Thursday, April 17, 2014


Initially created from the ranks of a group of ‘60s female background session singers that at one time included Dionne Warwick, her sister Dee Dee, adopted sister Judy Clay and “Just One Look” singer Doris Troy, The Sweet Inspirations became an official Atlantic recording artist after being the label’s go-to studio backup vocal group for many of the label’s primary artists including Aretha Franklin (with whom they toured in 1967 and 1968), Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, The Drifters and Esther Phillips among others.

Consisting of Emily “Cissy” Houston (who took Dee Dee Warwick’s place when she launched her own solo career in 1965), Sylvia Shemwell (sister of Judy Clay), and gospel singers Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith (who knew Dionne and Dee Dee during their teen years at New Hope Baptist Church), The Sweet Inspirations enjoyed their first hit single in 1967 with their interpretation of The Staples Singers’ “Why (Am I Treated So Bad).” The song was written for them by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, who played on a number of the group’s Memphis sessions.

In 1969, the group was hired by Elvis Presley as his vocal backup group and spent a number of years on the road with him. Cissy Houston left the group in 1970 to pursue a solo career; Estelle, Sylvia and Myrna continued recording as a trio with Stax Records and RSO Records. 

Now, Real Gone Music/SoulMusic Records is proud to present The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus, the largest collection of the work of The Sweet Inspirations ever compiled, drawn from their tenure with Atlantic Records from 1967 to 1971.  Included in the 37 tracks are the A and B sides of the group’s 18 singles (with the 1970 hit, “(Gotta Find) A Brand New Lover,” originally released as Pt. 1 & 2, combined into one track), one cut unearthed from the Atlantic vaults in 2004 and previously only available on an out-of-print US compilation, and three previously unreleased sides (including a six-minute-plus medley of “Little Green Apples,” Aretha Franklin’s “Think” and The Beatles’ “Something”). The 2-CD set includes photos and notes by SoulMusic Records’ David Nathan, with remastering by Mike Milchner of SonicVision. With all the recent (and long overdue) attention paid backup singers via 20 Feet from Stardom, this release—which features quite possibly the greatest backup vocal group of them all—is timely indeed. ~ Real Gone Music

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