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This a story about the differences between knowing what you’ve got and being content with that knowledge… and those who know what they’ve got but are only happy if YOU know what they’ve got as well.

Even then they probably still are not all that happy.

In this case this means that we, the music listeners, are deprived of our chance to be happy in hearing a truly great voice on record and instead are decidedly unhappy that we have to criticize it instead of celebrating it all because the one possessing that voice is never content to hold back just a little.


Almost Makes Me Lose My Mind
At a glance you might find reason to lump Linda Hopkins in with two other female singers from rock’s early stages – all of whom appeared first on Savoy Records – who were never fully committed to rock ‘n’ roll and consequently pursued different musical objectives rather than merely giving us the kind of music we came to hear.

Joan Shaw, after turning in a solid job behind Paul Williams on He Knows How To Hucklebuck, turned to pop music with a few sporadic forays back in rock when the need arose.

Meanwhile we saw Mary DeLoatch, a gospel singer by trade, cut a brilliant ribald rocker called Beer Bottle Boogie with Johnny Otis’s band under the name of Marilyn Scott before returning to sing the Lord’s praises, depriving us all of more songs celebrating sin.

Hopkins would appear to be one them, a skilled singer who never felt rock was good enough for her, or appropriate for her skills, as sometimes she’d deviate into bluesier songs, or those with jazzier motifs or pop trappings.

But no, that’s not a fair comparison because unlike them Hopkins for the most part stuck to rock ‘n’ roll, even if the types of rock differed each time out.

Case in point, here on Walkin’ And Talkin’ Blues, the first record billed to her as a solo act after Otis departed, finds her mixing emotional vocals over a subdued club arrangement which is not the best match by any means, though the sheer technical aspects of her vocals are as impressive as always.

But where Hopkins comes up short is in precisely how once again she’s using that voice to service her reputation rather than the song she herself wrote.


Cold Chills Run Down My Spine
The backing band here is made up of guys who are hardly household names in rock circles and a clear step down from Johnny Otis’s crack crew.

It’s not that Otis had always provided her with the best arrangements necessarily, in fact sometimes they were as much to blame for the records shortcoming as anyone, but you knew they had it in them to deliver the goods if allowed to do so.

Maybe Ray Preasley’s San Francisco based group could do so as well if given the chance, but here they get the chance and cough it up with a far too mellow sound that features incidental horns, tinkly piano and decided lack of rhythm or power. Meanwhile Hopkins is determined again to bowl you over with her impressive vocal pipes even though it is going to wind up clashing with the music behind her and so we’re left with a record that would seem to fail based on mismatched goals.

Ahh, but upon closer inspection I think we just inadvertently landed on the cause of her problems. It’s not the band or the arrangement, even though neither one is helping matters. The real issue is Hopkins herself.

Yes, she’s got a great voice, but she is SO determined to let you know she has a great voice, that she writes songs that showcase it at the expense of everything else.

There’s no suspense in building to a peak on Walkin’ And Talkin’ Blues because she practically starts out on the highest summit she can find. There’s no musical support that will allow her to feed off the musicians because to do so would mean she’d have to allow them to steal some of the focus away from her. There’s not even much rhyme or reason to her vocal pyrotechnics, such as the out of place moaning during the mundane sax solo, because all she cares about is remaining in the spotlight and showing what she is capable of doing.

We KNOW what’s she capable of doing by now, so here’s what she SHOULD do instead… tell us a story using something more than just her vocal chords to captivate us. Like say, her brain, her heart, her insecurities, her hopes, her dreams, her feelings.

What we get instead is someone steamrolling all of the subtle nuances of the human condition in favor of delivering a bravura performance.

The song as written is supposed to be an examination of her feelings for a guy whose interest in her are frustratingly uncertain which causes her anxiety and potential grief should he not want her as much as she wants him. That’s a good premise and the lyrics she comes up with shows she does know how to express those doubts in words. But the words take a back seat to how she expresses them which is where this goes off the rails.

At no point does this song call for her to lose control of her emotions the way she does, wailing in agony over the fact he’s merely playing his romantic cards close to his vest. To work well it requires her to reveal a slow burning ache, not a gaping emotional wound like she does instead. As a result we can’t feel any sympathy for her, can’t even offer an arm around the shoulder and a reassuring word or two because she’s blasting us away with the shrill sound of a siren responding to a five alarm fire.

It’s as off-putting as it is technically impressive and when it comes down to those two responses, which do you think holds more weight with listeners? No matter how much we admire the instrument she wields we’re going to steer clear of having her bludgeon us with it at every turn.


Makes Me Want To Cry
The more insecure a person is, the more they draw attention to what they know they’re good at. An insecure rich person always talks about their bank account or stock portfolio because it validates their achievements. A person with a particular area of expertise always wants that topic being brought up in conversation to show off their knowledge and impress others. The girl with the knockout figure is going to have a wardrobe to accentuate those curves and then go out in public wherever she knows men congrugate to feel a sense of self-worth by their wide-eyed response to her presence.

Linda Hopkins had a voice that was incredibly good and so she wants it to be heard even when doing so in the manner she chooses on Walkin’ And Talkin’ Blues virtually negates her OTHER – equally impressive – talent, her songwriting skills.

By focusing on the former at the expense of the latter, it actually makes her ability as a singer seem much less impressive because it’s clear she doesn’t know how to sell a song properly. She’s like a pitcher throwing fastball after fastball and getting knocked around the park rather than mixing in some off-speed pitches to keep the hitters off balance.

Hopkins needs to dial it down – from a nine to about a three – for most of this song. Keep the lyrics in place, but internalize the emotions at first, gradually letting them get the best of her and then – preferably after a sax solo which similarly begins in a somber mood before bristling at holding back and concluding with some intense stuttering refrains – Hopkins can return distraught over not knowing where the one she loves actually loves her back.

That’s when the final line about wanting to die would hit home and we’d be celebrating Linda Hopkins as being a great singer, rather than criticizing her for how inappropriate her singing is despite that great voice.


(Visit the Artist page of Linda Hopkins for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)