Roberta Flack, 'First Take' (1968)
The story of Take One's rise to the Billboard album chart's top slot starts with Clint Eastwood. Roberta Flack's stunning, extended interpretation of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger's 1957 folk song "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" (first popularized in 1962 by the Kingston Trio), didn't gain traction until it played behind a sex scene in Eastwood's 1971 directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. But then Flack has always been more of the soul singer's singer (Lauryn Hill and the Fugees' "Killing Me Softly" notwithstanding, Flack's vulnerability is the DNA encoded in Mary J. Blige's tender side) than she is a pop commodity. Take One, released in 1968,remains her only Billboard-crowning studio LP, and similar to the legendary Nina Simone, Flack's prolific abilities as a cover artist have unfairly diminished her broader recognition as a pure talent and standards-bearer.