Five months ago, while writing about the latest additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, I confessed that I didn’t know ‘Lady Marmalade’ was a cover (I know the song through its inclusion in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge).
In fact, it was a hit R&B song by Labelle, a band fronted by Patti LaBelle.
Well, this week Labelle makes another appearance thanks to their 1974 album Nightbirds, on which ‘Lady Marmalade’ is the opening track.
Nightbirds was the trio’s fourth album under the name Labelle, though they had recorded several others as a quartet under the name Patti LaBelle & The Blue Belles.
While LaBelle was the front woman, band member Nona Hendryx was the songwriter behind most of the groups songs. Rounding out the trio was Sarah Dash, who went on to have a decent solo career as well as turns singing with Keith Richards and The Rolling Stones.
Nightbirds has a great sound and a solid batch of songs. It doesn’t lose steam after the classic opener. Elements of funk and New Orleans jazz merge with R&B and disco, making this a thoroughly enjoyable listen and another great find from 1974.
Makes no difference if it’s only a game
Released, relived, just for the day
It’s a nightbird’s way
She sees, she scores, she stores nothing away
And tomorrow’s a dream, running out of steam
Leaving bits and pieces in her way
She lives the day before day
Nightbird’s sky is never high enough
She only touches down
Just to fill her wings again
Laughing, crying, all the way
Hear the nightbird pray
She lives, she dies, she buys
What life gives away
And yesterday’s a thought, unwillingly caught
In a mind where time has nothing to gain
She feeds the fire for the flame
Fly by the light of the moon