Another Autumn functions as the great lost full-length Sinclair never got around to recording.
Aside from a handful of singles, the discography of vocalist Ranny Sinclair has, until now, been rather difficult to assemble. Thankfully, the folks at Modern Harmonic have seen fit to remedy this, collecting not only all of her Columbia singles, but also a handful of previously unreleased tracks. Assembled to look like a period correct Columbia LP, Another Autumn functions as the great lost full-length Sinclair never got around to recording. Which in and of itself is something of a surprise, given the strength of the musicians and producers behind her efforts, including Dave Brubeck and Teo Macero—not to mention the fact that she recorded at the famed Columbia studios in New York.
But such is the case with many an overlooked musician now getting their due well after the fact. The reissue market has exploded over the last decade or so, giving even the most obscure artists a chance to finally be heard (provided they left anything to be heard, of course). This has been both a blessing and a curse. While it has finally made available recordings that were once exclusive to the most financially well-endowed collectors, it has also made it rather difficult to sift through the unrelenting number of releases to find those truly worthy of the attention. Given the favor she’s found amongst die hard Northern Soul fans, Sinclair’s singles would certainly fall into the worthy (of at least consideration) category. But what of a full-length collection?
Well, thankfully Another Autumn proves itself to be a wonderful mid-‘60s pop curio, encompassing all the then-popular styles. It’s a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach, but Sinclair proves herself up to the task. With a voice more than a little reminiscent of Margo Guryan (just try to listen to “Bye Bye” without thinking of “Something’s Wrong with the Morning”) and the jazz phrasing of the similarly-timbred Blossom Dearie, Sinclair sounds very much a product of her time. But this, coupled with the eclectic arrangements, makes for an interesting listen for fans of mid-‘60s pop in all its incarnations. “If I Had a Ribbon Bow” is an intriguing mix of folk rock and jazz (see also: the laidback, jazzy reading of folk standard “Barbara Allen”), her voice floating effortlessly above the seemingly incongruous combination of jangly guitars and smoky nightclub piano.
“There Won’t Be Trumpets” could easily pass for a lost Guryan track, Sinclair’s airy delivery and sing-song melody sharing a great deal with the latter’s overall aesthetic. It’s this feather-lite vocal quality that could well have prevented Sinclair from achieving any sort of wider acclaim during her active years. Lacking any sort of edge or immediately identifiable qualities of timbre or vocal grain, hers is a voice perfectly suited for anonymity. And while this may sound very much like a back-handed compliment, it’s quite the contrary as this allows her to effortlessly move from straight-ahead pop to jazz, easy listening and nearly all adult contemporary (to use more modern vernacular) points in between.
Given the variety of her stylistic endeavors, Another Autumn will appeal to a broader swath of retro fetishists. Northern Soul aficionados will appreciate a track like “Fan the Flame,” while jazzbos will dig the two collaborations with Dave Brubeck, “Autumn in Our Town” and “Something to Sing About,” that close out the collection. And while these are, rightly so, the more celebrated tracks on offer here, “Wailing Waltz” is a hidden gem; it’s a swinging groove very much in the cool jazz vein, while Sinclair’s vocals flow sinuously through the changes with a vocal dexterity and subtly of phrasing that would excite fans of vocalese. Add to this beat poet-inspired lyrics and you’ve got a note-perfect distillation of all that was hip in the early-to-mid-‘60s.
Despite its stylistic diversity, Another Autumn holds together incredibly well thanks to the vocals of Sinclair herself. Breathy and threatening to float away at the slightest breeze, she shows an impressive control over her delicate instrument throughout, making her an unjustly overlooked talent. Even “With Any Other Girl,” which features a chorus melody that threatens to be just out of reach vocally, succeeds due to the emotionality Sinclair imbues to the lyrics of longing and possession; it’s just this side of creepy while still sounding loving, sincere and, ultimately, harmless (a sentiment she quickly backs up with “A Wonderful Guy”: “I’m as corny as Kansas in August/ I’m as normal as blueberry pie/ No more a smart little girl with no heart/ I have found me a wonderful guy.”) While not necessarily a lost classic, these collected sides of Ranny Sinclair offer much to like for fans of mid-‘60s pop in its myriad styles and offshoots.