"Phyllis Hyman" by Phyllis Hyman (1977)

Debut album by quite phenomenal soul-turned-disco singer from Philadelphia who in my opinion was one of the best voices around - even though she moved to New York, got "Arista Records" behind her and the whole army of supporting musicians behind her, Hyman never really made it to the very top of the music business, although insiders knew and respected her talent. I have discovered her by chance recently and was bowled over by natural strength, power, authority and beauty of her voice - it is very flexible alto, soulful and sincere, somewhere between Anita Baker and Whitney Houston but unmistakably original and instantly recognizable. 

Recorded at the height of disco fashion, album was produced and arranged in than current trend - all the tricks from the disco book you can think of - but what distinguishes it from countless other disco albums is above-the-average voice of Hyman, who clearly had far more imagination than usual suspects. Where other singers would simply follow instructions and meekly sing layers of dance and ballad numbers, Hyman adds her own ornamentations and decorations, showing that below the surface she was knowledgeable and determined artist who understood and gave much more than expected. If that voice don't immediately impress you, there are two interesting hits: chirpy "Loving You - Losing You" and soulful take on "Betcha By Golly Wow" (bonus track on my album, otherwise single recorded previous year). The rest of the album is more of the showcase and even though it does not grab immediately, upon repeated listening is a very rewarding experience because there are some truly good songs (Evie Sands!), excellent team of musicians and four producers involved - no expense spared here. It is one of those albums that actually sound better with time - at first I thought she was far above the material but now I have changed my mind and find countless thrilling little details. What a voice!

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