Alice Clark, who died in 2004 at the young age of 57, is a legend among funk and soul aficionados. Her recorded legacy consists of two late ’60s singles and this self-titled album, produced by Bob Shad for the Mainstream label in 1972. The pensive cover photo is a key to the music contained within: the album has the classic soul sound of Muscle Shoals at times, particularly on the almost Aretha Franklin-esque opening version of Jimmy Webb’s “I Keep it Hid,” but moves into a softer, jazzier realm on tracks like “Looking at Life” and “It Takes Too Long to Learn to Live Alone.” Clark’s vocals can swell like a river threatening to overflow its banks, but more often than not she’s beautifully controlled, flowing along with the serenity of Roberta Flack or Dionne Warwick.
The band on Alice Clark includes session aces like drummer Bernard Purdie and guitarist Cornell Dupree, and Shad’s production is lush without sacrificing visceral impact. Clark, born in Brooklyn, had the restraint of a city girl, rather than the unfettered emotionality of a Southern church-bred singer; there’s something guarded, a you-won’t-hurt-me undertone to her delivery. And while the music is fundamentally soul, there are dashes of jazz thrown in here and there, particularly on the closing “Hey Girl,” which lets both the trumpeter and saxophonist off the leash, albeit briefly.