Lost but not least! Sharon Redd – Try My Love On For Size (Prelude)
“Why don’t you try my love on for size?”, asked the late Sharon Redd back in 1980, as a part of her eponymous album on Prelude? Quite ironical at the end, knowing her label passed on givin’ it a single release. Don’t you think? Not the first in the series and not the last neither. Although I can’t help wondering how/why the label execs haven’t managed to bring this jewel the support it most definitely deserved.
Back at the time, one would speak about production pairs such as Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the Chic fame. But also Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi (Change). Although Willie Lester and Rodney Brown had certainly nothing to envy them. Standing as the custodians of an instantly identifiable sophisticated sound. A sound which would be for much in the recognition of Sharon Redd. But also of Bobby Thurston and Gayle Adams on the same label although to a slightly lesser extend.
Not matter what, the blowing ‘Try My Love On For Size’ happened to be in the caliber of those big classics Lester & Brown crafted for Redd. From ‘Can You Handle It’ to ‘You Got My Love’. With its lush arrangements bringin’ it at the crossroad between The Emotions‘ ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love’ and Chaka Khan‘s ‘I’m Every Woman’. This with a twist of Philadelphia Sound in the chords and strings.
Prelude Records passed on ‘Try My Love On For Size’, as already said. But Britain’s famous The Shapeshifters would pay it justice at the end. This while givin’ it an outstanding cover version some 38 years later.
Can you handle it? A quick look at the various facets of Norfolk VA native Sharon Redd‘s career brilliantly shows as to how she could. As a matter of fact, she went a long way. Besides, the CV’s of the members of her family must have somehow been of a help. From her dad who worked at King Records which signed James Brown. To her stepfather who was a member of Benny Goodman‘s band. But also her brother who wrote and produced for Kool & The Gang and later on BMP. Not to mention her sister, Penny(e) Ford, who also had a successful singing career, also remembered as the lead singer of Snap!
Sharon had an operatic training during her childhood. But she initially worked as an actress. Securing the lead role in an Australian production of ‘Hair’. She then starred in her own TV special. Then she came to London to star in an American production of ‘The Wedding of Iphigenia’ in 1974. Then she featured as a guest in the musical ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ 4 years later. Meanwhile, Bette Midler who was lookin’ to replace Merle Miller and Gail Kantor who’d left her to pursue their own interests, auditioned over 70 performers, out of which Redd landed the job, becoming one of Bette‘s Harlettes.
That said, the first traces of Sharon Redd as a recording artist on her own bring us back to 1968. Back then, she’d recorded 4 singles on United Artists. And aside from performing as a Harlette, she provided backing vocals for various artists. From Carol Douglas to D.C. Larue. Not to mention Norman Connors (You’re My Starship’) or Boz Scaggs (‘Jojo’).
By 1979, Redd eventually joined the transient Disco group Soirée along with Luther Vandross and Fonzi Thornton in the backing vocals. And one could hear her too on Front Page‘s ‘Love Insurance’ although she got uncredited for that.
She would get her breakthrough though the year after, when signing a record deal with Prelude. Coming straight to fame with the Willie Lester and Rodney Franklin produced ‘Can You Handle It’. A classic which, along with ‘You Got My Love’, ‘Never Give You Up’, ‘Beat The Street’ and ‘Love How You Feel’, established her as the biggest selling artist on the label. She nevertheless progressively disappeared from the radar, leavin’ Prelude after 3 albums.
British electronic music producers Nick Batt and Neal Slateford, aka DNA eventually gave their rendition of ‘Can You Handle It’ with Redd on vocals back in 1992. Sadly enough, she didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy it, dying of a pneumonia on May 01 at the age of 47 that same year.
More recently, by the end of the Summer of 2018, ‘Try My Love On For Size’, an underrated jewel from her 1980 eponymous album, has resurfaced. This under the form of a brilliant cover version by the likes of British outfit The Shapeshifters.