by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
Born in Manhattan but raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, Lesley Gore was one of the biggest female pop stars of the early ‘60s, racking up an impressive ten Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1965, including four consecutive Top Five hits: the classic Number One hit “It’s My Party” and its sequel “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” “She’s a Fool,” and the groundbreaking and wildly influential feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me.” But like most American artists of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, her career was negatively affected by the British Invasion and Gore would never again reach the Top Ten after “You Don’t Own Me,” and none of her four single releases during 1965 would even so much as dent the Top 40. She’d have just one more hit after that, 1967’s #16-peaking “California Nights.” Her label, Mercury Records, would cancel her next scheduled album (Magic Colors) entirely, and though she’d stay with the label for the remainder of the decade, her output was limited to a long string of non-LP singles, only two of which would even so much as reach the Hot 100. Gore would move over to Crewe Records in 1970 and release four non-charting singles. The following year, she’d sign – quite unexpectedly – to the Motown subsidiary MoWest and release the very personal and singer-songwriter-styled Someplace Else Now, but the album would be a sales flop.
Enter Quincy Jones. Or re-enter, rather – Quincy, in fact, had been the unlikely producer behind all of Gore’s Top 40 hits with Mercury with the sole exception of the Bob Crewe-helmed “California Nights.” Quincy helped his former protégé land a new deal with A&M – his own recording home at the time, having made his label debut back in 1969 with Walking in Space – and signed on to produce Lesley’s comeback album, 1976’s Love Me by Name.
While Gore’s voice is still recognizable as that of the teenager who sang “It’s My Party,” there’s surprisingly little else here to connect this disc to her body of work on Mercury. For starters, whereas most of her ‘60s sides were penned by outside parties, Love Me by Name, like Someplace Else Now immediately before it, is entirely self-penned by Lesley and her songwriting partner Ellen Weston. Even more radically, though, Love Me by Name retains only small traces of the sort of pop music Gore rose to fame with in the ‘60s; instead, much of the material here wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Quincy Jones’ own R&B albums of the time, and the album begins on a completely jolting – through highly entertaining – note with “Sometimes,” a full-blown funk outing with Jones’ then-newest protégés, The Brothers Johnson (best known for the deliciously wormy R&B of “I’ll Be Good to You” and their cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23” and the disco classic “Stomp!”) Though the pairing seems like an odd match on paper, Gore’s warm vocals actually nestle in quite nicely amidst the busy bass and guitar work of Louis and George, respectively, and the cut turns out to be quite appealing once you’ve got over the initial shock of hearing Gore in a funk setting.
The album’s lead-off single and best cut, “Immortality” (arranged and co-produced by Tom Bahler, best known for writing the chilling Michael Jackson ballad “She’s Out of My Life”) is nearly every bit as jolting upon first listen. The song's spacey and futuristic verses (the first of which playfully references “Johnny” from “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry”) are as close to avant-garde territory as Gore has ever ventured on record, while the wildly-infectious chorus shifts gears entirely, taking the song into more danceable territory and echoing the R&B stomp of the best early Supremes sides like “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Come See About Me.” The heavily rock-tinged "Paranoia" is every bit as daring a left-field excursion for Gore, though, like "Immortality," the song's uncharacteristically snarling verses give way to a brilliantly catchy and effervescent chorus.
Gore continues to experiment with all types of genres over the course of the disc; “Don’t Stop Me” is lite-disco with gurgling synths, while the impassioned ballad “Give It to Me, Sweet Thing” boasts not just a Tom Scott sax solo but an unexpectedly heavily gospel-tinged chorus. “Other Lady,” in contrast, flirts ever so slightly with light jazz (fittingly, the cut is co-arranged by jazz great Dave Grusin) and has an unexpectedly groovy chorus. [The ballad would go on to be covered by actress Bernadette Peters on her 1980 self-titled debut.] The highly appealing, electric-piano-driven “Along the Way” is gentle funk, brilliantly adorned with a harmonica solo from the great Toots Thielemans.
The most well-known song here, however, is the album’s title cut, a chilling and mildly futuristic-sounding ballad with a mesmerizing keyboard arrangement from jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who plays a prominent role on the track. Quincy was fond enough of the song to cover it himself on his next album, 1978’s Sounds … and Stuff Like That, with Patti Austin on lead vocals, and the song would also go on to be covered by Dusty Springfield (on 1977’s It Begins Again) and Jennifer Holliday (on 2014’s The Song Is You.) Cleverly, a brief reprise of the song is utilized to close the disc, Gore’s vocal becoming increasingly more cavernous-sounding as the cut fades out to eerie but captivating effect.
Unfortunately for Gore and Jones, the album was a flop in the U.S. (though it did attract some positive notice in the U.K.), but there is a happy epilogue to Gore’s career. In 1980, Fame star Irene Cara would take one of the film’s ballads, “Out Here on My Own,” all the way to #19. Gore and her family had much reason to be proud of the song’s success – the song was written by Lesley and her brother Michael!