The history of pop music is packed with artists whose biographies have been more compelling than their music, but it also has its share of personal victories matched by high artistic standards. These will always be the real greats: Coltrane, Simone, Makeba, Redding, Gaye and all the rest.
It's time Jackie Shane was added to that list. The diminutive Nashville native belted out 1960s soul music with as much muscle as any man or woman in the game. This new collection showcases a powerhouse talent whose skillset fit perfectly with the music of the day.
Shane's best-known recording, a cover of William Bell's "Any Other Way," is vintage rhythm and blues. Shane croons "Tell her that I'm happy / tell her that I'm gay" with soul to spare. For an openly transgender artist gigging in U.S. and Canadian nightclubs, that line packed a hell of a punch. Shane's bravery remains an inspiration, half a century on.
The double-CD features a dozen studio recordings and 13 live tracks, including an intro by bandleader Frank Motley, who would one night pull a knife on Shane in an argument about her quitting the band. Shortly after, Shane left Toronto (a town she continues to speak fondly of) and show business for good.
The title track isn't the only highlight. "High Heel Sneakers," the first live recording, is a scorcher; so too is "Sticks and Stones," disc one's opening two minutes and 11 seconds. Uptempo or down, Shane's performances were maximum R&B before the term was coined. (Numero Group)