Classic Review: Doris Duke – I’m A Loser

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Released in ’69 to little fanfare, I’m A Loser is now regarded as deep soul in excelsis. It also has the distinction of being the late, great David Godin’s favorite album.

Georgia-born Duke cut her chops recording various sides (as Doris Willingham) and as a session vocalist in NYC (her backing vocals also feature on Nina Simone’s live A Very Rare Evening).  I’m A Loser is predictive of ‘70’s ‘other woman’ song cycles like Millie Jackson’s Caught Up in it’s unflinching candor. I Can’t Do Without You’s insistent mingling of love and addiction is virtually a blueprint for Amy Winehouse. I Don’t Care Anymore’s folky finger-picking and taboo-busting prostitute perspective make it a pre-emptive rejoinder from the ‘whores on 5th avenue’ to Simon And Garfunkel’s The Boxer.

With the immersive dedication of a method actor, Duke sings her heart out; tough, tender and with gut-wrenching conviction. Her gospel background comes to the fore on the churchy Ghost Of Myself. Southern Soul maestro, Swamp Dogg, provides exquisite musical settings , equal parts grandeur and grit.  Opener He’s Gone is a mini-symphony of cascading piano and strings. Throughout ace session musicians keep things taut and funky, Robert Popwell’s bass, in particular, is a voluble delight. A Deep Soul Opera

Matthew Lindsay

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