Friday, September 24, 2010

Linda Tillery - Freedom Time

Linda has got a large catalog of interesting work. She is a huge part of the local Bay Area music scene history. More importantly, an integral part of the Women's Movement here. The Women's Movement and the emerging Women's Music scene were interwoven and a part of an ever growing and expanding network.

Linda Tillery in 1978
In the seventies The Feminist Movement was alive and thriving here in the Bay. From restaurants to record labels women were 'doing it' on their own and showing other women they could 'do it' too. Women were making landmark moves. The social and political scene was closely knit with the emergence of just as radical of a Women's Movement in music. The same revolutionary changes and energy of the Women's Movement was also flowing through the same veins of the music scene. I remember that the social and political changes that were happening in the Bay Area made it an awesome place to grow up for me.
Part of what still makes it awesome.

My mom stood beside a entire UPS facility full of men, and threw packages just like them, doing what was considered 'men's work'. She was delivering parcels, and next, being a part of delivering women into the workplace. Then, in the East Bay the experiences continued...The mother of my closest childhood friend was involved in an all lesbian owned and run breakfast spot. In fact, it was the 'The Brick Hut' and often was the local hang for the 'Olivia Records' gang. Olivia Records was right around the corner from 'The Hut'. We used to go to 'The Hut' as kids on weekend mornings after hitting the Ashby Flea Market.

Musically and socially a climate of change was blowin' about in the SF/Berkeley and Oakland area. Rewarding on so many levels to be a kid amidst the diverse and active community here in the Bay. Then and now, still to this day.

Linda with The Loading Zone

Linda Tillery started with local Oakland based group 'The Loading Zone'. She must have been 16 or 17 years old during that time. She earned her place in that band by singing her heart out. She's featured as the singer on several tracks on the LP and they are the better tunes. This was a favored LP among funk collectors for the instrumental number 'Can I Dedicate'. Its an LP that is drenched heavy in soul, blues, funk and obviously modeled after Sly And The Family Stone. Big production with heavy and loud horns it has a trademark sound that was emerging in L.A. and the Bay Area. After Loading Zone broke up, she recorded an album for Columbia under the moniker Sweet Linda Divine. A nickname she had been known by throughout the Berkeley and Oakland area. More heavy funk and powerhouse vocals throughout this LP. It features the wicked 'I'll Say it Again' which is a cover of the Sandpebbles' 'If You Didn't Hear Me The First Time'.

The Sweet Linda Divine LP

Although it's a great LP, she didn't really come into her own until 1977 when she released her self titled LP on the all women owned and operated Olivia Records. It's a fantastic fabric of work, and considered by many the most intricate and musically rich releases for the label. This self titled LP by Linda Tillery on Olivia made considerable waves. Olivia also did a lot for women's music within this area, and also had a large staple of artists and releases. Linda became a producer at Olivia and played drums on countless releases as well. There's two fabulous tunes on this S/T in particular that I love..'Markin' Time' and the excellent 'Freedom Time' which has been re-released by Ubiquity on the compilation 'California Soul'. 'Freedom' is a monster tune, wickedly soulful and powerful. It has a 1:45 minute intro, but when it finally kicks in it's pure heaven. Something truly to be said for the power of sultry soulful sister vocals over slick and funky riffs and melodies. Although, its hard for me to pick just those two...again, it is a generally texturally rich and layered LP throughout. A good listen from start to finish. Not to mention it's incredible cover art, a mix of textures looking like burlap and sandpaper among other things. During the 70's she furthered her singing, producing, playing drums, and continued to work at Olivia Records. In addition she worked with other Bay Area artists' Coke Escovedo, Lenny White, Santana, and Boz Scaggs. Later in 1985 she released 'Secrets' on her own record label. It is an LP renowned by avid soul collectors as her true genius work and well known in modern soul circuit. Seems as though many of her releases are indeed loved by many different groups on many different levels. A life's work well received it appears.

To this day she's active as the leader of the Cultural Heritage Choir.
They're playing a free show at Zellerbach Hall on U.C. Berkeley's campus. It's at 5PM, this Sunday Sept. 26th. I'm going to go.. you should too. I'm gonna take my daughter, show her just how important women in music can be.

In an interview in 1978 Linda was quoted as hoping her music would "give strength to other women as they too strive to attain the freedom that comes when restrictions based on race and sex are eliminated"
Linda was more than just a vocal powerhouse but a powerhouse of activism and inspiration.

Here's two tracks from Linda..
I Can't Please You by The Loading Zone
Freedom Time from her S/T on Olivia Records
But, bottom line is her entire catalog is highly recommended.
I couldn't find my copy of 'Sweet Linda Divine' but, when I do..I'll post it up.

The Loading Zone - I Can't Please You

Linda Tillery - Freedom Time

1 comment:

  1. Sean Boogs, what a gem! Smokestack's been talking a lot about the Loading Zone and Linda Tillery lately and funny enough in wanting to know more about her prolific-ness we stumble upon your blog post- great post, lots of info, and right on for supporting strong women in music doing their thang!!