July 14th – Esther Phillips – I Haven’t Got Anything Better To Do

Esther Phillips enjoyed early success on Savoy but drug addiction sidelined her before her 20th birthday.  She made a comeback in the 60s on Atlantic with Release Me and a cover of the Beatles’ And I Love Him but was forced to check into rehab once again.  Her career was rejuvenated a second time when she sign to Kudu, a division of Creed Taylor’s CTI Records.  While there, she released perhaps her best known record a discofied remake of What A Diff’rence A Day Makes (1975) but that recording gives little indication of the breath of her talent which embraced country, blues, R&B, pop and jazz.  She left Kudu to record a further four albums for Mercury but in 1984, at the age of 48, she succumbed to liver and kidney failure.

Phillips unique voice – which managed to be vulnerable, assertive and commandingly sensual all at the same time – was tailor made for songs like this one by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance (who were also responsible for Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini but perhaps it’s time to forgive them).  A lyric which, in other hands, could have become cloyingly sentimental is rendered poignant and almost tragic.  It’s from her last Kudu album, Capricorn Princess and while perhaps not her greatest recording overall, that LP alone gives a sense of her versatility containing as it does everything from a disarmingly lovely take on A Beautiful Friendship to perhaps the only successful disco version of a Janis Ian song, Boy, I Really Tied One On.