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Betty Wright Danger High Voltage Review

Album. Released 1974.  

BBC Review

Wright’s electrifying fourth album.

Daryl Easlea 2012

With her incredible combination of innocence and sass (and, allegedly, an IQ of 191), Betty Wright, ‘the queen of Miami soul’, was something of an old-timer by the time she released 1974’s Danger High Voltage at the age of 21.

She had been singing in family group Echoes of Joy from the age of three, and released her first single at the age of 12.  Her first hit, Girls Can’t Do What Guys Do, came in 1968. Her signature smash, Clean Up Woman, followed in 1971.

Her fourth album’s title was chosen for a reason: it positively crackles with electricity. Produced by Willie Clarke (who’d discovered Wright when she was 11), Danger High Voltage is a showcase for Henry Stone’s TK label’s stable of artists, with Howie Casey and Richard Finch of KC and the Sunshine Band contributing significantly throughout.

From the opening rush of Everybody Was Rockin’ to the sensual dénouement of Tonight Is the Night, Danger High Voltage is akin to one long party – a smouldering confection of southern funk, proto-disco and what was soon to be known popularly as northern soul.

Of the album’s many standouts, Allen Toussaint’s Shoorah! Shoorah! is an undisputed highlight, one of those fabulous and thoroughly daft bubblegum soul singles. A top 30 UK hit in January 1975, Wright delivers it with zest and passion. Where Is the Love also reached the UK top 30. Its infectious disco gained Wright a Grammy, with little wonder: its horn-loaded, chicken-scratch funk is topped off by Wright’s warm delivery.

The album’s closer was originally released as the flip of Shoorah! Shoorah!, but would become one of her biggest records in the US.  Sensuously soulful, it was written about her first sexual experiences and delivered absolutely straight. It is rare such a tender and potentially gauche subject is handled so directly and non-controversially.

Betty Wright is still a big star in America. The Roots worked with her on her 2011 album, Betty Wright: The Movie. The bright, bubbly and frequently life-affirming Danger High Voltage is one of the key cornerstones for her longevity.

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