It started, as all these things tend to, with an eager promotions man named Steven Reece. Reece was working for an organization called Operation Step-Up in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he had an idea to do a local talent search to maybe put out on a few concerts to promote Civil Rights. His search lead him to Barbara Howard, a young singer with a buttery voice like Dionne or Diana, but who could pack a punch like Mavis.
Reece became so entranced with Howard’s voice that he launched a record label solely to put out her records. The label lasted all of 18-ish months. It’s sole issues: three Barbara Howard singles, and her debut LP, On the Rise. The album basically came and went; Howard is not a name you probably know. She did not play the American Bandstand or hit the Top 40. In the meantime, Howard and Reece got married, had three kids, one of whom became a state congresswoman.
That’s where this story would have ended if On The Rise didn’t become a crate-digging phenomenon. “Welcome Home” became a classic for soul DJs, and the LP itself — pressed in a very small quantity — usually sells for $250 in its original form on Discogs. It might have remained the province of crate-diggers only if not for a sealed copy walking into Plaid Room Records, the record store owned by the folks at Colemine Records, who tracked down the Reeces, and made this reissue happen. The Vinyl Me, Please team heard the album this summer, when the Colemine folks told us its story, and we decided to do our own color version. On The Rise comes out on February 15, but you can stream “Welcome Home” below. Grab Vinyl Me, Please’s edition over here.