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Big Break’s Big Round-Up: Label “Phreeks” Out with Patti LaBelle, Isaac Hayes, Gwen McCrae, More

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Isaac Hayes - For the Sake of Love

One of the busiest labels on the reissue front is undoubtedly Cherry Red Group’s Big Break Records imprint.  We’ve just turned the spotlight on BBR’s releases from Donna Summer and John Barry, and Leon Haywood and Carl Carlton, and The Salsoul Orchestra and Loleatta Holloway.  Coming up, we have reviews and features planned on titles from The Hues Corporation, Odyssey, and more.  But today, we’re taking a look at another handful of the busy BBR label’s most recent offerings – from top-tier R&B artists including Isaac Hayes, Patti LaBelle, Gwen McCrae and Patrick Adams!

  • Whether as an architect of the Stax Records sound in the sixties, the soulful Black Moses of the seventies or even as “Chef” on television’s South Park in the nineties and beyond, Isaac Hayes made a cultural impact spanning generations.  The late seventies weren’t quite Hayes’ salad days, however.  But even if Hayes struggled both personally and creatively during the period, it wasn’t all barren.  BBR has recently remastered and expanded two of Hayes’ Polydor albums from the period following his tenures at Stax and ABC.  1978’s For the Sake of Love, in true Hayes fashion, featured just six smoldering tracks.  Its diverse selections featured originals by Hayes (including the title track and the funky Top 20 R&B hit “Zeke the Freak”) plus reinventions of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and even a danceable makeover of Hayes’ own “Shaft” as “Shaft II.”

Isaac Hayes - And Once Again

  • Hayes followed the LP up with Don’t Let Go, the disco-fied title track of which returned him to the pop chart, and then with 1980’s And Once Again.  (Like Hayes’ Polydor debut New Horizon, Don’t Let Go has already received a reissue from BBR.)  Hayes crooned, rapped, blew his saxophone and generally threw himself into the album’s set of just five songs including a reworking of Tommy Edwards’ oldie “It’s All in the Game.”  Many a tear didn’t have to fall for Hayes, though, as And Once Again yielded minor hits both with “Game” and the album’s lone up-tempo track, “I Ain’t Never.”  Equally impressive was his epic take on “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter,” best known in Angela Bofill’s rendition.  BBR has added two bonus cuts to For the Sake of Love and four to And Once Again (see full track listings below).  Both discs have been remastered by Kevin Reeves and annotated by J. Matthew Cobb.  Both Hayes albums are reissued in Super Jewel Boxes.

After the jump: Miss Patti LaBelle, Gwen McCrae and Phreek…plus full track listings and order links for all titles!Patti LaBelle - Released

  • The same year Isaac Hayes released And Once Again, Patti LaBelle found herself Released on Epic Records.  The LP reunited the diva with producer Allen Toussaint, who guided the group Labelle (featuring Patti, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx) through its Top 10 record Nightbirds and smash hit single “Lady Marmalade” as well as its follow-up Phoenix.  For Released (Patti’s fourth solo LP), Toussaint paired her with some veteran musicians from his past Labelle productions but surrounded her voice with an all-male line-up of background singers for an intriguing new sound.  Either Toussaint or LaBelle had a hand in writing every track on the album save one pivotal choice: Peter Allen and David Lasley’s memorable ballad “I Don’t Go Shopping.”  Released’s singles “Release (The Tension)” and “I Don’t Go Shopping” both charted on the R&B survey, with the former also making it into the Disco Top 50.  The album itself also reached a No. 21 R&B berth.  Patti soon decamped Epic for Philadelphia International Records, where she returned the very next year with the diverse The Spirit’s in It.  But there’s plenty of spirit on Released, which has been expanded by BBR with the 12-inch Disco Version of “Release (The Tension).”   Christian John Wikane provides the new liner notes drawing on an interview with Toussaint, and Nick Robbins has remastered.


  • Big Break has tapped the Atlantic Records vaults for another pair of deluxe reissues.  Patrick Adams Presents Phreek came from the prolific producer-arranger (Black Ivory, Universal Robot Band, Herbie Mann), whose work BBR has already addressed on reissues from Inner Life, Kleeer and The Salsoul Orchestra.  Adams’ Phreek-y disco project drew on his close-knit group of musical associates – a kind of disco repertory company, if you will, including The PA System Rhythm Section and vocalists Leroy Burgess and Christine Wiltshire.  Burgess or Adams wrote or co-wrote every track on the LP, with Burgess and James Calloway behind the single “Weekend.” If Phreek wasn’t among Adams’ most successful productions, it nonetheless reflects his intricate and often erotic disco vision.  Thomas del Pozo has written new liner notes based on interviews with key principals including Adams and Burgess, and reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson has remastered.   The 12-inch disco mixes of “Have a Nice Day” and Paradise Garage favorite “Weekend” have been added.

Gwen McCrae

  • The self-titled 1981 platter Gwen McCrae marked the R&B queen’s “comeback,” following her divorce from husband George of “Rock Your Baby” fame.  McCrae hadn’t had a major hit record since 1975’ “Rockin’ Chair,” but was poised for success with the participation of writer-producer-arranger Kenton Nix of Taana Gardner’s Top 10 R&B and Dance hit “Heartbeat.”   Though disco was in its waning days in 1981, there was still room for a well-produced, contemporary dance hit, and Nix and McCrae delivered it with “Funky Sensation.”  A favorite of clubs and radio stations despite its atypical slower tempo, “Sensation” made it to No. 22 R&B and No. 15 Disco.  The track was also ripe for sampling, and was reinvented just months after its initial release as Arthur Baker, Shep Pettibone and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Jazzy Sensation.”  Numerous other samples have since followed.  The LP’s second single, “Poyson,” didn’t disappoint, either, also reaching No. 15 Disco.  Gwen McCrae balanced pop, disco and R&B balladry, and the album made it into the R&B Top 40.  Gwen reflects on it in J. Matthew Cobb’s new liner notes, and producer Wayne Dickson has remastered.  Three bonus tracks, including a previously unissued remix of “Love Sensation,” round out BBR’s reissue.

Patrick Adams Presents Phreek (Atlantic LP SD-19213, 1978 – reissued Big Break CDBBR 0260, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Weekend
  2. Everybody Loves a Good Thing
  3. May My Love Be With You
  4. Much Too Much
  5. I’m a Big Freak (R.U.1.2)
  6. Have a Good Day
  7. Weekend (12” Disco Edit) (Atlantic LV 11, 1978)
  8. Have a Good Day (12” Disco Edit) (Atlantic LV 11, 1978)

Isaac Hayes, And Once Again (Polydor LP PD-1-6269, 1980 – reissued Big Break CDBBRX 0178, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. It’s All in the Game
  2. Ike’s Rap VII/This Time I’ll Be Sweeter
  3. I Ain’t Never
  4. Wherever You Are
  5. Love Has Been Good to Us
  6. I Ain’t Never (12” Disco Version) (Polydor single PRO 132, 1980)
  7. It’s All in the Game (Single Version) (Polydor single PD-2102, 1980)
  8. Love Has Been Good to Us (Single Version) (Polydor single PD-2090, 1980)
  9. I Ain’t Never (Single Version) (Polydor single PD-2090, 1980)

Isaac Hayes, For the Sake of Love (Polydor LP PD-1-6164, 2014 – reissued Big Break CDBBRX 0166, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Just the Way You Are
  2. Believe in Me
  3. If We Ever Needed Peace
  4. Shaft II
  5. Zeke the Freak
  6. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
  7. Shaft II (12” Disco Version) (Polydor (Europe) 2141 063/2121 378, 1978)
  8. Zeke the Freak (Single Version) (Polydor single PD-14521, 1978)

Patti LaBelle, Released (Epic LP JE-36381, 1980 – reissued Big Break CDBBR 0262, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Give It Up (The Dawning of Rejection)
  2. Don’t Make Your Angel Cry
  3. Release (The Tension)
  4. I Don’t Go Shopping
  5. Ain’t That Enough
  6. Love Has Finally Come
  7. Come and Dance with Me
  8. Get Ready (Lookin’ for Love)
  9. Find the Love
  10. Release (The Tension) (12” Disco Version) (origin TBD)

Gwen McCrae, Gwen McCrae (Atlantic LP 19308, 1981 – reissued Big Break CDBBR 0257, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Funky Sensation
  2. Poyson
  3. Feel So Good
  4. All My Love
  5. Stood the Test
  6. Do You Wanna Be Mine
  7. No Deposit/No Return
  8. Have a Good Time
  9. Movement
  10. Funky Sensation (Single Version) (Atlantic single 3853, 1981)
  11. Poyson (Single Version) (Atlantic single 3881, 1981)
  12. Funky Sensation (Original Remix) (previously unreleased)

Written by Joe Marchese

April 11, 2014 at 09:54

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