Special occasions and bad situations
Millie Jackson became notorious for her dirty mouth, featured in albums with titles like Live and Uncensored and EST (Extra Sexual Persuasion), which was a shame because throughout the 1970s she also produced a series of compelling ballad performances that deserve a high place in the rankings of the sub-genre which the disc jockey and writer Dave Godin named Deep Soul. Jackson was born in Georgia, the daughter of a sharecropping family, and most of her recording for the Spring label was done in Muscle Shoals, Alabama; her music was steeped in the sound of the South.
Now Ace Records have compiled a selection of her finest Spring ballads into a single album, The Moods of Millie Jackson, which amply demonstrates what a powerful singer she could be. The best known tracks probably come from the two outstanding albums in which she explored the theme of infidelity: Caught Up (1974) and Still Caught Up (1975). Among the highlights of that pair is her version of Tom Jans’ “Loving Arms”, with its devastating line about “looking back and longing for the freedom of my chains”. Her early singles “A Child of God” and “It Hurts So Good” will also be familiar to many. But some of the lesser known tracks are equally cherishable: the beautiful “A Love of Your Own”, co-written by Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band with Ned Doheny, the aching “Solitary Love Affair” from the pens of Billy Kennedy and Gus McKinney, Sam Dees’ gorgeous “Special Occasion” and, maybe most of all, the slow-burning but ultimately volcanic “Making the Best of a Bad Situation”, by Richard Kerr and Gary Osborne, one of those songs that make you realise for the millionth time the huge role played by the emotional triggers of gospel music in the evolution of pop.
For all these things, it’s easy to forgive Millie her manifold trespasses across boundaries of taste and discretion, even the album cover for which she posed while seated on the lavatory. As far as I’m concerned, The Moods of Millie Jackson is an indispensable album.