Grooves & Samples #37: Marlena Shaw – California Soul (1969)

Grooves & Samples is a frequent dive into old dusty crates of jazz, funk, soul and beyond

People who never heard of Marlena Shaw might actually recognize her voice: the clever sample from Marlena Shaws 1973 album Live in Montreux combined with the drum intro from Dave Brubeck’s Take Five founded the layers for St. Germain’s year 2000 massive loungehit Rose Rouge. The album Tourist, where Rose Rouge appears on, has sold more than 4 million copies, making St. Germain a household name on many lounge compilations.

The song sampled by St. Germain, The Woman of the Ghetto, is also the vocal sample for one-hit-wonder Blue Boy in Remember Me from 1997. You can hear Marlena in the intro and scatting further on and even the title from the Blue Boy hit is lifted from the end of the song. Just listen.

Marlena started her career with a single for Cadet Records, making quite an impression in 1966 with a rare vocal version of Zawinul’s/Adderley’s instrumental Mercy, Mercy, Mercy backed with Wade in the Water – both instant mod classics. Her renditions of jazz, soul and pop tunes didn’t stay unnoticed and shortly after Marlena joined the Count Basie Orchestra, of course taking care of the vocals.

We’ll take a look and listen at California Soul, featured on her 1969 album The Spice of Life. Originally recorded by The 5th Dimension a year earlier, the Ashford & Simpson written song (famous for I’m Every Woman, Solid as a Rock, Ain’t no Mountain High Enough) soon became a floorfiller  and with such a groove, Marlena’s version was impossible to ignore.

Thus thought DJ Premier, DJ Shadow, Stereo MC’s, Quasimoto, Deee-Lite, DJ Food and The Game -among many others- sampling multiple elements from the wonderful uplifting song: drums, string, vocals… you pick.

Although Marlena is a recording artist since the late 1960’s, she didn’t release that many records, but her influence is undeniable and she’s still going strong today, performing on a tender age of 71. So: always be nice to the eldery, and keep diggin’.