Records are made every day, released every week, and even with the best will in the world this means that scores of records are ignored or lost from the moment that they are pressed. However it is also true that the collector, the DJ and the fanatic are all out there looking for something that can lift their soul. So there is always hope that if your record is good enough, one day it will be discovered and revered. Artists as diverse as Terry Callier, David Axelrod and Vashti Bunyan have all benefited from this effect, and if there is any justice in the world so should Sandy Barber’s album ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ .
Born in New York City on June 8th 1955, Barber grew up and attended school just across the river in Englewood New Jersey. With the encouragement of her big family she was singing from an early age at any events that would have her. As a teenager she came second at the legendary ‘Talent Night’ at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The Apollo was known throughout America as the premier venue of the African American circuit, and was infamous for its tough audience. Even stepping onto that stage was a challenge, but to finish in the top three was a serious achievement.
The appearance at the Apollo was heard by Chris Curry who arranged for Sandy to audition for David Jordan a producer who was working on a group called Rare Pleasure. He had a song called ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and felt that Sandy’s voice was perfect for it. The record released on Cheri Records became a club anthem – today probably better known for being sampled by David Morales on his hit ‘Needing U’ – with Sandy’s vocals perfectly capturing the songs pleading nature. Sandy didn’t enjoy working with a group and went out on her own soon after, a decision that was vindicated when a mutual friend introduced her to the producer, writer and record label owner Clyde Otis, who Sandy describes as ‘her mentor’. Otis liked what he heard and signed her immediately to the deal that would produce her album ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’.
When he signed Sandy he was bringing with him over a quarter of a century of knowledge and experience and he used it all in putting together the record. The vocal arrangements were handled by Tasha Thomas, the incredible singer who had made her name in the stage play of ‘The Wiz’, who recorded the wonderful ‘Shoot Me (With Your Love), at the time one of the hottest singers on the scene. The musical arrangements were by Nat Adderley Jr, son of the jazz trumpeter, and a brilliant keyboard player in his own right, who had recorded with the group Natural Essence on Fantasy.
The album opens with ‘Look Out Sky’ which lays out the stall for the whole album. A glorious uplifting soul song that benefits from the thoughtful arrangement that allows for plenty of space within the record for the voice to shine through. ‘I’ve Got Something Good’ has a pounding four to the floor rhythm and a great horn arrangement as Sandy tells about her good thing. Especially notable on this track is the vocal backings that mimic and sing along with the rising synthesiser part. ‘The First Time’ takes the tempo way down and is a jazz based ballad reminiscent of Marlena Shaw’s ‘Go Away Little Boy’, with a fine string arrangement. The first side ends with the fantastic ‘Don’t You Worry Baby (The Best Is Yet To Come), seven minutes of carefully arranged ecstatic soul. The record builds from a elongated intro, through some banked backing vocals to the full on song, before dropping into an instrumental middle section of strings and saxophone, and an improvised out-section where Sandy’s voice comes right back in.
The album has become sought after in recent years for the cut that opens up side two ‘I Think I’ll Do Some Stepping (On My Own)’, once more the rhythm section and its arrangement proves to be the perfect foil for Sandy’s love-worn but defiant voice. This is followed by the discofied version of the theme to ‘Wonderwoman’ the late 70s TV staple starring Linda Carter. This contrasts with the vibrant, but extremely jazzy ‘Can’t You Just See Me’ which rolls along on an astounding piano part and some bluesy guitar. The original album ends with the emotional overload of the second ballad of the album ‘Stay Here With Me’, a fitting showcase for Sandy’s voice.
‘Wonder Woman’ was lifted as a single, possibly in the hope that it would get sales on the back of the success of the TV series, and it was backed by a non-album B-side, ‘Remember Me’ another cut that could have sat very well on the album. Access to the master tapes at Otis’ Argon productions has allowed us to unearth four previously unreleased tracks including the lovely ‘Let’s Get Back Together’, that appear to have been recorded later, possibly for a follow up album for ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’.
Sandy continued singing, joining the group Blue Moderne who released records on Roll and Atlantic, before appearing solo as Sandy B on Vinylmania, Nervous and King Street amongst others. She lives in New Jersey and continues to sing in and around New York.