On this day in music history: June 12, 1981 – “Live In New Orleans”, the first live album (fifth overall) by Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly is released. Produced by Frankie Beverly, it is recorded at Saenger Theater in New Orleans, LA on November 14-15, 1980, and at The Automatt in San Francisco, CA from December 1980 – January 1981 (studio tracks). With their fourth album “Joy & Pain” hitting record store shelves in the Summer of 1980, Maze along with their leader and lead singer Frankie Beverly hit the road in support of that album. Just as sharp and polished on stage as they are in the studio, the band draw enthusiastic crowds, and in many cases playing sold out multi-night stands at large venues. Booked to play a sold out two night stand at the historic Saenger Theater in New Orleans, Maze decide to record the performances for a live album. Taking the stage like they own it, Frankie Beverly and Maze deliver soulful and engaging live versions of hits from their previous four albums. While mixing the live material, the band decide to record four new studio tracks to make up the double LP’s fourth side. Those songs include “Running Away” (#7 R&B), “We Need Love To Live” (#29 R&B) and “Reason”. The song that has the longest lasting impact is the second single “Before I Let Go” (#13 R&B). “Let Go” quickly becomes a stand out, even as the first single “Running Away” is climbing the charts. Released as the second single in August of 1981, the funky, uplifting vibe of “Before I Let Go”, turns it into big turntable hit on R&B radio, and becomes a staple of events and family gatherings in the African American community. It’s later co-opted in Hip Hop, being widely sampled and covered by various artists. The Funky Four + 1 are the first to borrow from it on their single “Do You Want To Rock” in 1982. Steady B. also samples it on “Use Me” in 1987, as will K-Solo on “Your Mom’s In My Business” in 1990, Keith Murray in 1996 on “The Rhyme”, and Eve on “Let Go (Hit The Dance Floor)” in 2003. Mary J. Blige covers the song in 2009 on a tribute album celebrating the music of Frankie Beverly and Maze. It’s also covered by Beyonce in 2019, for the film “Homecoming”. “Live In New Orleans” becomes one of their highest charting albums to date, and one of their biggest sellers. The performances are also video taped, and is originally released on laserdisc (in edited form) as “Happy Feelings – Live In New Orleans”. The home video release is remastered and reissued on DVD in 2001, with three additional music videos added. “Live In New Orleans” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty four on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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