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Tobi Lark ( Ledgend )

One of the greatest slices of Sixties Detroit Soul ever put down onto vinyl. Tobi Lark was also Tobi Legend, a mysterious singer who the Northern Soul Scene spent twenty years trying to find.

Tobi Lark



We never guessed, in all those years of searching every nook and cranny of the US recording industry,That this enigmatic mystery was really the famous Detroit soul singer, Tobi Lark, who recorded for many Detroit labels, especially Dave Hamilton's Topper label. Tobi Legend had released two singles on the Mala label, one of which, "Time Will Pass You By", was acclaimed by many as one of the greatest Northern Soul songs of all time, and one of the famous "three before eight" at the legendary Wigan Casino

Singer Tobi Lark was born (named Bessie Gupton) in Alabama and raised in Detroit, where, like many soul and r&b singers, she performed in church choirs as a young girl. The daughter of gospel singer Emma Washington, Tobi got her first job in showbiz by singing with B.B. King, and went on to a career backing up The Impressions, The Four Tops, Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, Cannonball Adderley and Duke Ellington, among others. She also recorded a few Northern Soul singles under the name Tobi Legend; this video of her song "Happiness Is Here" includes a bit more of her backstory in the accompanying writeup.

Towards the end of the '60s, Lark moved to Montreal after a divorce and eventually wound up in Toronto, where she performed with Ronnie Hawkins, landed a lead role in a production of Hair and started up her own musical revue at a club named The Blue Orchid. She also recorded the single I'm posting today with a group of Toronto-based musicians collectively billed as "Toronto." After that her trail goes a little cold, although the article in this post's very first link mentions that she moved back and forth between Windsor, Detroit and Toronto, continued to perform as a solo and backup singer into the mid-'90s, and that, tragically, her son died and she had health problems of her own.

This single was recorded "live" (that's how they print it on the back cover) in 1970 at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Toronto (just down the street from where I live, as it happens), by executive producer Jack Richardson, producers Terry Vollum and John de Nottbeck (who went on to work with Max Webster), arrangers Ben McPeek and de Nottbeck, and engineer Dave Greene. Tobi Lark's musical backing consisted of George Semkiw (rhythm guitar), Gord Waszek (12 string guitar), Kim Mitchell (lead guitar), Jim Morgan (bass), Ray Reeves (organ), Ben McPeek (piano), Craig Richardson (tambourine), John de Nottbeck (drums) and Dave Cairns (drums on "Freedom Train"). Then there's the chorus, which lists (I counted) 78 (!) people, none of whom I recognize or will list here. "We're All In This Together" is a bombastic number that reminded me of Joe Cocker during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen days. And "Freedom Train" is less a fully completed song than a bluesy jam with gospel overtones.

Discography
    as Bessie Watson - 'I'm In Your Corner'/'I'm Never Alone - JAYPEE1001
    as Bessie Watson - 'Deed I Do'/'Cottage For Sale' - Riverside4569 - 1963
    as Tobi Lark - 'I'll Steal Your Heart'/'Talk To An Angel' - Palmer5000 - 1964
    as Tobi Lark - 'Happiness Is Here'/ 'Talkin' Bout Love' - Topper1011 - 1965
    as Tobi Lark - 'Sweep It Out In The Shed'/'Challenge My Love' - Topper1015 - 1966
    as Tobi Lark - 'Lot's Of Heart'/'A Woman's Job' - USD135 - 1967?
    as Tobi Legend - 'Time Will Pass You By'/'No Good To Cry' - Mala591 - '1968-9?
    as Tobi Lark - 'Twenty Four Hours'/''Shake A Hand' - Cotillion44025 - 1969
    as Tobi Lark - 'Just To Hold My hand'/'Giving Up' - Cotillion44059 - March 1970
    as Toby Lark with Toronto - 'We're All In This Together'/'Freedom Train' - Cotillion44096 - November 1970
    as Toby Lark with Toronto - 'We're All In This Together'/'Freedom Train' - Nimbus9011 (Canadian) - 1970
    as Toby Lark with OC Tolbert - 'Challenge My Love'/'You Got Me Turned Around' - Kent Town116 (UK) - ?
    as Toby Lark - 'True True Love' on ACE-KENT CD (UK) -2006
    plus Toby Lark reissues on ACE-KENT CD'S (UK) Dave Hamilton series


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