Deena Johnson (Josephine Armstead) “The Breaking Point” (Wild Deuce 1004, 1965)
I‘ll have you know, I think the pinnacle of 1960’s soul happened in 1965. Following this assertion, I think some of the finest female soul records were released that year too. So as we get to the heart of the Half Century Past that golden time, I’m going to take this week to feature some of my favorite femme-soul moments of that year, concluding with Martha Reeves’s birthday this Saturday.
We’re starting off with Singer-Songwriter Josephine Armstead. Armstead was one of the original Ikettes, who can be found in harmony on that groups Top 20 smash “I’m Blue.” However, more talented than Ike Turner the tyrant allowed, Armstead found herself at the Brill Building being close friends with Ashford & Simpson. On a lot of early Ashford & Simpson compositions, her name is the 3rd member of the team, as they started churning out moderate hits for Maxine Brown, Tina Britt and a host of other New York Soul legends as 1964 became 1965.
Being not too content with being behind the studio glass tweaking the knobs and the lyrics, “Jo” went into the studio and turned in this knockout piece of Uptown Soul in the mold that had brought hits to Jackie Ross and Brenda Holloway in the preceding 8 months.
It has all the markings of an R&B classic, and is, in its own universe and in my heart. Thankfully this wouldn’t be the last time Josephine would make records for herself. After parting ways with Nick and Val, she found herself in Chicago, writing, producing and singing her way well into the next decade.