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Music Review: 'Love Is A Hurtin' Thing,' Gloria Ann Taylor

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

So a record producer walks into a Toledo nightclub. This is not the beginning of a joke. It's actually how singer Gloria Ann Taylor was discovered in the late 1960s. And after she was discovered, she went on to record about a dozen songs that were released on 45s, These have since become collectors' items. Now the rest of us can hear them in a new collection called "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing." Reviewer Oliver Wang says you will be haunted by Taylor's voice.

OLIVER WANG, BYLINE: Gloria Ann Taylor's song "World That's Not Real" first appeared as a B side in 1973.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD THAT'S NOT REAL")

GLORIA ANN TAYLOR: (Singing) World that's not real. Love, love that's not real enough for me.

WANG: You don't listen to the song so much as be lured into it. It's like drifting through a half-awake dream. Taylor, backed by the producer who discovered her, Walter Whisenhunt, eerily sings over dissonant piano chords and a stir of strings all shimmering through a wall of reverb.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD THAT'S NOT REAL")

TAYLOR: (Singing) I don't feel it. I can't dig it. Much like falling down, down, for your love, love.

WANG: The whole affair feels fantastically phantasmic, and it's clear on the new "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" anthology that this dip into the darkness wasn't a one-off. Whisenhunt, who became Taylor's husband, was seemingly obsessed with creating a unique sound that would set the records apart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURNING EYES")

TAYLOR: (Singing) I wonder why blue glass bubble reminds me, reminds me of the sea.

WANG: The producer was especially drawn to a gritty, psychedelic style, embracing a rough, low-fi aesthetic that ran counter to the dominant studio-perfected sound of '70s R&B.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOLENE")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, I'm begging her, please, don't take my man.

WANG: Taylor and Whisenhunt were perhaps a little too successful in avoiding mainstream trends. None of their '70s recordings ever became a national hit. On the flip side, soul music collectors took notice, eventually turning their sides into the stuff of record-obsessive legend. Some of her recordings have sold for upwards of a thousand dollars. The most coveted is the album's title track, a privately-issued mid-tempo soul song that unfolds across seven and a half minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS A HURTIN' THING")

TAYLOR: (Singing) For every little kiss there's a little heartache. For every single thrill there's another heartbreak. For all in love the going is tough. Yes, love is a hurtin' thing.

JANET YANG: When Taylor and Whisenhunt recorded it around 1973, disco had yet to become a household term. But with its steady thump, dramatic strings and Taylor's piercing vocals, "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" became embraced as a proto-disco classic. That acknowledgment came too late for Gloria Ann Taylor, however. In 1977, she made her last recordings and then packed up to move back to Toledo. She's still there. And while she's traded in the nightclub for a church choir, she's still singing and likely still haunting people with that voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS A HURTIN' THING")

TAYLOR: (Singing) One day happiness, next day loneliness. Yes, love...

MCEVERS: Our reviewer, Oliver Wang, is an associate professor of sociology at Cal State, Long Beach, and author of the book "Legions Of Boom." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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