One of Esther Phillips finest '70s releases, From a Whisper to a Scream is the first of seven albums the singer recorded for CTI offshoot Kudu. Arranged and conducted by Pee Wee Ellis, the December 1971 session also involved principal players such as bassist Gordon Edwards, drummer Bernard Purdie, percussionist Airto, guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale, keyboardist Richard Tee, and saxophonists Hank Crawford and David Liebman.

Setting the tone for Phillips' Kudu era, Whisper offers a series of spacious, yet fully arranged ballads of burning heartache, along with a handful of relatively funky numbers that do nothing to compromise her talent, dishing out loads of classy grit. It's a definite point of departure from the likes of Esther Phillips Sings and And I Love Him, her field of contemporaries closer to Al Green and Aretha Franklin than before. She grabs onto "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," Gil Scott-Heron's most harrowing rumination on drug dependency -- which, at that point, wasn't even a year old -- as if it were her very own, and it's all the more poignant given its parallels with her own life. (It’s meaning was only compounded by her death in 1984.)

Though there is absolutely nothing lacking in the album's more energetic moments, it's still the ballads that shine brightest, like the alternately fragile and explosive "From a Whisper to a Scream" (Allen Toussaint) and a staggering "Baby, I'm for Real" (Marvin and Anna Gordy, made popular by the Originals) so vulnerable yet commanding that it really should've closed the album.

Andy Kellman/AMG

Reviews: hi-fi+ April 2015 by Dennis Davis


Esther Phillips is one of the best – and, sadly, least remembered – Rhythm and Blues singers of the 20thCentury. Discovered by Johnny Otis, she was twice nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received four Grammy nominations. This comeback record of 1972 accounted for one of those nominations. Like Philips, the CTI sister label Kudu is little remembered today. Kudu released 39 soul jazz albums in the 1970’s and seven of those were from Phillips

Joined by an excellent backing band from the Creed Taylor CTI stable, Phillips turns in a sizzling performance of songs celebrating her scars from love and drugs. Phillips died at the age of 48 from her liver and kidney failure resulting from drug use, and some of the song lyrics here express the painful ravages of drugs. That tight jazz/blues band, along with a dozen strings, and a half dozen backing singers, in absolutely no way interferes with her ability to pull the last ounce of meaning from a ballad. Recorded at Rudy Vabn Gelder’s studio, the excellent sound is enhanced by Ray Staff’s mastering and the whisper quiet vinyl surfaces.

Another winner from Pure Pleasure, and one that belongs in any R&B lover’s collection.DD Music 9/10 Recording 8/10


Side A: 1. Home Is Where The Hatred Is 2. From A Whisper To A Scream 3. To Lay Down Beside You 4. That's All Right With Me 5. 'Til My Back Ain't Got No Bone

Side B: 1. Sweet Touch Of Love 2. Baby, I'm For Real 3. Your Love Is So Doggone Good 4. Scarred Knees

Produced by Creed Taylor

Re-mastering by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, London