Phyllis Hyman is one of those cult artists who is under the mainstream radar but revered by those familiar with her. Statuesque and strikingly beautiful she was a sight to behold even before she opened her mouth. Of course, she did open her mouth and that's why she is legendary among soul connoisseurs. Somewhere In My Lifetime represents a fateful turning point in Hyman's career. Released in 1978, it was her Arista Records debut album. It started life as her second album on Buddah Records but when that label was absorbed by Arista the album was revamped under the watchful eye of industry legend Clive Davis. To his credit, Davis saw in Hyman what everyone else did -- a stunning beauty with a gorgeous voice and lots of commercial potential. Davis wanted to heighten Hyman's crossover appeal and enlisted Arista's biggest hitmaker, Barry Manilow, to arrange and produce the title track. "Somewhere In My Lifetime" is a tasteful, pretty ballad that Davis hoped would be a massive pop hit in the vein of Dionne's "I'll Never Love This Way Again" or Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud". Unfortunately, the single did not perform well. Hyman's vocal soars on the track but does not necessarily convey the optimism or inspiration of the lyric. Her voice is just too worldly and poignant. However, it is clear that Arista wanted a crossover diva and was not prepared to play to Hyman's unique strengths as an artist. Eventually Davis would find another voice capable of carrying such sunny sentiments right to the top of the pop charts -- but that's a different diva. Hyman was not a 'pop' singer, her expressive, arresting alto was tailor-made to wring every last drop of melancholy out of a lyric. She could have made "Can't You Feel A Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice)" from The Wiz sound like a torch song. When she clicked with the material it was pure magic. The B-side of the "Somewhere In My Lifetime" single, the haunting "Gonna Make Changes" is absolutely flawless. Written by Hyman, the lush arrangement is perfection and "emotive" (one of my favorite adjectives) hardly does her awe-inspiring vocal justice. That track and 5 others were produced by Skip Scarborough and Hyman's then-husband Larry Alexander. The trio came up with the finest moments on the album: the lovely "The Answer is You", the funky "Living Inside Your Love" and a spine-tingling rendition of the Van Heusen/Burke standard "Here's That Rainy Day." The 3 remaining songs were produced by T. Life, who came up with killer disco tracks for Evelyn King's Smooth Talk but did not repeat that feat here. After Somewhere In My Lifetime Hyman would go on to only moderate commercial success but among those in the know she is iconic. Sadly, Hyman's story did not have a happy ending. An informative, engaging biography of Hyman was published in 2007. Written by Jason A. Michaels and titled Strength of a Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story, it sheds light on the personal and professional life of the troubled yet supremely talented diva.
Side One Kiss You All Over Somewhere In My Lifetime Lookin' For A Lovin' The Answer is You So Strange
Side Two Gonna Make Changes Living Inside Your Love Be Careful (How You Treat My Love) Soon Come Again Here's That Rainy Day
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