T In the Park, the Tennents Live Festival

ama- Spirits having flown

Philip Dorward profiles Carleen Anderson, the LA soul diva who’s now making the British record industry very proud.

Anyone who knows anything about Carlecn Anderson is aware that she‘s the god-daughter of the Godfather. James Brown; that her mother and step- father. Vikki Anderson and Bobby Byrd. were valued members of Brown‘s entourage; that her appearance at a London JB show in 1988 led to the Young Disciples‘ album Road To Freedom. on which Anderson penned some of the best tracks. A few reminisce about the amicable split prior to her rc-emergence as a solo artist. But you have to dig deeper to unearth the more significant experiences of her life. such as a childhood spent away from her parents. an early marriage and divorce and a struggle to survive under Reaganomics that convinced her to uproot herself and her son (now fifteen) from LA to London.

‘He came and destroyed everything.‘ she mourns. ‘They would say. “We don‘t want you to go to school learning anything. getting ajob. being prosperous or anything like that. So go

home and expect your welfare cheques.

1 Yeah. go and have another baby. Just

stay within your own little area and

we‘ll get on with running the rest ofthe world. thank you.“ I suppose I‘d be

bitter ifl was still there. still trapped in

} slavery. I dare say if I did not have

somewhere to go I would have fallen down and been another statistic.‘

She associates her emigration with that of Phyllis Wheatley who. in 1773. ; became the first African to have a I volume of English poetry published.

Already a slave. Wheatley was

, rendered even more of an outcast by

l her lesbianism. Anderson clearly feels a i kinship with her.

‘Slavery never changes.‘ she declares. f ‘It may change in physical appearance. l but it’s the same situation over and over

again. I ran away and did not feel guilty. because runaway slaves feel no guilt. You have to escape the victimised environment of enslavement as well as its conditioning nature. Yet. even for someone like me. who works hard. it doesn't take much to discourage. and there‘s a lot more people who have less self-esteem within themselves to be able to say: l‘rn going to get over this. no matter what.‘

Arnerica‘s loss is our gain. Anderson is the closest thing the British record industry has to a figure of Anita Baker‘s stature. True Spirit is an excellent debut. drawing on all her past experiences and hinting at weakness while retaining a compassionate strength. The vulnerability stems from years spent with her grandparents in

Houston. where gospel was the dominant music.

‘Through them. 1 developed both my openness and my insecurity. It‘s obviously lonely not to be around your parents. there‘s a sense of abandonment and it‘s hard to get away from that. Yet at the same time I had a very open relationship with my grandparents. We were very expressive because of the nature of our Christianity. 1! was a very emotional experience at church. because you laid your soul bare for the rest ofthe congregation . . . . You were allowed to see yourselves as people who had thoughts and how to work through that.‘

Anyone who has listened to True Spirit will attest that the Anderson soul is open and thoughtful. But her explanation ofthe song ‘Ain‘t (liven Up On You‘ in a recent Sum/av 'Iimm —7 ‘I just want to wash his socks and cook his dinner and be a little geisha for a couple of weeks‘ -- looks like the thoughts of someone who would gladly exchange one form ofenslavemcnt for another. Anderson. however. dismisses the article as being rather too freely spiked withjournalistic licence.

‘These are feelings of the emotions of the time. Women have traditionally been subservient to men and that‘s the way they have traditionally shown their affection. Tradition has conditioned women. and I suppose I have been conditioned by my upbringing. Anyway. I can never be in a position to wash his socks because I‘m too busy working!‘

Carlee): Anderson plays The Garage. Glasgow on Tue 28.

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32 The List 17—30 June 1994