9 April 2022    |    Music

Blonde on Blonde

Sam Brown: Stop

Most people will probably have heard some of Sam Brown’s work but not have registered exactly who she is. Sam has appeared as backing singer on numerous episodes of ‘Later with Jools’, plus countless collaborations with everyone from Pink Floyd on ‘The Division Bell’, and the lead vocal on the ‘Pulse’ version of  ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ (which in itself quite an accolade), through Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet and the last studio album recorded by The Small faces. Sam is the daughter of Joe (Dennis Law’s twin? 😉) and Vicki Brown, a notable session vocalist in her own right.

Sam recorded ‘Stop’, her debut album, in 1988, having been signed to A&R in 1986. The first tentative steps can be pretty daunting in any solo career but you’d be hard pressed to spot this on the recording of ‘Stop’. More so when you factor in to account her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer which was to take her life a few years later. This is one album where you can hear that Sam nailed it on every single track. I like a female vocal to be big and gutsy with an underlying emotional platform, bluesy and yet soulful. I guess that says it all about Sam’s voice – sweet and powerful but dirty and gritty when it needs to be, kind of in the school of Lulu and Maggie Bell (in fact Maggie’s rendition of ‘No Mean City’ makes me wonder what Sam would have done with that track).

The album begins with the up-tempo ‘Walking Back To Me’ which sets the scene and takes no prisoners. Her voice just kicks in with a melodic grit which has you captivated from the start. This is quickly followed by the breathy ‘Your Love Is All’, and then: ‘Stop’ – where the Blonde Diva is at her very best….the changes that she can make in her vocal intonation are breathtaking. From gentle soul to gritty blues, low sultry to soaring high notes which simply make you smile and wonder what’s next. The backing musicians are truly excellent in providing the platform for Sam to sing without overtaking her vocal, yet not disappearing into the background. Do take time to listen beyond the vocals, it’s a real treat. Hammond organ, piano, guitar, bass and percussion….all superb.

‘Tea’ simply makes me smile every time I hear it before diving down into ‘Piece of My Luck’ with its sublime jazz double bass and cymbal work, then quickly into the funk of ‘Ball and Chain’. The whole of the latter part of the album is peppered with fantastic percussion which drives the music along,as in ‘Merry Go Round’. This combined with great production values keeps your interest held until the last breath. I love my vinyl copy, but there is a fantastic version of ‘Nut Bush City Limits’ on one of the digital releases.

Sam made a return to the Album charts in 2007 with the top 10, ‘Valentine Moon’. This was to be her last album release as the same year she simply lost her singing voice. She explained in an interview that some muscles appear to have stopped working, which means she cannot maintain pitch, which in turn means that we have lost her supreme vocal talent. Thankfully, we have the back catalogue to dip into and Sam’s mightily impressive debut ‘Stop’.