Back in the mid-’70s, I was listening to the radio (WABX, Detroit or CJOM, Windsor) when I heard a DJ talking about an record that he was about to play. He sounded very upset. He felt that this was a VERY special album and that in a perfect world everybody would own or at least hear it. He then played the piece which takes up the entire second side of the LP entitled Patty Waters Sings. I was so blown away by the sounds that I immediately went downtown and special ordered a copy of the record.
Recorded in December 1965 and released the following year on the wild and wonderful ESP record label, Patty Waters Sings is indeed an essential listening experience.
The first side consists of short songs with Patty on vocals and piano. The songs are minimalist works of art. Both the vocals and piano seem to hang suspended in space with a persistent mood of melancholy mixed with broken-hearted despair.
Every time that I have played this album for people, they would sit motionless and entranced by the sound. Jaws would drop.
And then there is the second side. Here, Patty is accompanied by Burton Greene (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass) and Tom Price (percussion). The sole piece on this side is a radical reworking of Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.
During the course of this track, the band goes off into a manic level of improvisation while Patty seems possessed by a demon. She starts off quite traditionally but winds up sounding like she is running around the studio shrieking to the mass of angular sounds stabbing their way around her voice. It is a magnificent tour de force of both instrumental and vocal dexterity.
In a recent discussion on a music forum, the question was asked what one album you would save if you had to escape your home burning down. This was the album… and it didn’t take a great deal of thought to make the decision.
Patty released one more LP for ESP which was a live recording. But, her debut album is the one that really stands the test of time for its essential sounds.