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Labelle-Nightbirds (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 13, 1974
StudioSea-Saint Studios, New Orleans, Louisiana
GenreFunk, funk rock, R&B
ProducerAllen Toussaint
Labelle chronology
Pressure Cookin'

Nightbirds is an album by the all-female singing group Labelle, released in 1974 on the Epic label. Notable for their biggest hit, the number-one song, "Lady Marmalade", it became the group's most successful album to date.


Labelle was a group in search of a hit. Despite creative control - member Nona Hendryx began composing most of the group's material - the group hadn't had commercial success with their first three albums - Labelle, Moon Shadow and Pressure Cookin', all albums had flirted with elements of rock music mixed with the group's soul/gospel roots from their days as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Despite this, the group became a draw as opening acts for The Who, Laura Nyro and The Rolling Stones. Following their opening act on the Stones' 1973 U.S. tour, Epic Records signed the act to its roster.

The group was assigned to notable New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint and the group was sent to Toussaint's hometown of New Orleans to work on the record that would eventually be released as Nightbirds. The album was recorded in two months. Along with their adaptation of glam rock-styled outfits during their live performances, the group incorporated elements of funk music, something they started to include in their last album, Pressure Cookin on the song, "Goin' On a Holiday". The funk direction continued with songs such as "Are You Lonely", "Somebody, Somewhere", "Space Children" and their famous hit, "Lady Marmalade". More experimental glam rockers such as "Nightbirds" and "It Took a Long Time" showed the group's range while the album closer, "You Turn Me On" was a sexy R&B slow jam, which shocked past listeners of the Bluebelles' material.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 stars [1]
Robert ChristgauA- [2]
Rolling Stone4.5/5 stars [3]

The album became their most successful to date, becoming their first album to hit both the pop and R&B charts - neither of their previous albums charted - peaking at number seven on the latter chart, thanks to the phenomenal success of the funk single, "Lady Marmalade", one of the few songs not written by Nona Hendryx. The group's only other hit single, "What Can I Do For You", was written by Queens, New York musicians Edward Batts and James Ellison, who would continue to work for Patti LaBelle following the split of the group. The other members of their touring band, Jeffrey Shannon, drums, Hector Seda, bass, and Leslie "Chuggy" Carter, percussionist, where all responsible for their individual instrumental arrangements, of which, many were used on the Nightbird album and on all live performances.

The album remains their most successful album, certified platinum in the U.S. for selling over a million copies. Due to this success, Labelle landed on the cover of Rolling Stone.


With Nightbirds, Labelle were praised for mixing their R&B/pop sound with elements of rock and funk. The success of the album's two singles also helped to pioneer the disco movement, which peaked in the late 1970s and influenced dance music for three decades. In 2003, the album was ranked number 272 on Rolling Stone's magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. That same year, the album's leading hit track, "Lady Marmalade", was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame. Several acts have covered "Lady Marmalade" into international successes on their own including covers by All Saints and the quartet collaboration between singers Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil' Kim and Pink. "It Took a Long Time" was featured during the final scene and ending credits to the motion picture Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Nona Hendryx, except where noted.

Side one
1."Lady Marmalade"Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan3:56
2."Somebody Somewhere" 3:25
3."Are You Lonely?" 3:12
4."It Took a Long Time"Raymond Bloodworth, L. Russell Brown, Bob Crewe4:03
5."Don't Bring Me Down"Allen Toussaint2:48
Side two
6."What Can I Do for You?"Edward Batts, James Budd Ellison4:02
7."Nightbird" 3:09
8."Space Children" 3:02
9."All Girl Band"Allen Toussaint3:50
10."You Turn Me On" 4:37


  • Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx & Sarah Dash - Lead and Backing Vocals
  • Allen Toussaint - Keyboards, Percussion, Guitar, Arrangements
  • Art Neville - Organ
  • George Porter, Jr., Walter Payton - Bass
  • Leo Nocentelli, Rev. Edward Levone Batts - Guitar
  • Smokey Johnson, Herman Ernest III - Drums
  • James "Budd" Ellison - Piano
  • Earl Turbinton - Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet
  • Alvin Thomas, Lon Price - Tenor Saxophone, Flute
  • Clyde Kerr, Jr., Steve Howard - Trumpet
  • Lester Caliste - Trombone
  • Carl Blouin - Baritone Saxophone
  • Clarence Ford - Alto Saxophone
  • Jeffrey Shannon - Drums, Arrangements, Touring Band Member
  • Hector Seda - Bass, Arrangements, Touring Band Member
  • Leslie "Chuggy" Carter - Percussionist, Arrangements, Touring Band Member


Year Album Chart positions[4]
1975 Nightbirds 7 4


Year Single Chart positions[5]
1974 "Lady Marmalade" 1 1 1


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Robert Christgau Consumer Guide
  3. ^ Rolling Stone review
  4. ^ "Labelle US albums chart history". Retrieved 2011-08-01.
  5. ^ "Labelle US singles chart history". Retrieved 2011-08-01.

External links[edit]