Review: Shelby Flint – The Complete Valiant Singles (Real Gone, 2010)
Shelby Flint had but one Top-40 single, 1961’s “Angel on My Shoulder,” but the purity of her voice, the quality of her technique and the sophistication of her melodic sensibility has been enough to sustain a music career. Perhaps even more important is that, uncharacteristically for “girl singers” of the early 1960s, she wrote much of her own material. From these early singles, recorded for the Valiant label, you can hear her combining folk, pop and especially jazz in her phrasing and tone. Her jazz leanings turned overt in a 1966 cover of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” notching her second (and last) appearance on the Billboard chart, peaking at #61 pop, and just missing the Top 10 adult contemporary. Her voice attracted a young fan in Joni Mitchell, who may have also noticed Flint’s transition from folk to jazz.
These songs of happy-go-lucky days, romantic longing and heartache, feint towards other popular female vocalists of her era, but despite the orchestration, strings and chorus backing her, the thoughtful mood of Flint’s work is more apiece with the folk revival than the pop charts. Perhaps the best analog would be the sweet folk-pop of Mitch & Mickey’s “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” but without the satire. This is all the more evident in a spare, sensitive reading of the traditional “The Riddle Song” (or as it’s better known, “I Gave My Love a Cherry”), in which Flint lingers over the notes, investing the lyrics with enough feeling that it might even win over Animal House’s John Blutarsky.
Flint sang with little or no vibrato, and remained impressively restrained even when she covered the Tom Jones showpiece “What’s New Pussycat.” She let her songs drift away in ellipses rather than belting out their climaxes as exclamation points. In addition to her eleven singles (A’s and B’s) for Valiant, this collection includes her original version of “I Will Love You,” recorded for Cadence (with the Jordanaires) in 1958, along with its B-side “Oh, I Miss Him So.” The other rarity here is Flint’s title song to Joy in the Morning (and its flip “Lonely Cinderella”), which was pulled shortly before release. All cuts are from the original mono master tapes, except 17, 18, 23 and 24 which were transferred cleanly from disc. Flint fans will also want to find Collectors’ Choice’s three-fer, but this singles collection is a superb retelling of her time on Valiant.