5 April 2017, No. 247, Sharon Redd, ‘Can You Handle It’

Sharon Redd’s first appearance here in the record show is directly attributable to some hot, muted agogo bells that aren’t even in No. 247, “Can You Handle It.” We covered the most iconic agogo bells in No. 227 from Bob James , and the Sharon Redd bells will come in right at the end of the 300s. In this report we’re concerned with a song that has no similarly defining feature. The hook has a nice feel, and the horn stabs are sharp and well timed, but I could do without the smooth sax solo, and there are no distinctive synths to be found here. The break, which puts the bassline out front, is the funky element that lands this tune on the list. And the effected guitar plinking in the break almost makes up for the dearth of synthesizers. Almost.

A couple entries after Bob James’ Mardi Gras bells, we covered an Eddie Bo tune (No. 231) with the same title as today’s. Bo’s “Can You Handle It” lyrics focus on the lead-up to the acquisition of a thing, whereas Redd’s are concerned with the reasons one might not be able to handle a thing. “’Cause you ain’t had nothin’ like it,” Redd begins to answer her own question. Or, well, songwriters Willie Lester and Rodney Brown’s question. Aside from the hook, there are no other lyrics in common with the Eddie Bo tune. Mr. Bocage wrote his lyrics ten or eleven years before this Sharon Redd joint hit the clubs, but the Redd joint is not a cover.

Redd—who got her start in the late 1960s, appeared in the Sydney production of Hair, and served as one of Bette Midler’s “Harlettes” backup singers—was by the early 1980s the Prelude label’s most successful artist. “Can You Handle It” enjoyed a brief resurgence of popularity in 1992 when the group DNA remixed it (yes, that DNA, who reworked Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” into a downtempo dawn-of-the-’90s jam), but the same year they resurrected “Can You Handle It,” Redd died of AIDS-related pneumonia, stopping short her efforts to revitalize her career. Redd is survived by her half sister Penny(e) Ford. I have Ford’s “Change Your Wicked Ways” single, but it’s not on this list. It’s kinda cheesy, and I think I purged it in the last move. Ford is more recognizable (and easier to appreciate) as the voice of Snap!, singing the indelible hook in “The Power.”

If you’ve been a reader of these record show reports (and, more importantly, if you’ve listened to the songs), No. 247’s claim that “you ain’t had nothin’ like it” is pretty far off the mark. We’ve had songs similar to this one, and we’ll have many more before we reach the end of the show. Some of the songs, as I mentioned, even come from elsewhere in the Sharon Redd catalog. Can you handle it?