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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 11, 2014 at 09:54

Here’s Your Chance: Philly Soul Legends, Deep Soul Grooves Comprise BBR’s Next Release Slate

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Enchantment UtopiaFrom the streets of Philadelphia to the deepest vaults of soul and R&B, this coming week’s slate of reissues from Big Break Records has got just about something for everyone.

Enchantment, the Detroit soul group behind 1978’s hit “It’s You That I Need,” would make some changes in the ’80s, having moved labels a few times (from Roadshow/United Artists to RCA and finally Columbia for two albums) and also subtly altering their sound from a lush, disco feel to a Fairlight-led modern groove. While Utopia, their final album, did not chart, it still has its fans thanks to singles like “Here’s Your Chance” and “Don’t Fight the Feeling.” Utopia makes an appearance on CD, both newly remastered and with five bonus tracks, including single mixes of “Here’s Your Chance.”

Though “Kleeer” was the name of the band behind the album Winners in 1979, the group of musicians who made up this ensemble took on several monikers throughout the decade. As The Jam Band, they were New York-based session players, notably for Disco-Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes; as Pipeline, they were an ill-fated hard rock outfit on Columbia Records and as The Universal Robot Band, they were another disco-based studio project (which would enjoy a cult dance hit in the ’80s with “Barely Breaking Even”). Kleeer was self-made dance music, however, with a Top 40 R&B hit in the title track. (Fun fact: among the horn players doing session work on this LP are jazz legends Randy and Michael Brecker!) Winners is expanded with a bonus extended version of the title track.

The song titles on Gwen McCrae’s Melody of Life hint at a love life of joy and pain; for McCrae, it was all too real. Three years prior, after a rocky relationship, she divorced her husband and collaborator George McCrae (of “Rock Your Baby” fame); after Melody, she’d further separate from her label, TK Records subsidiary Cat, for whom she’d made six albums. (McCrae would enjoy some success in the ’80s on Atlantic.) McCrae’s tour de force vocals shine anew on CD with this expansion of Melody of Life, featuring two single edits as bonus tracks.

MFSBBBR’s last two releases this week are pure Philadelphia soul from two architects of the genre. First, there’s the debut album by MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother), the de facto house band for all of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s musical ventures. Though Philly soul was still in its infancy when MFSB released their first, self-titled album in 1972, the groundwork is very much there, on both Philly originals (“Back Stabbers,” a hit for The O’Jays, “Something for Nothing,” written by Gamble, Roland Chambers and Thom Bell) and covers (Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead,” Sly & The Family Stone’s “Family Affair”). The same can be said for the final BBR release of the week, the live set The O’Jays in Philadelphia. The group had recorded for Imperial and Bell, but this LP, released on Neptune Records, was their first under the Gamble-Huff umbrella; the following year’s Back Stabbers for Philadelphia International would make them worldwide stars.

After the jump, you can place your orders for all of these titles, which are shipping now (save for Kleeer, which has a June 3 date on Amazon U.K.).

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 28, 2013 at 11:59