To the surprise of many, Valerie Simpson - the petite, micro-braided half of Ashford and Simpson - had a life on vinyl before she started churning out hits with her husband Nick. Having already penned Motown classics for everyone from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell to Diana Ross, Simpson was bitten by the recording bug in 1971 and created one of Hitsville's most remarkable albums, Valerie Simpson Exposed.
The LP is replete with top-shelf offerings, as the stunning opener "I Don't Need No Help" (which New York Times critic Don Beckman called "a true virtuoso performance") and her take on The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" display Simpson's ability to swing from gospel fervor to feel-good funk. And when lovely ballads like "Now That There's You" take hold, the beauty of Sister Valerie's voice is a sheer delight.
Though it hit a respectable No. 30 on Billboard's R&B chart the album disappeared quickly, which isn't surprising - its eclectic vibe was outside of the "soul" box of the time, leaving it without a real home. Still, it's enjoyable Motown at heart, brimming with vibrant rhythms and marvelous James Jamerson bass lines. La Ross, the label's supreme diva, even scribed the liner notes. You don't get any more Motown than that.
The entire Valerie Simpson Exposed album, along with cuts from Simpson's eponymous follow-up, can be found on "The Collection."
Valerie Simpson: "We Can Work It Out"
Valerie Simpson: "I Don't Need No Help"