Chameleon is the sixth album by American singing trio Labelle. Though Patti LaBelle’s autobiography Don’t Block The Blessings revealed that LaBelle planned a follow-up to Chameleon entitled Shaman, the album never materialized. The trio would not release another new recording until 2008’s Back to Now. The final album was moderately successful peaking at #94 at the Pop charts and #21 on the R&B charts. Only two singles made the charts which were “Get You Somebody New” which peaked at #50 on the Pop charts and their memorable song “Isn’t It A Shame” which debuted at #18 on the R&B charts. “Isn’t It A Shame” was later sampled by Nelly on his 2004 hit, “My Place”, which featured Jaheim.
Patricia Louise Holt-Edwards (born May 24, 1944), better known under the stage name Patricia Louise Holt-Edwards (born May 24, 1944), better known under the stage name Patti LaBelle, is an American singer, author, actress, and entrepreneur. LaBelle began her career in the early 1960s as lead singer and front woman of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Following the group’s name change to Labelle in the early 1970s, she released the iconic disco song “Lady Marmalade” and the group later became the first African-American vocal group to land the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. After the group split in 1976, LaBelle began a successful solo career, starting with her critically acclaimed debut album, which included the career-defining song, “You Are My Friend”. LaBelle became a mainstream solo star in 1984 following the success of the singles, “If Only You Knew”, “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up”, with the latter two crossing over to pop audiences becoming radio staples.
Early life and career
Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles
Patti joined a local church choir at the Beulah Baptist Church at ten and performed her first solo two years later, while she also grew up listening to secular music styles such as R&B and jazz music. When she was fifteen, she won a talent competition at her high school. This success led to Patti forming her first singing group, the Ordettes, in 1960, with schoolmates Jean Brown, Yvonne Hogen and Johnnie Dawson. The group, with Patti as front woman, became a local attraction until two of its members left to marry. In 1962, the Ordettes included three new members, Cindy Birdsong, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, the latter two girls having sung for another defunct vocal group. That year, they auditioned for local record label owner Harold Robinson. Robinson agreed to work with the group after Patti began singing the song “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”. Initially Robinson was dismissive of Patti due to him feeling Patti was “too dark and too plain”. Shortly after signing them, he had them record as the Blue Belles and they were selected to promote the recording of “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”, which had been recorded by The Starlets, but was assigned as a Blue Belles single due to label conflict. The Starlets’ manager sued Harold Robinson after the Blue Belles were seen performing a lip-synching version of the song on American Bandstand. After settling out of court, Robinson altered the group’s name to “Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belles”. Initially, a Billboard ad cited the group as “Patti Bell and the Blue Bells”. In 1963, the group scored their first hit single with the ballad “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)” which became a crossover top 40 hit on the Billboard pop and R&B charts after King Records issued it. Later in the year, they recorded their rendition of the standard “You’ll Never Walk Alone”; the single was later re-released on Cameo-Parkway Records where the group scored a second hit on the pop charts with the song in 1964. Another charted single, “Danny Boy”, was released that same year. In 1965, after Cameo-Parkway folded, the group moved to New York and signed with Atlantic Records where they recorded twelve singles for the label, including the mildly charted singles “All or Nothing” and “Take Me for a Little While”. The group’s Atlantic tenure included their rendition of “Over the Rainbow” and a version of the song “Groovy Kind of Love”. In 1967, Birdsong left the group to join The Supremes and by 1970 the group had been dropped from Atlantic Records as well as by their longtime manager Bernard Montague. That year, Vicki Wickham, producer of the UK music show, Ready, Steady, Go, agreed to manage the group after Dusty Springfield mentioned signing them. Wickham’s first direction for the group was for them to change their name to simply Labelle and advised the group to renew their act, going for a more homegrown look and sound that reflected psychedelic soul. In 1971, the group opened for The Who in several stops on the group’s U.S. tour.
Labelle signed with the Warner Music imprint, Track Records, and released their self-titled debut album in 1971. The record’s psychedelic soul sound and its blending of rock and soul rhythms was a departure from the group’s early sound. That same year, they sang background vocals on Laura Nyro’s album, Gonna Take a Miracle. A year later, in 1972, the group released Moon Shadow, which repeated the homegrown gritty sound of the previous album. In 1973, influenced by glam rockers David Bowie and Elton John, Wickham had the group dressed in silver space suits and luminescent makeup. After their third successive album, Pressure Cookin’, failed to generate a hit, Labelle signed with Epic Records in 1974, releasing their most successful album to date, with Nightbirds, which blended soul, funk and rock music, thanks to the work of the album’s producer, Allen Toussaint. The single, “Lady Marmalade”, would become their biggest-selling single, going number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling over a million copies, as did Nightbirds, which later earned a RIAA gold award, for sales of a million units. In October 1974, Labelle made pop history by becoming the first rock and roll vocal group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. Riding high on the success of “Lady Marmalade” and the Nightbirds album, Labelle made the cover of Rolling Stone in 1975. Labelle released two more albums, Chameleon and Phoenix in 1975 and 1976 respectively. While both albums continued the group’s critical success, none of the singles issued on those albums ever crossed over to the pop charts.