Na Allen

For reasons of his own Detroit performer Nathaniel Allen lost the last letters of his first name when he entered show business as Na Allen. But the move into singing was hardly a surprise as he was very well connected in the music world of the time. His sister was the redoubtable Denise LaSalle and his wife was the excellent vocalist Vee Allen. Vee in her turn was the sister of DJ, producer, manager and sometime singer Al Perkins.

Na only cut a handful of 45s in the early 70s but a few of them are top quality items, recorded at major studios in the south. So although he is nominally a Detroit performer I’m going to claim him as a southern soul artist. Allen’s initial 45 for Ronn was recorded at Hi where he went courtesy of his sister Denise LaSalle, and the chugging “Every Time It Rains” was right in the Poppa Willie groove, despite production being credited to Rudy Robinson. The gentle paced ListenLay It On Me Right Now is perhaps the better side as Allen’s limited vocal range is handled more sensitively.

His Atco 45 is so similar in style and feel to the Ronn release both sides may well have been recorded at the same Hi studio session. The dancers have a fondness for the mid paced “Thanks For Nothing” which is a fine Na Allen song and a super Mitchell (credited here) arrangement with particular emphasis on the strong horns. But the flip ListenNo Easy Way Down, a superbly tuneful Goffin / King composition is an absolute gem. Not just for the brilliance of the crack Memphis band behind him (check out Teenie Hodges’ beautiful guitar fills) but also for the strength of the song, particularly the subtle chord structure. This is one that sticks in the mind like super glue.

Allen continued to record in Memphis for the first in his series of Janus releases. His “I Was Telling Her About You” is rightly well regarded for its slinky easy paced rhythm and fine Allen delivery. The faster flip “If You Want To Hold On” lacks the charm of the top side sadly. The tasteful ballad ListenI’m In Love With You was cut in Detroit under Rudy Robinson and was one of his Na’s best vocal performances. Flip “I’m My Own Man” The “Irene” production credits om the 45 were a further link to Al Perkins as it was named for his wife.

Allen’s final Janus offering reprised “I Was Telling Her About You” and coupled it with a less successful version of the Motor City favourite “Open The Door To Your Heart”. Both sides of his final single for the obscure Pedestal label were penned by the excellent Prince Phillip Mitchell and were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. The subtle jazz mood of “Love Don’t Come Easy” wasn’t quite in the same league as the official B- side ListenHard To Do Without You with its better tune and clip clop rhythm arrangement.

But that was the end of Allen’s record history unfortunately. But I’m pleased to report that he was still active musically in the Detroit area as recently as 2015.











ListenLay it on me right now / Every time it rains ~ RONN 47 (1970)
Thanks for everything / ListenNo easy way down ~ ATCO 6753 (1970)
I was telling her about you / If you want to hold on (stop holding out on me) ~ JANUS 170 (1971)
ListenI’m in love with you / I’m my own man ~ JANUS 182 (1972)
Open the door to your heart / I was telling her about you ~ JANUS 197 (1972)
Love don’t come easy / ListenHard to do without you ~ PEDESTAL 120 (1973)


Special thanks to my friend Marshall Adams for the excellent suggestion and biographical info.

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