On this day in music history: July 26, 1974 - “Phoebe Snow”, the debut album by Phoebe Snow is released. Produced by Dino Airali and Phil Ramone, it is recorded at Producer’s Workshop in Hollywood, CA and A&R Studios in New York City from Mid - Late 1973, February - March 1974. Born in New York City and raised in Teaneck, NJ, Phoebe Laub grows up surrounded by music. Encouraged by her parents, Phoebe begins playing guitar in her teens. In the early 70’s, she begins performing at amateur nights in Greenwich Village. During this time, Laub adopts her stage name, calling herself Phoebe Snow after a character advertising the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, a rail line running from Buffalo, NY to Hoboken, NJ. Snow is seen by Denny Cordell, co-owner of Shelter Records, while performing at The Bitter End in 1972. Impressed by her unique contralto voice and guitar playing ability, he offers to sign her to a recording contract. Shortly after, Snow begins work on her debut album with Cordell and Dino Airali producing. Inexperienced in the studio and lacking discipline, Snow makes only minor progress after several months. With Shelter faltering financially, something has to be done to get the project back on track. Airali approaches record producer and engineer Phil Ramone to assist. Having a great sensitivity toward artist temperament, as well has possessing prodigious musical gifts and technical expertise himself, Phil Ramone proves to be just what the doctor ordered. Ramone takes Snow’s spare acoustic guitar based songs and surrounds them with subtle and understated instrumentation, providing the perfect back drop to showcase her voice. A number of seasoned musicians are brought in for the sessions, including Zoot Sims (saxophone), Ron Carter, Chuck Delmonico (bass), Steve Gadd (drums), Teddy Wilson, Bob James (keyboards), Dave Mason, David Bromberg (guitars), Hugh McDonald (bass, guitar), Margaret Ross (harp) and Ralph MacDonald (percussion). With little time or money to spare, the album is completed in just a couple of weeks. “Phoebe Snow” is released to little fanfare, and initially looks to be a flop, when her cover of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” featuring The Persuasions on background vocals begins receiving airplay on R&B stations. Because of her soulful voice and coarse mane of dark hair, many initally believe that Snow is black. From there, DJ’s discover the track “Poetry Man” (#5 Pop, #1 AC), a song that Phoebe writes about an affair she has with a married man. With little promotion from Shelter, the song takes off, taking Phoebe Snow from relative obscurity to the pop music spotlight by the early Spring of 1975. The album spins off one more single with “Harpo’s Blues” (#20 AC), also earning Snow a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. “Phoebe Snow” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, number twenty on the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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