What I’ve Been Listening to: The Pointer Sisters/Energy

Album shows the versatile Pointer Sisters from a rare rocking side

A few days ago, I attended a free outdoor concert by an excellent Steely Dan tribute band called The Royal Scam. When they played Dirty Work, I remembered The Pointer Sisters recorded a great cover of the tune. In turn, this reminded me of their fourth studio album from 1978, which appropriately was called Energy.

It’s safe to assume most folks know The Pointer Sisters for pop and R&B songs, such as He’s So Shy, I’m So Excited and Jump (For My Love), which brought them significant commercial success during the 80s. But over a 40-year-plus career, the family singing group from Oakland, Calif. has covered a broad variety of genres, from disco, jazz, blues and R&B to rock.

The Pointer Sisters

Energy was The Pointer Sisters’ first of two ventures into rock. Following the departure of founding member Bonnie Pointer, the group had turned into a trio and now included Anita, Ruth and June Pointer. The album was also their first release with Planet Records, an independent label that had been founded by producer Richard Perry, who produced the record.

From the opening bars of the record’s first track Lay It On the Line, The Pointer Sisters leave no doubt they know how to rock. The uptempo tune features great slide guitar and honky-tonk piano parts.

Next up is Dirty Work, the above mentioned terrific cover of the Steely Dan song. Written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the tune initially appeared on Steely Dan’s 1972 debut album Can’t Buy a Thrill.

Another nice rocker is Come and Get Your Love. The song was written by Russ Ballard, the former lead singer and guitarist for the English rock band Argent.

And then there is Fire, which became a big hit single for The Pointer Sisters, climbing all the way to no. 2 on the Billboard U.S. Singles Chart. The tune was written by Bruce Springsteen in 1977, but he didn’t release it until 1986, when it was included in the live box set Live/1975-85. While I’m a big Springsteen fan, I have to say The Pointer Sisters’ cover has a lot more – well – fire!

A look at the musicians who backed The Pointer Sisters on the record explains the rock grove. Among others, they included Robert “Waddy” Wachtel (lead guitar); Danny Kortchmar (rhythm guitar); and former Toto members Jeff Porcaro (drums); David Hungate (bass); and David Paich (keyboards).

Energy reached no. 9 on Billboard’s Top Soul LPs and no. 13 on the Top LPs charts. It became the group’s second gold-certified release after their 1974 second studio album That’s a Plenty. While The Pointer Sisters haven’t recorded a new studio album since 1993, the group continues to perform. In addition to Anita and Ruth, the current line-up includes Issa and Sadako Pointer, Ruth’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube