Happy 50th: Roberta Flack, CHAPTER TWO
50 years ago this month, Roberta Flack released her sophomore album, an LP which – despite failing to match the crazy commercial success of her debut, FIRST TAKE, with mainstream audiences – still packed a solid emotional punch and served to cement her superstar status on the R&B and jazz charts.
Mind you, at this point, FIRST TAKE hadn’t actually become a crazy commercial success. But we’ll get to that.
Produced by Joel Dorn, who’d also helmed Flack’s aforementioned debut album, CHAPTER TWO was – not entirely surprisingly – recorded in the same spot as FIRST TAKE: Atlantic Studios in New York City. The material selected for inclusion was stylistically diverse, including songs by Jimmy Webb (“Do What You Gotta Do”), Bob Dylan (“Just Like a Woman”), and Buffy Sainte-Marie (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), as well as “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha.
Oh, and there was one more very important song in the mix that’s worth of specific note: “Gone Away,” a tune penned by Curtis Mayfield, Leroy Hutson, and a man who would prove to be very important in her life and career, Donny Hathaway.
Two tracks from CHAPTER TWO were released as singles – “Reverend Lee” and “Do What You Gotta Do” – and both failed to chart in any significant way, although the latter did manage to bubble under the Hot 100. Not exactly what you’d call a stellar chart performance, granted, but don’t worry: Flack’s fortunes were about to change in a dramatic way, thanks to the assistance of a fella by the name of Clint Eastwood.
Even though it’s post-CHAPTER TWO, we’ll still tell this quick story, just so you don’t feel bad about the fact that the album wasn’t originally a major success: in 1972, Eastwood was putting together the soundtrack for his film PLAY MISTY FOR ME, and he decided to utilize a song from FIRST TAKE, this ditty by Ewan MacColl called “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? Well, after the film was released, so had everyone else: the song vaulted to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for a total of six weeks, and led to the album eventually going platinum.
Needless to say, there was a sudden rush by new Flack fans to pick up her albums, at which point CHAPTER TWO finally got its just desserts as well as the public appreciation it deserved in the first place.