Review: Timi Yuro – The Complete Liberty Singles (Real Gone, 2012)
Timi Yuro was an anomaly in the world of 1960s soul – a small girl of Italian descent with a gigantic, hugely emotional voice. The opening notes of her million-selling 1961 debut single, “Hurt,” suggest no less than Jackie Wilson with their power and vibrato, leaving listeners to momentarily wonder if they were hearing a man or a woman. She could sing more tenderly, but the biggest thrills in her catalog came from the sort of wrecking ball outbursts that Phil Spector helped capture on her subsequent “What’s A Matter Baby.” Barely missing the Top 10, this latter single is perhaps the single greatest kiss-off in the history of pop music; from it’s opening drum roll to Yuro’s derisive laugh after singing “I know that you’ve been asking ‘bout me,” to the soul-crushing finale “and my hurtin’ is just about over, but baby, it’s just starting for you,” this is a five-star kick in the teeth delivered point-blank to a deserving cad. Even the distortion on Yuro’s voice connotes indignation so strong that the microphone should’ve stepped back.
Yuro’s commercial fortunes never topped these two singles, but she continued to release fine albums and singles for Liberty throughout the rest of the 1960s. The bluesy choke in her voice suggested Dinah Washington, as did the string arrangements with which she was often supported. The material for her early singles was drawn in large part from pop standards, ranging from early century classics to Tin Pan Alley to the hit parade. As with her two biggest hits, songs of romantic discord and joy, such as the non-charting “I Know (I Love You)” and its Drifters-styled flipside, “Count Everything,” provide the sort of material Yuro could really sink her teeth into. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of those sides were co-written by Yuro’s producer Clyde Otis, who also co-wrote “What’s a Matter Baby.” The flip, “Thirteenth Hour” was co-written by Neil Sedaka’s writing partner, Howard Greenfield, and provides another great stage for Yuro’s passionate delivery.
Otis left Liberty in the middle of producing “What’s a Matter Baby,” and she subsequently charted with a Burt Bacharach arrangement of “The Love of a Boy.” Joy Byers’ bluesy “I Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” was actually a better fit, but as a B-side, it didn’t get much exposure. Yuro’s material shifted from pop standards to more recent soul and pop compositions, and with the release of her 1963 album Make the World Go Away, to a deep well of country songwriters. Yuro had become friends with Willie Nelson, and recorded several of his tunes (including “Are You Sure” and the choked-up “Permanently Lonely”), along with titles from Hank Cochran, Don Gibson and Hank Snow. Ray Charles had developed a country-as-soul template on Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, and Yuro took the concept to the next level with her highly charged vocals.
Yuro’s last single for Liberty in 1964, two distinct takes on “I’m Movin’ On,” failed to chart, and later that year she moved to Mercury. Three more excellent singles for Liberty in ’68 and ’69 failed to stir any chart action, but do provide a fine ending to disc two. In addition to her regular singles, this set includes the superb withdrawn B-side “Talkin’ About Hurt,” the jukebox-only single of Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You” b/w Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure,” the 1969 UK release of “It’ll Never Be Over For Me” b/w “As Long As There is You,” and a 1962 Italian-language recording of “Hurt.” Everything here is mono, save for tracks four and five on disc two, and the audio (some of which was apparently dubbed from acetates and discs) were mastered by Kevin Bartley at Capitol. The 16-page booklet includes liner notes by Ed Osborne. Those new to Yuro’s catalog might start with The Best of Timi Yuro, but this rundown of her singles in punchy, radio-ready mono includes some less-anthologized items that her longtime fans will treasure.