A real soul gem from 1970 on the James Brown affiliated Deluxe label, the first and only album by this mysterious singer: Marie Queenie Lyons.
It is perhaps apropos that Queenie Marie Lyons’s best known song is titled ‘See And Don’t See.’ For all the acclaim that song has accrued, and all the times it has been compiled, reissued and, yes, bootlegged — for all the times it has been seen — Queenie herself has somehow remained unseen. How did a singer from Ashtabula, Ohio record one of the great female-led soul albums and then simply fall off the map, never to record or perform again?
Queenie was a natural performer and a gifted singer. At the age of fifteen, she was doing three shows a week at a local venue. In early 1962, Queenie moved to Queens and was soon playing gigs across the city — an early engagement was with Gene Krupa at the famous Metropole Café in Times Square — as well as touring with established acts like Fats Domino and Ray Charles.
The following year, Queenie made her debut recording, for a subsidiary of RCA called Groove, credited to an entirely fictitious “Shelley Shoop and the Shakers.” It remained Queenie’s only presence on wax until early 1968, when a Nashville-based label called Sims gave her her first accurately attributed single, “A Minute Of His Goodtime / Good Soul Lovin’.” Although the 45 is now a highly collectible part of the Northern Soul and Lowrider Oldies pantheons, it made no impact at the time, as Sims was focused on more typical Nashville sounds.
A few months later Queenie was back in New York City, performing R&B and pop covers with her band when a man passed her his business card at a performance. The card read James Brown Enterprises. James Brown “was my idol,” she says, and someone whose business acumen and stage presence she strove to emulate.
Although Queenie ended up on tour with James Brown for only a month or so, when the group reached Cincinnati in mid-’68 she entered the King Records studio there to record what would become this album
The songs were a combination of covers, some of which she’d been doing in her live shows, like ‘Fever’ and ‘Try Me,’ and originals written by producer Henry Glover and pianist Don Pullen, who was the bandleader on the session.
The album opener, ‘See And Don’t See,’ was also recorded by the veteran R&B singer Maxine Brown, but Queenie’s version blows hers away. “Soul Fever” is a supremely funky and soulful affair, with Queenie’s powerful and captivating voice magnetically attractive, with an urgency that is impossible to ignore. ‘Your
Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing,’ ‘Your Key Don’t Fit It Anymore,’ and ‘I Don’t Want Nobody To Have It But You’ are as funky and soulful as the best of Tina Turner and Aretha — a statement not to be made lightly!
The album was critically acclaimed — the October 10, 1970, issue of Billboard listed it as their sole “four star” pick in the Soul category — but perhaps due to the tumult at Starday-King, whose stewardship had turned over several times in only a few years, it never seemed to be able to break through to a larger audience.
This reissue features an alternative cover photo and includes a booklet with rare photos, extensive liner notes by Andrew “Monk-One” Mason and the first ever interview with Queenie herself!