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SoulMusic Records Is “Born to Love” With Reissues from Peabo and Roberta, Nancy Wilson and Tavares

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Peabo and Roberta - Born to LoveWith its latest batch of reissues, including titles from Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, Tavares, and Nancy Wilson, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint can truly be said to cover a wide swath of the soulful spectrum.

Duets have long been staples of great R&B.  Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, James Ingram and Patti Austin, and Otis Redding and Carla Thomas – just to name a few in the pantheon – all proved that “it takes two.”  (That title, in fact, gave Gaye and Kim Weston a hit.)  Flack first teamed with Peabo Bryson for the 1980 Atlantic Records live album Live and More before the duo reteamed at Capitol for 1983’s Born to Love, now available in an expanded and remastered edition from SoulMusic.  As was the custom for countless albums released in the 1980s, numerous producers were enlisted for Flack and Bryson’s studio set.  They enlisted the cream of the crop, however.  Michael Masser helmed two tracks, both written with Brill Building legend Gerry Goffin.  Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager produced another pair, and Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe of Four Seasons fame handled another three songs.  To round out the LP, Flack and Bryson each produced a song.

Despite their varied CVs, the various production teams all turned out music in a sleek, then-contemporary R&B vein.  Masser and Goffin (“Theme from Mahogany,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” “Saving All My Love for You”) were behind the biggest hit off Born to Love, opening track “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.”  The song had been written for Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross, but hadn’t been recorded by the “All of You” pair, setting the stage for a Top 5 single in the hands of Bryson and Flack.  Masser and Goffin also wrote the up-tempo “Comin’ Alive” with burbling synths from Robbie Buchanan.

Bacharach and Sager, in the early years of their songwriting partnership and marriage, supplied two ballads, “Blame It on Me” and “Maybe.”  Both songs featured an all-star cast of musicians including Abe Laboriel (bass), Jim Keltner (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards) and Paulinho da Costa (percussion), and the latter had another key member of the musical team: Sager’s ex-boyfriend Marvin Hamlisch.  The romantic “Maybe” (described in the new liner notes by Flack as “one of the most beautiful songs ever written”) was crafted from one of Hamlisch’s themes for the 1983 film Romantic Comedy and can be heard over the end credits to that film.  It’s the only writing collaboration between the two titans of melody, Bacharach and Hamlisch, though the two did have a history together: Hamlisch arranged the music for the movie The April Fools, which featured a title song written by Bacharach and Hal David.

Gaudio and Crewe brought Bryson and Flack the rhythmic “Heaven Above Me,” the disco-flavored title song of Frankie Valli’s 1980 solo album, as well as the sweet “You’re Lookin’ Like Love to Me,” which they co-wrote with Sugarloaf’s Jerry Corbetta.  For their third production, they selected Terry Skinner, Kenneth Bell and J.L. Wallace’s “I Just Came Here to Dance.”  Bryson wrote, produced and sang “Born to Love,” the only solo song on the album, and Flack produced and co-wrote (with Al Johnson) the closing track “Can We Find Love Again.”

SoulMusic’s reissue has been expanded with three bonus tracks, the 7-inch and 12-inch single versions of “Heaven Above Me,” and the 7-inch single version of “You’re Looking Like Love to Me.”  Alan Wilson has remastered, and Gail Mitchell of Billboard supplies new liner notes which draw on fresh quotes from Roberta Flack.  The expanded Born to Love is available now, and after the jump, you’ll find the full track listing and order links.  Plus: the scoops on Tavares and Nancy Wilson! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 2, 2013 at 09:11

It Only Takes a Minute to Fall in Love with New Tavares Reissues

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Though their appearance on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack ensured that Tavares would always be associated with disco, the New England band of brothers (Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny!) had its roots in classic soul.  They began in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes (!) and eventually notched hits on the R&B charts like 1974’s “She’s Gone” (two years before Hall and Oates’ own version of the song achieved chart success) and 1975’s “It Only Takes a Minute,” which also crossed over to the pop chart.  That Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter song from 1975’s Sky High LP found a suitable follow-up hit in the next year’s “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” from In the City.  Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint reissued those two Tavares albums in 2011, and the label has recently turned its attention to two more long-players from the group, 1979’s Madam Butterfly and 1980’s Love Uprising.  (Supercharged, the album that chronologically falls between Madam and Love Uprising was also the recipient of a SoulMusic upgrade earlier in 2012.)

To diversify their sound beyond the expected disco, Tavares turned in 1978 to arranger/producer Bobby Martin, a veteran of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International label.  By 1979, many key members of the Gamble/Huff team had split from the soul empire, and Martin was among them.  The man who gave Gamble, Huff and Cary Gilbert’s song “Me and Mrs. Jones” its steamy orchestration was responsible for arranging or co-arranging every track on Madam Butterfly, and his touch is evident throughout.  Martin and his team (including writers Len Ron Hanks and Zane Grey, who contributed five songs, and Sam Dees, who wrote three) brought silk and soul from the city of Brotherly Love to the Massachusetts brothers.  Another Philly alum, Ron Kersey, shared horn and string chart duties with Martin, and played a variety of instruments (electric piano, acoustic piano, clavinet, organ, melodica) on the LP.  Martin and his arrangers took pains to spotlight the vocal blend of Tavares’ members with close-knit, gospel-influenced harmonies, all on a bed of rich orchestrations.

Madam Butterfly is so laden with hooks that Tiny Tavares opines in Kevin L. Goins’ new liner notes that “the DJs were playing the entire album so much that it cut into sales…[and] many folks didn’t feel the need to buy the record!”  The album contains both ballads and danceable tracks that were lightly flecked with disco but more often harkened back to the lush, classic Philadelphia soul sound.  There are smooth soul harmonies on “Games, Games,” dramatic, signature strings on the title track (“I can’t let you get away/I have got to catch you…”) and a sleek yet funky gloss on the lead single, “Never Had a Love Like This Before,” which went to No. 5 R&B.  (The album went to No. 13 R&B, faring less well on the Top 200 with a No. 92 placement for the LP.)  The Tavares brothers split up the lead vocal chores; Butch, Chubby and Pooch share “Never Had a Love,” Chubby and Butch savor the charms of “Madam Butterfly” and Chubby and Pooch trade off on the up-tempo “Only a Telephone Call Away.”  Pooch takes the lead on “Love Calls,” a sweet, pleading ballad that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Philadelphia International album earlier in the decade.  There’s even a brief, spoken rap.

SoulMusic’s expanded edition of Madam Butterfly gains three tracks: the 12-inch vocal and instrumental mixes of “Never Had a Love Like This Before,” and the single mix of second single “Straight from Your Heart,” the album’s opening track with Pooch on lead.  The instrumental version particularly allows the the arrangement by Martin and Hanks to shine on its own considerable merits.  Alan Wilson has remastered the album.  Hit the jump for a Love Uprising!  Plus: track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2012 at 10:19

Posted in News, Reissues, Tavares

Sky High: Two Classic Albums By Tavares Are Reissued and Expanded

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Tucked away on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack between Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” and David Shire’s “Manhattan Skyline” is where you’ll find “More Than a Woman” by Tavares.  Although the Bee Gees’ version of their own song remains a radio staple today, it was in fact Tavares’ version that was released as a single, hitting No. 32 in the United States and No. 7 across the pond.  But that essential track is just one of the famous songs popularized by Tavares.  The band of five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts (Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny!) started their career in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes, even scoring a couple of local hits on the Capitol label in the latter portion of the 1960s.  But when the group named changed to Tavares, their actual surname, their fortune soared.  Though (much like “More Than a Woman”) Hall and Oates’ version is better-remembered today, Tavares took “She’s Gone” to No.1  on the R&B charts in 1974, two years before the Philly soul duo’s own rendition took off.  In 1975, Tavares scored an R&B chart-topper that also went Top 10 pop with “It Only Takes a Minute,” but the album from which it was derived, In the City, had never been reissued on CD…until now.  The label of the Cherry Red Group will follow its reissues of Freda Payne and Al Johnson classics with two expanded Tavares albums, 1975’s In the City and 1976’s Sky High!.  The latter spawned another major hit, “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel.”

In the City and Sky High! were the third and fourth (of nine) albums recorded by Tavares at Capitol Records between 1974 and 1980.  Like its predecessor Hard Core Poetry, In the City boasted the considerable production and songwriting skill of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (The Four Tops, The Grass Roots, Glen Campbell).  In the City includes three Top 15 R&B hits, the ballad “The Love I Never Had,” the smash “It Only Takes A Minute” and most surprisingly, a cover of the Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride.”  (Both “The Love I Never Had” and “It Only Takes a Minute” were the work of Lambert and Potter.)  Tavares’ eclectic streak continued to the album tracks, with the Average White Band’s “Nothing You Can Do” covered.  For the new edition, two bonus tracks have been appended, both the U.S. single edit and extended remix of “It Only Takes a Minute.”

What came next for Tavares?  Just hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 22, 2011 at 11:30

Posted in News, Reissues, Tavares