BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Sandra Phillips may be best known these days as an actress, both on stage (portraying Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, among others) and on film (Round About Midnight, Lean On Me) – she’s even done Law & Order. Before she became a born-again thespian, however, she recorded Too Many People in One Bed for Canyon Records, who rudely went belly-up before it could be released. Groomed by Swamp Dogg as a replacement for the coop-fleeing Doris Duke (whose Dogg-pounded LP I’m a Loser also sees reissue through Alive), Phillips sports a plainspoken R&B tenor that suits the erstwhile Jerry Williams, Jr.’s tales of domestic strife, painful infidelity and romantic self-doubt.
Phillips invests the near-hit “To the Other Woman (I’m the Other Woman),” “She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking)” (later a top 10 R&B hit for Dee Dee Warwick) and the deeply depressing “Ghost of Myself” with real feeling, singing with a tone of resignation more than anguish. Light relief comes from the peppy kiss-off “Please Don’t Send Him Back to Me,” which Phillips delivers with perfectly withering sass. Whether he’s using strings or sticking to guitar/piano basics, Dogg keeps the dry production centered around Phillips’ even-toned singing, bringing out her vulnerability and avoiding anything close to melodrama.
Though too low-key to storm the castle walls of R&B history, Too Many People in One Bed deserves its rescue from obscurity.
DOWNLOAD: “Ghost of Myself,” “Please Don’t Send Him Back to Me,” “To the Other Woman (I’m the Other Woman)”