Self Portrait (1969)

Ruth Copeland

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Track Listing:

Prologue/Child of the North {Ruth Copeland}  5:40 
Thanks for the Birthday Card {R Copeland}  4:26 
Your Love Been So Good To Me {R Copeland, Lucius "Tawl" Ross, G Clinton}  3:16 
The Music Box {R Copeland, E Wayne, Ron Dunbar}  3:40 
The Silent Boatman {R Copeland}  5:50 
To William in the Night {R Copeland, G Alexander, E Wayne, Ron Dunbar}  2:50 
No Commitment {R Copeland}  3:19 
I Got A Thing for You Daddy {R Copeland, Eddie Hazel, G Clinton}  3:42 
A Gift of Me {R Copeland, E Wayne, R Dunbar}  1:52 
Un Bel Di (One Fine Day) {--the Puccini aria from Madame Butterfly}  5:50 

Producer: Ruth Copeland 
Drums: Tiki Fulwood
Guitars: Eddie Hazel, Lucius "Tawl" Ross, Ray Monette, Dennis Coffey 
Bass: Billy Bass Nelson, Bob Babbit
Keyboards: Bernie Worrell 
Vocals: Ruth Copeland, George Clinton, Choraliers gospel singers
Orchestra: Detroit Symphony
Other musicians: Tommy Bell, Andrew Smith, Tom Neme, Tony Camillo

Rating: RC: **1/2


RC: Ruth Copeland was one of many female singers that George Clinton has worked with over the years, writing songs for them and producing them. Copeland was unusual in that she wrote much of her own material and did her own production work. Her timing in working with GC was also interesting: right at the dawn of the Funkadelic age. Her imprint is all over Parliament's obscure first album, Osmium, with singing and cowriting credits. So George and company returned the favor, playing on a good bit of her first album, on the Invictus label. This was Parliament's label for about three years.

The album is interesting to hear the wildness of early Funkadelic toned down a bit (and just a bit) in order to play smoother sounding pop and ballads (!). Copeland has a decent voice, but it's not particularly interesting, and not especially soulful. She sounds at times like a folk crooner, at times like a Janis Joplin wanna-be blues belter, and even tries out opera. Not surprisingly, her voice is way out in front of the music, painfully at times. One of the other problems are the lyrics, which are ridiculously melodramatic. The best tracks are the rockers, which were co-written by Clinton, Eddie Hazel and Tawl Ross.

"Prologue" starts with an acoustic guitar intro, then launches into full orchestral accompaniment, making the insipid lyrics even more ridiculous. Nice bass playing, however. "Birthday Card" is another song with absurd, maudlin lyrics, with some decent guitar playing. "Your Love Been..." is a hard rocker, and is much better. There's a hot lead guitar line (which I think is Eddie Hazel), and the vocals are in synch with the music. "The Music Box" is more of the same melodrama, with the scourge of a children's chorus thrown in. "The Silent Boatman" is the same song that appears on Parliament's Osmium album, with the bagpipes being replaced by organ. It's fairly well done, with the same delicate acoustic guitar intro. "To William..." is laughably bad, with more awful lyrics and overworked singing. "No Commitment" continues in the same vein, with the singing slightly less histrionic. "I Got A Thing..." spotlights Funkadelic, with some great riffing and pretty good singing. "A Gift Of Me" is an a capella number. Enough said. "Un Bel Di" is one of the most insane things I've ever heard, starting off as full-blown opera with orchestral accompaniment, and then suddenly adding a kick-ass guitar solo from Eddie and solid drumming from Tiki. The solo is one of the best I've ever heard.

The album is generally not worth spending money on, but the three good numbers are worth hearing and boost the overall rating.