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Nora Dean's LP, Play Me A Love Song

Page updated: 12/30/03


In early 2003, I was pleasantly surprised to found a copy of a Nora Dean LP, called "Play Me A Love Song". Pleasantly surprised because I didn't know that this LP existed, because it featured the first and only photo of the artist I had ever seen, and because the music was solid, unexpectedly diverse and included some very memorable tracks. Other than three cover versions, Nora is identified as the song's composer.

 



The album was released in 1979, produced by C. S. Reid, anf released on the Nationwide label out of London. Although there are no credits, Sly and Robbie can be heard on at least some of the tracks. On this LP, Nora has been recast as a regular gal. She sounds older and more mature, and definitely less strange. She just wants the DJ to play her a love song -- surprising and ironic in that she never had a hit with one herself. What remains consistant is the appeal of her voice, which is the star of the LP. Sometimes multi-tracked, her vocals take center stage over the competent, but not overpowering instrumentation. The arrangements wouldn't be at all out of place on a Dennis Brown LP from that time.

The first musical surprise is how the first four songs on Play Me A Love Song downplay reggae in favor of other musical styles. The album opens with a cover, "My Hearts Desire", a heavily R&B influenced track, and moves into the soul influenced, "Don't Let Me Know". Both offer a slow, sultry vocal. The next two tracks, "Written All Over Your Face" and "Ever Know About Him", are influenced by American country music, and Nora adds a twang to her singing. All four of these tracks have straight forward lyrics. The fifth track, "Caught In A Trap" is reggae, but it's a slow, static cover of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds". This track was taken from a single released a few year earlier.

The songs on the B side are all reggae and include three standouts. The side's opener, "Dry Up Your Tears" features a strong and edgy vocal performance as Nora switches point of view between herself and her man. She despairs about his departure. He promises to return, but never does. A heartbreaking song. The next track, "Never Be Mine", is weak instrumentally, and Nora seem unable to work up any enthusiasm. This is followed by the second stand out track, "No Time To Loose". In it, Nora wants to get on the night train so she won't be late for her a date. Her mother wants her to wait, but she explains that she is a grown girl and wants love. Some double entendre action with a great vocal, with Nora in dreamy voice mode, complete with moans, coos and ah-ya-yas. "Beautiful Morning" follows and the results are musically and vocally less inspiring than her better recordings. The final and titular track is the album's third standout. "Play Me A Love Song" is dancehall influenced, backing a straightforward vocal and lyric. She asks the DJ to play a love song that she can dance to with her man:

Play something soft and nasty with words rich with spice
Something with the soulful feeling, something that will send us reeling

This track could be seen as the happy ending for the tragic situation described in the side's opener. A happy/bluesy vocal. A light and upbeat way to close the album.

 

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