P. P. Arnold – The Turning Tide

They sure don’t make them like they used to. In fact, sometimes they never made them at all. P. P. Arnold’s lost album The Turning Tide was made in 1969-1970 but never released…until now. Yes it was worth the wait, but such a shame this album never had the inherent impact on Arnold’s career that it would most certainly have had back in the day.

Back in 1966 Arnold, originally from Watts, Los Angeles, was in the Ikettes, the trio of female backing vocalists for the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. While on tour in the UK in 1966 Arnold met Mick Jagger and he encouraged her to leave the Ikettes and stay in England to record on her own. She soon signed to Immediate Records. She met labelmate Steve Marriott of Small Faces and soon became the “5th Small Face” after recording and touring with them. She released two solo LPs and singles, including the hits “(If You Think You’re) Groovy,” and “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” After Immediate folded, her progression led her to Barry Gibb and a third solo album, The Turning Tide, was started for Robert Stigwood’s RSO label. Gibb had separated with his Bee Gees brothers and was eager to produce The Turning Tide. Eight songs from a late 1969 date were abandoned when The Bee Gees got back together and Arnold’s project was set adrift. Stigwood placed Arnold as an opening act on Delaney and Bonnie and Friends’ European Tour, the “Friends” including Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Then current labelmate Clapton agreed to record with Arnold in May 1970. This band included Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Bobby Keys and Rita Coolidge. Three tracks on The Turning Tide come from these sessions. “These were in effect the first recordings by Derek and the Dominos,” says Arnold. “They sounded really good.”

Good enough for Clapton to formally form Derek and the Dominos and record their seminal Layla LP, leaving Arnold in the process. Again, Arnold was adrift. After another connection with Gibb in 1978, the album stalled again, still unreleased. Until now…and what a wonderful album it is.

Gibb, Clapton and Caleb Quaye are the producers and somehow the threads of all their songs are woven into the greater tapestry that is The Turning Tide. Starting with the Clapton gang, their strong take on Traffic’s “Medicated Goo” begins the CD. They also nail Van Morrison’s “Brand New Day” and The Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Arnold’s voice has that chameleonic quality. As she did with Small Faces, her voice is a perfect blend with those around her. The only female Domino? Why not?

Barry Gibb, who is undoubtedly the hero here, wrote and produced six tunes. These songs have a sparkly gospel feel, with “Born,” “Bury Me Down By The River,” and “High And Windy Mountain” standing out. These songs burn slowly with tasteful strings securing a mellow vibe throughout.

The Quaye tracks have their own strong personality with “Children of the Last War” best representing the sound and climate of the early ’70s. Not only was this album a struggle to make, it was made during struggling times. Arnold’s only songwriting credit has the lines: “Everybody has the same need/ You and I are from the same seed/ We’ve all grown together with the children of the last war.” Other notable songs include covers of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.”

If Small Faces, Ike & Tina Turner, Bee Gees or Derek and The Dominos are in your music collection, The Turning Tide is a must. If not, introduce yourself to P. P. Arnold and join in on her magical voice and top-drawer choice of collaborators. If only they still made them like they used to.