B.T. Express – 1980 (1980)

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B.T. Express
1980
Released 1980, Columbia JC 36333
 
 
 
Takin’ Off     3:52
Heart Of Fire     3:52
Does It Feel Good     5:43
Give Up The Funk (Let’s Dance)     6:25
Closer     3:35
Have Some Fun     5:23
Better Late Than Never     5:33
Funk Theory     4:22
 
Produced for Mighty M Productions
Mastered at Sterling Sound, N.Y.C.
Recorded and mixed at Counterpoint Studios, N.Y.C.
Additional recording at Music Grinder Studios, L.A.
Additional mixing at The Hit Factory, N.Y.C.
B.T. Express is:
Carlos Ward – Alto Saxophone, Flute, horn arrangments on ‘Give Up The Funk’
Rick Thompson – Guitar
Wesley “Pike” Hall, Jr. – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Bill Risbrook – Tenor Saxophone, Vocals
Dennis Rowe – Percussion, Vocals
Jamal Rasool – Bass, lead vocals
Additional musicians:
Buddy Williams – Drums
Gary Scott –  Arrangements and conducting, keyboards, synthesizer
Howard Westley “Butch” Stevens – keyboards
Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson and Gary Chester
Additional recording engineers – Gary Skardina, Ryan Ulyate
Assistant engineers – Ben Wisch, Karl Westman, Michael Ruffo
Mixed by – Gerry Block
Mastered by Greg Calbi
Additional production and arranging – Morrie Brown
Concertmaster – Marcy Dicterow
Executive Producer (supplied the coke) – Fred Frank
Barcode and Other Identifiers
    Matrix / Runout: AL 36333
    Matrix / Runout: BL 36333

If you’ve never listened to a record by B.T. Express, this probably isn’t the place to start.  Not that it is a bad album, it’s just not a really good album – but the good cuts on it are pretty damn good.  The quintessential 1970s funk sound of the band’s classic years is being “updated” for a new era here, complete with futuristic themes in the cover art and a little bit of the music.  Take the opening cut, “Taking Off!”, which appears to be about getting an aerobic workout in outer space.  It’s important to stay healthy in zero gravity, after all.   This song only becomes listenable after about the two-minute mark, when a blast-off of delay on the vocals signals that it’s time for the Express’ best asset, slinky horn lines.  Over all, though, the song is pretty awful, flirting with a “yacht rock” sound that is absurdly becoming hipster-trendy and undergoing a “revival” by certain contemporary music artists  who want to argue for it’s musical sophistication while they tell their audiences not to yell out during concerts or show up in football jersey’s because that’s too low-rent for their wine connoisseur pretensions.  Seriously, “yacht rock” and AOR are the new crate-digging frontier?  What’s next, Madlib remixes of Barry Manilow tracks?  Sorry but I’ll pass and wait for the next fetish they come up with, I ain’t biting on this revival.

Oh right, I was discussing a B.T. Express album.  Well, the Michael McDonaldisms get put away and things get more enjoyable.  There are a lot of non-band members on this record, most likely assigned to it by Columbia  after their previous album failed to do much on the charts.  There is something shameless about the interference in the band’s work ethic here, and the attempts at FM-crossover hooks in the choruses doesn’t always work for me.  I mean the second track is called “Heart Of Fire,” for Pete’s sake.  It’s almost like it was intended to confuse a slightly drunk person at a jukebox looking to for Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way Of The World” aka Hearts Afire.  Aside from the title, though, the similarity ends there.  It’s a good disco-funk burner, and has subtle poetry in lines like, “But my love for you, it keeps on comin’ and comin’ and comin’ and comin’…”    The third song, however, sounds to my ears like almost a direct theft of the tune “Don’t Hold Back” by Chanson to a degree that would even embarrass  Robin Thicke and Pharell.  I can’t objectively say anything about this tune.

The big track that people remember from this album, the one that charted, is “Give Up The Funk,” which sports another profoundly unoriginal title.  Thankfully there are no Parliament ripoffs to be found here, and no references to “the bomb,” as the sound is 100% B.T. Express with an updated sound, including the ray gun ‘pew pew pew’ of electric tom tom drums.  The tune also brings back the Express’s best trademark:  long, darkly-hued horn phrases used to punctuate the jams in a an understated  way, as if Maceo Parker took a few Valium and was trying not to be noticed off somewhere near the back of the stage.  Sax player Carlos Ward may have shunned the spotlight, but it’s the big failing of this record – and evidence of typical major label short-sightedness – that the one and only track that he arranges is also the only one to be a hit.  The others are all arranged by outsiders Morrie Brown and Gary Scott.  It should be noted that this cut contains an unusual spelling, “F-F-U-F-U-N-K”, which the band determined was the way our Alien Overlords were going to spell their favorite genre of music, due to their leader having a chronic stutter.

Side Two opens with the ballad “Closer,” the first ballad of the album.  I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about how so many albums from this period would open with a tight, upbeat song for four minutes to get you dancing, then on the second track they would go all Barry White.  Too soon, man, not even Barry moves that fast.  So bonus points to B.T. Express for holding back until the second side.  This track is melodic and smooth, but not overdoing either one of those qualities.  The best thing about it is a completely nonsensical saxophone solo at the end, which begins each bar all Grover Washington but ends all Eric Dolphy.  What would Barry think of that?  Barack?

“Have Some Fun” is a good mid-tempo roller-skating tune, and the only time they dust off the old Hammond organ that featured so prominently on earlier albums.  Again, the chorus sounds written by committee, a formulaic hook that is pretty forgettable an hour later.   It has a nice breakdown with cool riffing on flute, organ, and guitar that makes me pretty happy, though.  It’s probably been sampled a bunch of times.   The next song, “Better Late Than Never,” probably could have just gone with “never,” I don’t have much to say about this tune either.  In fact you could probably just stop the record after “Have Some Fun” and preserve a better memory of this album, because the closer “Funk Theory” is pretty bad.  While  putting together this post I noticed that it seems reasonably popular on YouTube, so what the hell do I know?  The title sort of says it all, it’s as if a bunch of number crunchers wrote a program in DOS that would churn out FM-friendly funk hits, with lyrics that would look better on a chalk-board written a hundred times by an errant, unfunky student.

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Chanson – Chanson (1978) 24/96khz

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CHANSON
“Chanson”
1978 Ariola Records  SW-50039


A1     Don’t Hold Back    4:23
A2     I Can Tell    7:03
A3     I Love You More     3:49
B1     Why     4:25
B2     Did You Ever    4:33
B3     All The Time You Need    5:10

LINEAGE: Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

James Jamerson Jr – lead vocals and bass guitar
David Williams – lead vocals, guitar
David Paich – Keyboards
Jeff Porcaro – drums
Eddie Bongo Brown – congas, bongos
Ollie Brown – percussion on “Did You Ever”
Al McKay – guitar
Steve Porcaro – Synthesizer on “All The Time You Need”
Linda Evans – lead vocal on “I Can Tell”
Horns – Donald Myrick, Michael Davis Michael Harris, Louis Satterfield, Fred Jackson Jr., Willian Green, Oscar Brashear, George Bohannon
Backing Vocals – Julia Tillman, Lorna Willard, Marti McCall
 Recorded At – Kendun Recorders
 Mixed At – Kendun Recorders
 Mastered At – Allen Zentz Mastering
 Arranged By – Benjamin F. Wright Jr.
Art Direction, Illustration – John Georgopoulos
Published by Kichelle Music/Jamersonian Music/Cos-K Music ASCAP.
Produced for MK Productions.
    Concertmaster [Strings] – Janice Gower
      Contractor – Don Myrick
    Coordinator [Production Coordination] – Susan Evans
    Engineer [Recording and Mixing] – Richard Heenan
    Executive Producer – Marc Kreiner, Tom Cossie
      Mastered By – Brian Gardner
    Photography By [Back Cover] – Art Maruyama
    Photography By [Front Cover] – Sam Vinci
        Typography [Lettering] – Tom Nikosey
Recorded and mixed at Kendun Recorders.
Mastered at Allen Zentz Mastering Inc.

“Chanson” was a project of  James Jamerson Jr. – son of the great Motown legend James Jamerson, and who had played with a bunch of Motown bands in his own right, including the 70s incarnation of the Temps – and David Williams, who had played with The Dells.  The two standout tracks were released on the single – “Don’t Hold Back,” the manically funky anthem to the 70s philosophy of “if it feels good do it” (actually a lyric in the chorus, shamelessly) with which they had a reasonably big hit and which features a classic breakdown in the middle, and the slower tune “Did You Ever,” which sounds like it might have been aiming for the Quiet Storm radio format.  Ollie Brown’s percussion on that tune is some of the most quiet conga playing I have ever heard and the whole tune works real nicely.  “I Can Tell” is straight-up disco-funk with lots of conga and a nice vocal from Linda Evans.    “I Love You More” is a  modern soul number with a funky verse, a pop hook in the chorus, and a tight little flute riff.  Side One only lasts about fifteen minutes (the whole album clocks in a half an hour).  So at this point you would get up and refresh your drink, powder your nose or whatever other rituals compel you, and when you flipped the record over hopefully you wouldn’t notice that the next song “Why” has the exact same chord pattern as the last tune.  Except it sounds more like Billy Ocean or maybe the Doobie Brothers covering a song by Billy Ocean.  It’s not bad but at this point you start to wonder if some of this record isn’t a kind of “paint by numbers” modern soul / R+B album.  The mellow “Did You Ever” brings things back from the brink and keeps it interesting, and the album goes out on another slow-burner, “Take All The Time You Need”.

The playing is all super-tight and the arrangements are solid but lean, with a live-band sound to all of it even though there are some string overdubs.  I particularly like how they favored using acoustic piano over keyboards, kind of an unusual production choice for an album of this kind in 1978.  The few synth patches here and there stand out because of that, but in a good way, like in the lead off track.  All in all, this group had potential but sort of prove that oodles of talent and tight grooves can only get you so far without the stellar songwriting available to the environment nurtured Jamerson’s dad.  The whole thing has a pretty radio-friendly sound, and the first track will stay stuck in your head for days, but the rest of the tunes may need a little superglue or chewing gum.  They made one more album, which I have but about which I can literally remember nothing at all.  Which leads me to believe this is the better of the two, although I suppose I can dig that one out again sometime.

P.S. – Louis Satterfield of Earth Wind and Fire toots a horn on this record.

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African Music Machine – Black Water Gold 1972-74 (2000)

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African Music Machine
Black Water Gold
2000 Soul Power – LPS 3317
Collection of singles released 1972-3

A1 Black Water Gold (Pearl) 2:59
A2 Mr. Brown 2:48
A3 A Girl In France 2:25
A4 The Dapp 2:40
B1 Never Name A Baby (Before It’s Born) 3:10
B2 Tropical 2:20
B3 Making Nassau Fruit Drink 2:26
B4 Camel Time 2:50

   Bass, Vocals – Louis Villery
Drums – Louis Acorn
Guitar – Jumbo
Percussion – Osman
Piano, Organ – Obitu
Producer – Louis Villery
Saxophone [Tenor] – Tyrone Dotson
Saxophone [Tenor], Flute – Ete-Ete
Trumpet – Amal
Written By – Bell
Written-By – Louis Villery

————–

Vinyl-> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge,
Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile
2496Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light
settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 –
resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags
done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&Rename.




 This group released  4 singles between 1972 and 1974 on the Paula subsidiary label Soul Power Records, and they were collected on this LP posthumously.  New Orleans funk-soul band formed by bassist Louis Villery that sounds sometimes like James Brown meets Muscle Shoals meets early Chicago (the band)/Blood Sweat & Tears.  The opening cut is fantastic, and the arrangements on most of the cuts are inventive enough to keep things interesting.  Most of it is instrumental, and the vocals on a couple of tunes are kind of superfluous.  A couple tunes (A Girl In France & Tropical) have a kind of Meters-like feel mostly due to the rhythm guitar.  I could sort of imagine these guys playing a double bill in NOLA with The Meters.. in the opening slot, of course.   The tune Camel Time has a Santana-esque vibe, or maybe it’s a Malo vibe… crossed with some random outtake from the first Funkadelic record.


Well that is enough genetic-musical-splicing for one blog post.  In the end the music here is nothing to flip out over but it ain’t bad either.  In fact the first time you play it, it’s pretty damn enjoyable, but in my opinion it doesn’t quite hold my interest in the long-term after repeated listens.  I am sure if I were one of those freaks who only plays 45’s, I would love it more.



These are all mono mixes, but since the vinyl pressing is not truly cut in mono, I opted not to use the mono fold-down option in Clickrepair, it seemed like it do result in some weird phasing issues.  This stuff is pretty low-fi and it’s really more of an EP – 8 songs in about 20 minutes.  Personally, the 16-44.1 version
of this is good enough for me.  Maybe it’s the limitations of my speakers, or my ears, or the fact that I drink enough coffee to
sometimes give me tinnitus, but I just don’t there is enough sonic information here to make  huge difference.  Still, this was ripped in 24
bit – 96 khz, and I have the files, so why not share, cuz the internetz must have thems!

 

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The New Birth – Blind Baby (1975) 24bit / 192khz

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THE NEW BIRTH
Blind Baby
1975 Buddha Records (BDS 5636)

    Blind Baby     4:30
Dream Merchant     4:20
Forever     4:45
Granddaddy     3:55
I Remember Well 5:21
Blind Man     4:45
Why Did I     4:30
Epilogue     2:37

Produced for Basement Productions, Inc.
Recorded at Sunwest Recording Studios, Hollywood.
Mixed at Wally Heider Studios, California.

Austin Lander – Baritone Saxophone, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Robin Russell – Drums, Percussion
Charlie Hearndon – Guitar
Leroy Taylor – Guitar
Carl McDaniel – Guitar, Backing Vocals
James Baker – Keyboards, Trombone, Piano, Tuba, Clavinet, Timbales, Percussion
Alan Frey – Percussion, Congas, Vocals
Tony Churchill – Tenor Saxophone, Vibraphone, Backing Vocals
Robert Jackson – Trumpet, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Londie Wiggins – Vocals, Percussion
Leslie Wilson – Vocals, Percussion, Mandolin

Engineer – F. Byron Clark
Photography By – Ed Caraeff
Producer – James Baker, Melvin Wilson
Art Direction – Milton Sincoff
llustration – William S. Harvey
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Ripping specs:
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Artwork at 600 dpi (for hi-res), downsampled to 300 dpi for Redbook

This is The New Birth’s first album after leaving RCA, made for Buddha Records, and it’s probably my favorite record by the group. The tunes are strung together like a concept album; it’s not really a concept record but it does have a Mellotron on it. “Blind Baby” is graced with great original songwriting that had come a long way
since their first early 70s efforts, all played and sung with chops and
passion and captured brilliantly by the wizards at Wally Heider Studio.  The tunes span from gritty funk, to sweaty soul jazz, to sweet soul
balladry.  “Dream Merchant” was the hit off the record but there isn’t a
bad song on it.  The firecracking “Grandaddy” was featured on Flabbergasted Freeform Radio No.3.   The New Birth had a sickly huge twelve-person lineup at this point, expanded with members of The Nite-Liters, and they never sounded better.  One secret weapon among many was lovely vocalist and Louisville native Londie
Wiggins, who occasionally hits high notes in whistle-register Minnie Ripperton territory.  She carries the lead on “Forever” and “Why Did I.”
Her intonation isn’t always spot on but, you know, they didn’t have
Autotune in 1975 to make everyone sound as equally “perfect” and bland
as everyone else.   The New Birth made quite a few records and I’m sure other people have their own particular favorites, but for me this one is the cream of the crop.

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From top left to bottom right: Londie Wiggins, Carl McDaniel, Alan Frey, James Baker, Robin Russell, Leroy Taylor, Robert Jackson, Tony Churchill (who is a Pisces), Leslie Wilson, Melvin Wilson, Austin Lander, Charlie Hearndon 

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100% Pure Poison – Coming Right At You (1974)

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100% Pure Poison
Coming Right At You
Released 1974 EMI-UK

A1 You Keep Coming Back (3:24)
A2 No More City, No More Country (6:54)
A3 Boarding Pass (3:46)
A4 Holes In My Shoes (3:42)
A5 My Little Someone (4:28)
B1 Windy C. (5:35)
B2 (But You Say) You Want To Make It With Me (4:31)
B3 Don’t Let Your Pride, Overpower Your Love (4:37)
B4 (And When I Said) I Love You (5:15)
B5 Puppet On A Chain (3:53)

Bass: Lawrence Reynolds
Composed By: Danny Leake , Lawrence Reynolds , Marvin Daniels
Guitar: Danny Leake , James Williams
Keyboards: James Williams
Organ: Steve Maxwell
Percussion: John Jackson, Pie Harrison
Producer: Danny Leake , Rick Hartung
Saxophone: Jackie Beard
Trombone: Slide Beard
Trumpet: Marvin Daniels
Vocals: Jackie Beard , Marvin Daniels , Pie Harrison , Slide Beard

Produced by Danny Leake and Rick Hartung

RIPPING INFO (Euripedes)

Original UK LP 1st pressing, EMI International, INS 3001, Matrix Numbers: A: INS 3001 A-2 1 R / B: INS 3001 B-2 1 M RJL
Equipment:
Vpi HW-17F Record Cleaning Machine
Technics SL 1210 Mk II
Rega RB 300 tonearm (Origin Live! mod)
Denon DL 304 M/C Cartridge
NAD 3101 (M/C phono section)
Outboard M-Audio Profire 610 Multichannel A/D
Adobe Audition 3.0

The song “Windy C”

This legendary album has long been out of my financial reach on vinyl and I have had to content myself with the a 2002 CD reissue. Kudos to Soul Brother for releasing it and making it accessible to a broader public beyond greedy collectors with deep pockets, but the sound quality was pretty much crap. I must say that the record gained a new lease on life when I found a really nice needledrop from a skilled vinyl ripper. I don’t typically like sharing other peoples’ vinyl rips here but the quality of both the music and the audio, coupled with the fact that I will most likely never own an original copy, compelled me to break my loosely-held rule. So, all credit goes to Euripedes for the transfer.

The band 100% Pure Poison, formed by US serviceman while stationed in Germany, only recorded this one record. I knew nothing about their back story until reading the liner notes on the reissue, and in fact I had always thought they were a Chicago band based on the track “Windy C.” The great playing and funky grooves on the album would have been enough to get the crate diggers reaching for their charge cards, and the quality songwriting helps put it a cut above the rest. The record opens with the very dance-worthy bit of Northern Soul, “You Keep Coming Back,” an immediately catchy tune that ought to be on all the AM radio dusties stations but isn’t. About half the songs here are sweet soul ballads, which personally makes things drag a bit in places for me, because as might be expected I prefer the funkier stuff on here. And that material does not disappoint. “No More City, No More Country,” is like.. Post-modern funk or something, where all categories of the black american experience, rural and urban, are declared passé and “everything is space, man.” Complete with a jazzy scat break at the end of every verse. Listen to the way the organ is mixed waaaaaaay in the background in a cushion of reverb. It’s the loosest and most jam-oriented of the tracks here and sort of a mind blower after the tightness of the opening track. “Holes In My Shoe” brings more funky northern goodness, but “Windy C” makes the obvious center-piece of the album. Both because it really is splat in the middle of the album but also because it shows off the group firing on all its creative cylinders – soul tunefulness, marinaded in heavy funk, and brushed with jazz before serving. “Don’t Let Pride Overpower Your Love” may be a mouthful of a title, but it might be my favorite ballad on the record, structured with crescendos that leave the tune positively soaring. The secret weapon of the whole album, though, may be “Puppet On A Chain” which hits all my pleasure centers relentlessly. The arrangement is both lush and lean – horns and strings and guitars and electric piano and Persian carpets of reverb in just the right places. Great lyrics and vocal performances. Four minutes of perfect. The kind of a track that has to go at the end of an LP because there just isn’t any way to follow it up. Thank you and goodnight!
You can do an A/B of the two versions for yourself, but makes sure to give Euripedes’work a listen.
2002 version

Brother To Brother – Let Your Mind Be Free (1976) 24-bit

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Brother To Brother
Let Your Mind Be Free
Turbo Records (TU-7015)

A1 Let Your Mind Be Free 3:28
A2 Visions 6:52
A3 Chance With You     4:46
A4 Phattenin’     3:28
B1 Groovy Day   2:54
B2 Take My Love   6:07
B3 Leavin’ Me   6:17
B4 Joni   3:15

Ripping process
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue
Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio
Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click
Repair light settings, sometimes turned off; individual clicks and pops
taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope
RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and
Rename.

Bass Guitar – Jonathan Williams
Congas, Voice, Other [Special Thanks] – Craig Derry
Drums – Clarence Oliver
Orchestrated By – Sammy Lowe
Producer, Arranged By, Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Clavinet, Organ, Voice – Billy Jones
Producer, Piano, Synthesizer [Moog, Arp], Clavinet – Bernadette Randle
Voice – Billy Brown, Joan Abbott, Linda Parker, Tommy Keith, Walter Morris

Design , album artwork – Dudley Thomas
Engineer – Allan Tucker, Richie Corsello
Other [Special Thanks] – “Shag” Taylor, Al Goodman, Barry Diament, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Robinson

Recorded and mastered at Platinum Recording Studios, Englewood, New Jersey. All songs published by Gambi Music, Inc. (BMI)

A Division of All Platinum Record Group
Platinum Record Co. 1976

Doc Tucker
Yes, Billy Jones!!
[Etched “shout-outs” runout area A]


Bernadette Says Hi, Too
Tucker
[Etched “shout-outs” runout area B]

Imagine yourself walking into a decent-sized club in 1976 to catch a
Kool and The Gang show only to find out that the bus carrying the horn section was broken down on the highway a hundred miles away.  The band perseveres and puts on a great show anyway.  That imaginary scenario
is a little bit like what my first time listening to this record.  But
it’s an unfair characterization, because Brother To Brother does have
their own sound, and could really write some great tunes.  The lack of a horn section gives lots of room for
the other instruments.  In particular this is an analog keyboard-lovers
wet dream.  The band had two keyboard players (both of whom double on other instruments in this largely studio-based project), and there are lovely textures of Fender Rhodes coupled with
clavinet, Hammond organ, and even a dreamy Moog and Arp instrumental track.  The
band is tight and lean but never showy, and there are a few long tracks that
really stretch out, like the languid Latin-Soul of “Visions” and the
fired-up funk of “Leavin’ Me” which was apparently released as one of
the singles.

Why did these guys never make it big, or at least
bigger?  Well I don’t know much about them.  The group was based around multi-instrumentalists Billy Jones and Bernadette Randle.  Their only big hit was a cover
of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle”, which ended up on their debut album.  Their albums were released on
the Turbo imprint which was part of the Platinum family of labels founded
by Sylvia Robinson, who also gets a co-writing credit on the only ballad
here, “Take My Love.”  Platinum (sometimes known as “All Platinum”)
eventually folded but Robinson reemerged with the famous and seminal Sugar Hill Records.  In 1976, the music world was flooded with
funk, making these guys just a couple more fish in a big ocean.   I can testify that I have a lot of records with a few
great tunes on them but a lot of filler, yet this album doesn’t have any turkeys.  “Chance With You” should have been a hit song, and “Leavin’ Me” is a monster although its length would probably keep it off the radio.  And it gets better with repeated listens.
The only ballad on the album,
“Take My Love,” has a really nice vibe but could have used a bridge section to break up its
six-minute length.  I think that’s a pretty minor quibble, though, especially given the obligatory inclusion of questionable ballads on funk albums by this point.  The cluster of inverted chords in the progression gives this is a
nice midwestern-soul-jazz inflection.  I dig it.  The only other quibble is with
the mastering of the LP:  there doesn’t seem to be any.   I know that
here in the digital realm we tend to bitch and moan about digital CD
remastering.  Well in this case we’re brought back to the original point of LP mastering in the first place –
to give the tracks more consistency as a whole and give it all that
little extra shimmer and magic.  The tracks are all recorded and mixed
really well.  In fact I really like the production choices.  But some of
the tunes fail to “jump out” at you like they deserve.  The obvious
concession for a shot at a crossover  single, the Sly & the Patridge Family Stone-styled “Groovy Day” (the only song with horns, by the way), is the quietest song on the record, volume-wise.  And the difference between the quietest tune
and the loudest tune on each album side is HUGE.  These mixes could have benefited from being run through a good tube limiter, or at least some adjustments of overall track levels and a little
EQ to give the mixes some ‘air’ in the top end.   Oddly enough, a young Barry
Diament gets a `thank you` on the album jacket, and he has an
engineering credit on their next album.  Did he stop by the studio and
give them some pointers?  Help set up their studio?  Because this was
all recorded, mixed, and mastered in-house from the looks of it.

The song with the heaviest
“vibe” on the whole album is undoubtedly the Latin opium dream of
“Visions,” which must be why I chose to play it on my podcast a while back.  I’ve come to just love this whole album.
A lot of variety on here.  The last two songs have some incredible bass guitar tones, with just the right amount of over-driven amplifier, and the instrumental “Joni”
features fuzzy guitar runs and a weird
disco-prog-rock arrangement.

 

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In a few weeks or months or whenever, I’ll share their next LP too.  Enjoy!
A couple of YouTube samples below