'Like poetry in motion'
Photos by Nick Tomecek
Something about wearing a beret makes me feel chic and elegant — like I need a cappuccino, chaise lounge and the sound of a subtle, sophisticated vocalist like Roberta Flack.
Flack is one of those musical legends who I think is often overlooked because of her understated vocal style. But, for those who don’t know, Flack has earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She is the first and only solo artist to win Record of the Year for two consecutive years at the Grammy Awards — in 1973 for “The First Time Ever I Say Your Face” and in 1974 for “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” She also attended Howard University under a full music scholarship because of her skills playing piano.
I find Flack a wonderful role model.
While she is classified as a jazz, R&B and soul musician, some feel her classically trained vocals don’t constitute as soulful. For me, her vocals, versus more fervent vocals, are simply two sides of the same smooth coin — each to be appreciated equally.
Flack released R&B soul album “I’m the One” in 1982. The title track, “In the Name of Love” and “Making Love” are the three most popular tracks, but it’s lovely all the way through.
To me, the title track bears the same breathy vocals and forceful lyrics as Carly Simon’s “You Belong With Me,” but with a touch of disco. The mid-paced rhythm is a mesmerizing opener.
From “‘Till the Morning Comes” to the end, I hear a similar style to early 1970s Stevie Wonder, and I love it. The lyrics are filled with love, peace and adoration you just don’t hear in today’s music.
I think what most impresses me is the gift Flack and other R&B musicians have to give innocence to sensuality. The funky flavor of these intimate tracks is addictive. I see why people use the phrase “easy listening.”
“Never Loved Before” shows a deeper register to Flack’s voice. It has a full, rich sound; it’s the most passionate on the album.
“Ordinary Man” is my favorite, because of its lyrics.
Dark and lovely he was like poetry in motion when he moved
My heart was hungry when he smiled staring me down across the room
— “Ordinary Man”
When choosing an ensemble to wear with this record, I knew it had to be something feminine with an air of sophistication. I think this floral-embroidered tulle skirt, bell-sleeved blouse and cherry-red beret is exactly that.
The album sleeve is different from most. The front and back covers are printed in opposite directions, so the rose on the front continues as you flip it to the back.
The front cover also has “Beachside Café,” written in pink highlighter. That bothers some record collectors — enough so not to spend even $1 on a record — but, as I’ve said before, I like knowing a record had a life before it entered mine. I fancy knowing it will have a life after mine, too.
Details like this are what make collecting vinyl records so fascinating.