Nancy Wilson was always among that superior band of vocal stylists who could master any song they took on. By 1977, she had already been proving that as a chart artist for some 15 years. As musical fashions changed, she moved with them, and on July 23 that year, she hit the US R&B album chart with a record on which she remade a crossover album rock radio hit of a year earlier; a track written by a future “Ghostbuster”; sang a lesser-known tune by one of Motown’s great songwriters; and did another Tamla track that would later reach No.1 in the UK. The LP was I’ve Never Been To Me.
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At this time in her long career, Wilson’s association with Capitol Records was in its latter stages. She and so many other classic, jazz-inflected singers were looking to find their place in a world dominated by disco. She was working with two experienced producers, brothers with resumés going back to the 1960s. Gene Page was an accomplished studio notable who became especially known for his string arrangements for the all-conquering Barry White. His sibling Billy’s place in history was secured when he wrote the endlessly remade “The ‘In’ Crowd,” a 1965 hit for both Dobie Gray and the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
The brothers oversaw an album that took its title from the Ken Hirsch/Ron Miller ballad that was also recorded in 1977 by Motown chanteuse Charlene. It wasn’t until 1982, on its reissue, that her version topped the charts in both the UK and Australia and reached No.3 in America.
Nancy sings Lamont Dozier
Elsewhere, Wilson sang “Flying High,” written by former Motown mainstay Lamont Dozier, and “Car Of Love,” penned by one of that soul empire’s busiest session guitarists, Ray Parker Jr. He was soon to find fame with his own band, Raydio, and later to cut the world-beating theme to the movie Ghostbusters.
The AOR staple was Gary Wright’s major recent hit “Love Is Alive,” which had reached No.2 on the Hot 100 in 1976. Nancy took the song at an incongruous disco lick, but as on the album as a whole, Gene Page’s superior strings gave it an air of distinction. Wilson herself teamed with Billy Page to write “Patience My Child.” The LP boasted A-list sessions by the Crusaders’ Wilton Felder on bass, the soprano sax of Ernie Watts and percussionist Paulinho da Costa among others, with backing vocalists including Jim “Swing Your Daddy” Gilstrap.
I’ve Never Been To Me started at No. 48 on the R&B chart and rose to No. 42 in a nine-week run. It entered the all-genre Billboard chart a week after its soul debut, but spent just one week there at No.198.
“Unrequited love and torch songs”
“There’s been no deliberate attempt for me to get to a younger audience,” Wilson had told Blues & Soul a year earlier. “I still got basically the same kind of audience and naturally, as a performer, you expect and hope to pick up new followers all the time. But I’ve still stuck with what I’ve always done — chosen material with good, strong lyrics.
“The lyric content of my songs is still the same – songs about love, about men and women, unrequited love, torch songs. Naturally, we’re singing new songs and if that’s attracting new audiences, then that’s fine.”