (ABC 1979)
1. think about it
** If you want to hear LaSalle doing Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" this one's for you. Other dance-minded tracks include "Keep On Dancing Rock" & "Think About It". There's also an interesting nearly 15 minute medley that incorporates Bettye Swann's "Make Me Yours" Jackie Moore's "Precious Precious" and her own smash "Trapped". Easily the high point of the album.
"I'm So Hot" (MCA 1980)
1. I'm So Hot
"And Satisfaction Guaranteed" (MCA 1981)
1. I'M TRAPPIN' ON YOU
"Lady In The Street" (Malaco 1983)
1. Lady in the
***** LaSalle & Malaco Records hit a homerun with this 8 song gem. The title track is one of her best ever. "This Bell Is Made For Ringing" is an attractive cousin to Anita Ward's smash "Ring My Bell". A great slowie "I Was Telling Him All About You" and two sexy numbers ("Come To Bed" & "Lay Me Down") not to mention a good cover of "Down Home Blues" makes this a tasty well rounded meal. The only complaint really is that it's only 8 songs. This was the highest charting album of her career (#23 Black Albums).
"Right Place, Right Time" (Malaco 1984)
1. Right Place,
*** After an uneven stint on ABC records LaSalle has found a new home with Malaco. Bluesy wailers and heavy soul are to be found here. The title track (a duet with Latimore) is smooth. The bold "Your Husband Is Cheating On Us" was later covered by Little Milton. Doesn't quite match "Lady In The Street" but it's clear LaSalle is rolling now. She's on top of her game.
"Love Talkin'" (Malaco 1985)
1. Talkin' in Your
*** Moderate soul blues outing features "Talking In Your Sleep", the great "Someone Else Is Steppin' In", which as has been a hit for Z.Z. Hill & Buddy Guy. "Give Me Yo' Strongest Whiskey" was co-written with George Jackson. The frank "Too Many Lovers" says there's "too many machos and not enough men". You tell 'em Queen! "My Toot Toot" (originally spelled "Tu Tu") reached #6 on UK Pop Charts.
"Rain & Fire" (Malaco 1986)
1. It Be's That Way
*** Once again the usual soul and blues/country-tinged songs by a great singer/writer. Includes the blues "It Be's That Way Sometimes" with Millie Jackson-like dialogue, "Dip, Bam Thank You Ma'am" & "What's Goin' On In My House". The weak spot is the silly rappin' "Look What Can Happen To You (If You Mess With My Tu Tu)". An obvious experiment to sound modern. But you forget about it quick when the next cut "Shame Shame Shame" picks up and forces you to dance!
"It's Lying Time Again" (Malaco 1987)
1. It's Lying Time
"Hittin' Where It Hurts" (Malaco 1988)
1. Don't Cry No More
*** LaSalle sounds as inspired as ever on such gritty, horn-backed fare as "If You Can't Do Me Right," "Don't Cry No More" and the bluesy "Caught in Your Own Mess," all of which recall the splendor of Stax Records. The LaSalle original "Write This One Off (As A Loss)" is another winner.
"Still Trapped" (Malaco 1990)
1. Wet Match
*** LaSalle wrote or co-write 8 of the 10 cuts here and they're typically above average but the slick production (an artifact of the time) strips away most of the grit. For some reason there's a live version of "Trapped By A Thing Called Love" with a mini-monologue called "Trapped...1990". It's telling that this is the zenith of the album. The tough, sassy "Wet Match", "Drop That Zero" & and frustrated "Paper Thin" demand repeated listens. This was her second highest charting Malaco album (#27 R & B).
"Love Me Right" (Malaco 1992)
1. Don't Jump My Pony
**1/2 LaSalle characteristically belts with attitude on "Don't Jump My Pony", cheeky "Long Dong Silver" and funky "Fast Hands And A Dirty Mind". She redoes an old hit (title track) but unleashes a dreadful version of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" with her own rappin' verses. Sorry Denise but you don't need rap. Because everything else you do is brilliant we can forgive you.
"Still Bad" (Malaco 1994)
1. Right Side of the
***1/2 One of her stronger recent discs, LaSalle does a ripping version of her old "The Bitch is Bad" and shouts some trash-talkin', funky blues on "1-900-Get-Some", "Risky Business", "No Supervision" & "Right Side Of The Wrong Bed". But the versatile veteran has no problem showing a more sensitive side of herself on "Soft-Hearted Woman" & "Child of the Ghetto," a deep ballad describing a poor woman's determination to improve her lot in life.
"Smokin' In Bed" (Malaco 1997)
1. Smokin' in Bed
****Two absolute gems require mention first. The gorgeous "Why Am I Missing You" tells of a woman's bewilderment about why she misses an abusive ex. "Blues Party Tonight" is another laid-back B.B. King-like blues cut in the tradition of "Down Home Blues" & "The Blues is Alright". The midtempo burner "Goin' Thru Changes" serves up honey while "Juke Joint Woman" serves up grits.
"Trapped" (601 Music 1997)
1. TRAPPED BY A THING CALLED LOVE
N/R Budget compilation with random song selection from her previous Malaco releases exists only to draw the curious. It does contain the smash "Trapped By A Thing Called A Love" and a good version of Joe Tex's "Hold On", however.
"God's Got My Back" (Angels In The Midst 1999)
1. God's Got My
"This Real Woman" (Ordena 2000)
1.This Real Woman
**1/2 She's the "Queen Of The Blues" but this 2 CD set released on 2000 would not convince you of her nobility. The set boasts 20 songs but only 14 are unique to this set (4 ended up on 2002's "Still The Queen", 1 is a radio edit and 1 is her 1971 original "Trapped By A Thing Called Love"). Of the 14 only a handful stand out. The ribald "Lick It Before You Stick It" is a fine uptempo Memphis soul blues jam, the meditative "If I'm Only For Myself (Who's Gonna Be For Me)", a tune written for an unrealized Bob Dylan collaboration, the slow jam "I Fell In Love With Me" and the mildly funky blues "A Sexoholic". The set is bogged down by the idiotic Bill Clinton apologetic "Down On Clinton", a tepid remake of "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" and the snoozer ballads "Dreaming All Day" & "Tell Him What You Want".
"I Get What I Want: The Best Of The ABC Years" (Connoisseur Collection 2001)
1. I Get What I Want
**** The cream of her 4 ABC albums with "Love Me Right", "Second breath", "I Get What I Want", "Before You Take It To The Street" & more.
"Still The Queen" (Ecko 2002)
1. I'm Still the Queen
"My Toot Toot: Definitive Anthology" (Smith & Co. 2003)
1. Trapped by a
***1/2 Erratic 2 CD 38 song anthology that belies the title "Definitive". Due to licensing problems there's zero tracks from her ABC or MCA albums, only 4 from her Westbound albums, and no tracks from several of her Malaco albums that were out-of-print at the time ("Love Talkin'", "Rain & Fire"). Even the choices from her Malaco albums seem random (nearly the whole "Still Bad" album is here!) It does contain her international hit, the zydeco "My Toot Toot".
"Wanted" (Ecko 2004)
1. Snap, Crackle and Pop
**** She currently has the number 1 single in the south with "Snap, Crackle & Pop", a hilarious answer song to Theodis Ealey's mega-hit "Stand Up In It" & Dr. Feelgood Potts' response "Make It Talk" (& many others). Leave it to the queen to tell us "what a woman is really all about". It's another shuffle-bumpin southern soul jam with an irresistible hook that you can't help but tap your toes, dance or bob your head to. A smash. Period. The similar-sounding "Wanted Man" is sure to follow. Denise still has a strong, thick, authoritative voice and still has some quality songs in her. "Doormat Woman" is a soulful romp that continues the "equal opportunity" theme. "A Woman Needs Money" tells the players that a woman needs more than sex (similar to label mate Sheba Potts-Wrights successful "I Can Hear Your Macaroni"). "Love You Threw Away" has brilliant lyrics like: "It ain't no use in frettin' the man is only gettin' the love you threw away!". Another highlight is the thumping blues of the Little Miltonesque "They Made A Blues Fan Out Of Me" where she cites her influences. "The Thrill Is On Again" is basically "Thrill Is Gone" part 2. As is common with new Ecko Records releases the artist remakes a couple tunes from past Ecko albums like Barbara Carr ("Bone It Like You Own It") and Bill Coday ("It Was A House Until You Made It A Home"). Maybe this time this latter song will get the attention it deserves. Overall another satisfying soul blues album by a great singer.
Denise LaSalle "Pay Before You Pump" (Ecko 2007)
1. Pay Before You Pump
***1/2 It comes as no surprise the Denise LaSalle CD opens with a cheeky, double-entendre filled track ("Pay Before You Pump") being for the past decade she's had success with similar songs like "Lick It Before You Stick It", "Snap, Crackle & Pop", "Smokin' In Bed" to name a few. So "Pump", the title track to her new Ecko release "Pay Before You Pump", is yet another shuffle bump with a memorable refrain that'll garner instant adds at Southern Soul radio. The first single, however, is a re-working of Floyd Hamberlin's "Mississippi Boy" (re-titled "Mississippi Woman"), which has already been a regional hit for Will T and Charles Wilson. It'll no doubt hit again but better is the alternate "Delta Blues Mix" version of the song which adds honking harp and guitar that'll appeal to more mainstream Blues markets. It's the definitive version of the cut. The rhythmically similar "It's Goin' Down" was written by LaSalle. Here the "Queen" promises to put the smack down on a rival hen.
Overall, LaSalle wrote seven of the ten cuts, most notably the Memphis Soul ballad "Hold On Tight" and the up-from-the-bottom slow Blues "Walking On Beale Street On Crying". LaSalle is one of those rare Blues singers that seems to appeal equally to female and male fans. The ladies cheer when she talk smack, putting men in their place but the menfolk simply eat it up too because she's got the chops. Both will "pump" this one to the top of the charts.
"A Little Bit Naughty: The ABC & MCA Years" (Shout 2008)
***1/2 2 disc set comprising the best of her 1976-1981 period.
"24 Hour Woman" (Malaco 2010)
1. Cheat Receipt
"Still Talkin' About A Man" (Angel In The Midst 2010)
1 Blood Donor (Saved My Life)
"At Her Best" (Ecko 2012)
1. Snap, Crackle and Pop
"Making A Good Thing Better: The Complete Westbound Singles 1970-1976" (Westbound 2014)
1. Strung Out Hung Up
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