Category: soul

On this day in music history: November 14, 1981 – “Raise!”, the eleventh studio album by Earth, Wind & Fire is released. Produced by Maurice White, it is recorded at ARC/George Massenburg Recording Studio in West Los Angeles, CA and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA from May – September 1981. After the somewhat muted commercial response to their previous release “Faces”, the veteran R&B/Funk band bypasses touring in support of that release to return to the studio to record the follow up. It marks the beginning of a fundamental change in the sound that made Earth, Wind & Fire a highly influential force in R&B and pop music during the 70’s. White and the band fine tunes their tried and true formula, modernizing their sound to be slicker and more commercial, in part by somewhat relying less on The Phenix Horns, and putting more emphasis on keyboards. The album marks the return of lead guitarist Roland Bautista, who departed from the band in 1972, and was replaced by Al McKay. Bautista takes McKay’s place after he leaves the band in late 1980 following the release of “Faces”. It spins off three singles including the smash “Let’s Groove” (#1 R&B, #3 Pop) and “Wanna Be With You” (#15 R&B, #51 Pop). The latter wins EW&F their sixth Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo or Group in 1983. Along side the standard vinyl LP release, “Raise!” is also issued as a limited edition picture disc in the UK. The UK division of CBS Records also distributes a limited edition promotional package, to radio programmers and press, to create awareness for the LP. The pizza style box set consists of the standard vinyl LP, the 12" LP picture disc,  full length cassette, the 7" of “Let’s Groove” (w/ picture sleeve), a black & white 8 x 10" photo of the band, and three page press sheet. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2011 as part of the box set “Earth, Wind & Fire – The Columbia Masters”. In October of 2015, an expanded CD is released by reissue label Funky Town Grooves. The FTG release features the original nine track album with seven additional bonus tracks including the single edits of “Let’s Groove”, “Wanna Be With You”, “I’ve Had Enough” and “The Changing Times”. Also including the 12" mixes of “Kalimba Tree” and “Let’s Groove” (also the instrumental version of the latter released on the B-side of the original 7"). “Raise!” spends ten weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number five on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 14, 1960 – “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, it is the first number one pop single for the musician dubbed “The Genius”. Famed musician and songwriter Carmichael writes “Georgia” in 1930, which becomes one of his best known and loved songs. Recorded at Capitol Studios in New York City on March 25, 1960, Charles’ version is released from his album “Genius Hits The Road” (his first for new label ABC-Paramount) in late August of 1960. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on October 3, 1960, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. In 1979, Charles’ version of the pop standard is declared the official song for the state of Georgia. Charles also receives a public apology from Georgia state officials after having been banned from performing in the state when he refused to perform to segregated audiences in 1964. Ray Charles’ recording of “Georgia On My Mind” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1993.

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On this day in music history: November 13, 2000 – “Lovers Rock”, the fifth album by Sade is released. Produced by Sade and Mike Pela, it is recorded at Deliverance Studios, Sarm Hook End Studios in London and El Cortijo Studios in San Pedro de Alcántara, Spain from September 1999 – August 2000. Despite scoring yet another multi-Platinum selling album with “Love Deluxe” in 1992, it is one of only two times that Sade are heard from during the 90’s. After releasing their first greatest hits package in 1994, the band begin their longest hiatus from the public eye yet. After a turbulent marriage to Spanish director Carlos Pliego which ends in divorce in 1995, Sade Adu begins another relationship with music producer Bob Morgan, giving birth to a daughter named Mickailia (aka “IIa”) in 1996. Taking time off to raise her child, the band do not begin work on a new album until the Fall of 1999. Refreshed from their extended time apart, band members Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman and Andrew Hale have been active in the interim, recording an album under the moniker Sweetback, and Matthewman co-producing R&B singer Maxwell’s first two albums. Once back together in the studio, the band decide to try a different creative approach from their signature sound. Sade move away from the full band arrangements of their previous albums, toward more spare and acoustic guitar driven tracks. Having spent much of the 90’s living in Jamaica to escape the European tabloid press, Adu is inspired and influenced by the sounds of the Caribbean. The title “Lovers Rock” comes from the sub genre of reggae music that is notable for its romantic and sensual vibe, that Sade listened to growing up. Her ups and downs relationship wise also figure significantly in the overall mood and feeling of the album, most notably on the first single “By Your Side” (#75 Pop, #18 AC), the follow up “King Of Sorrow” (#101 R&B) and “Somebody Already Broke My Heart”.  Like their previous work, “Lovers Rock” receives a rapturous reception from fans when it is released in the Fall of the new millennium. In the US, the album is also issued with a bonus CD through big box chain store Target, featuring four previously unreleased live versions of “The Sweetest Taboo”, “Smooth Operator”, “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “No Ordinary Love”, recorded during the Love Deluxe Tour. Sade also follow it with a world tour in 2001, which is then followed by a live concert video and album both titled “Lovers Live” released in 2002. “Lover’s Live” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 13, 1968 – “Love Child”, the fifteenth studio album by Diana Ross & The Supremes is released. Produced by Berry Gordy, Jr., Frank Wilson, R. Dean Taylor, Deke Richards, Henry Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Marv Johnson, George Gordy, Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, it is recorded at Motown Studio A & B in Detroit, MI from February 17 – October 2, 1968. It is the first Supremes album not written or produced by Holland/Dozier/Holland, who depart from Motown over a year before over a royalty dispute with Motown, resulting in the Supremes not having a major hit for over a year. The album contains the chart topping title track, as well as songs written by Ashford & Simpson, Deke Richards, R. Dean Taylor and Johnny Bristol. Out of print since the early 90’s, the album is remastered and reissued on CD by Universal Japan in 2013, also having been reissued in a limited edition by specialty label Culture Factory the same year. “Love Child” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number fourteen on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: November 13, 1965 – “The Four Tops’ Second Album” by The Four Tops is released. Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Spring – Summer 1965. Following the success of The Four Tops breakthrough hits “Baby I Need Your Loving” (#11 Pop), “Ask The Lonely” (#9 R&B, #24 Pop), and their self-titled debut album, they continue their run of hits with their next album. The second full length release from the group includes three of their most recent hits including the chart topping “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”, “It’s The Same Old Song” (#2 R&B, #5 Pop), and “Something About You” (#9 R&B, #19 Pop). Originally released in mono and stereo in 1965, the mono edition is discontinued after 1968, with the stereo edition remaining in print on vinyl until the late 1980’s. The album has been remastered and reissued by Universal Music in Japan in 2012 as a limited edition SHM-CD, in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original art work.  "The Four Tops’ Second Album" peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number twenty on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: November 12, 1983 – “All Night Long (All Night)” by Lionel Richie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on October 22, 1983, and also tops the Adult Contemporary chart for 4 weeks on November 12, 1983. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the third solo number one single for the former member of The Commodores. While writing songs for his second solo album, Lionel Richie pulls the material from a variety of sources. Some songs like the chart topping “Hello”, is written during the recording of his first album in 1982, but is set aside. The idea for what becomes “All Night Long” starts off quickly, before hitting a roadblock. The verses, bridge and melody come to him while on trips that he takes to the Caribbean. The song’s chorus and title take much longer to develop. In all, Lionel spends over two months working on the song before its complete. Adding to the song’s multicultural vibe, are the words “Karamu”, a Swahili word for a party that is usually accompanied by a feast. “Liming”, a word originating in the Caribbean meaning “to get together” and “Fiesta”, the Spanish word for “party” or “celebration”. Another one of the songs hooks “Tambo liteh sette mo-jah! Yo! Jambo jambo”, comes after Richie contacts an African delegate at UN, asking them for an African phrase that is in spirit of the other words he’s used. The delegate gives him those words. Then finally before going into the studio to record the song, Lionel consults his wife Brenda’s gynecologist who is Jamaican, to ask him if he is pronouncing the Caribbean words correctly. When the doctor gives him the thumbs up on his pronunciation, Richie goes ahead and completes his vocals on the track. Issued as the first single from “Can’t Slow Down” in early September of 1983, the song is one of the last tracks completed for the album. The music video is directed by Bob Rafelson (The Monkees TV series, Head, Five Easy Pieces) and is produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith’s production company Pacific Arts. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on September 17, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. In the Summer of 1984, Richie performs a specially re-written version of “All Night Long” during the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA. Richie re-records “All Night Long” with Jimmy Buffett And The Coral Reefer Band for his covers album “Tuskegee” released in March of 2012. “All Night Long (All Night)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 12, 1966 – “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” by Lou Rawls hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #13 on the Hot 100 on November 5, 1966. Written by Dave Linden and Ben Raleigh, it is the first major hit for the Chicago, IL born R&B and jazz vocalist. Paired with producer David Axelrod, he asks songwriter Ben Raleigh if he has any songs that he could record with Rawls, who has been signed to Capitol for five years, yet has had only one previously charted release. He is on the verge of being dropped by the label when the back to back releases of “Lou Rawls Live!” and the follow up album “Soulin’” (featuring “Love”) helps put the singer on the map. Recorded at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, the track features a number of prominent musicians including guitarist Barney Kessel, drummer Earl Palmer and bassist Jimmy Bond. Released in August of 1966, it gives Rawls his long awaited breakthrough. The success of “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” marks the beginning of more than a decade of major hits for the singer praised by the legendary Frank Sinatra as having “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game”. A few months later, Rawls and “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” are name checked by Arthur Conley on his hit “Sweet Soul Music”.

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On this day in music history: November 11, 1981 – “The Jacksons Live!” by The Jacksons is released. Produced by The Jacksons, it is recorded at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY, Providence Civic Center in Providence, RI, The Omni in Atlanta, GA, and Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 16, July 22, August 2, and August 18, 19, 1981. Recorded during their “Triumph Tour” of North America in 1981, the album is compiled from tour stops in Buffalo, NY, Providence, RI, Atlanta, GA and New York City, NY. The fourteen track two LP set includes live versions of Jacksons, Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson solo material. The Jacksons are backed by a solid rhythm section that includes Jonathan Moffett (drums), David Williams (guitar), Mike McKinney (bass), Bill Wolfer (keyboards), Alan “Funt” Prater, Broderick “Mac” McMorris, Cloris Grimes and Wesley Phillips (horns). The show is choreographed by Michael, Marlon and Jackie, and features visual illusions created by magician and illusionist Doug Henning. Many of the shows on the tour are professionally filmed for future use, but to date have never been legitimately released. Though clips from various performances have circulated as bootlegs among fans for many years. The tracks “Things I Do For You” b/w “Working Day And Night” are issued as a commercial single in February of 1982. The Jackson 5 medley titled “ Medley: a. I Want You Back, b. ABC, c. The Love You Save” (b/w the live performance version of “Rock With You”), is serviced as a promotional single to radio, and becomes an airplay favorite on R&B stations. The original vinyl LP comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, with full color inner sleeves featuring various live performance photos of the group. Later vinyl re-pressings omit these custom sleeves, and the regular domestic CD reissue re-print these images inside the booklet in black & white rather than in color. To date, the album has yet to be reissued in any form by Sony Legacy. In spite of the original master tapes being remastered by Joseph Palmaccio nearly a decade before now. “The Jacksons Live!” peaks at number ten on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “C’est Chic”, the second album by Chic is released. Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station Studios in New York City from Mid – Late 1978. Buoyed by the success of their their Gold selling debut album, Chic returns to the studio in the Spring of 1978 to work on their sophomore release. With original lead vocalist Norma Jean Wright departing the band for a solo career, Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin become the lead voices for Chic. While working on their own album, Edwards and Rodgers also concurrently produce an album for Philadelphia based family group Sister Sledge after Atlantic Records executives let them choose whatever act on the company roster they want to work with. The song “He’s The Greatest Dancer”, originally intended to go on Chic’s album is given to Sister Sledge, while “I Want Your Love” (#5 R&B, #7 Pop) written with the intent of giving it to the Sledges, is instead placed on “C’est Chic”. The albums’ cornerstone track, “Le Freak” (#1 Pop and R&B) is inspired by an incident at the legendary Studio 54 disco on New Year’s Eve of 1977, when the producers are invited by singer Grace Jones to discuss working with her. Edwards and Rodgers are met with the club’s infamous “velvet rope” door policy and are not admitted. They instead go to Nile’s apartment around the corner, and begin jamming on a riff that starts with the refrain “ahhh, f*** off!!!, which evolves into “ahhh, freak out!!” With “Le Freak” being issued as the lead single, the album quickly takes off, becoming Chic’s biggest seller and today is regarded as a landmark album of the Disco Era. The front and back cover photos are taken by legendary photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors, Ohio Players, Funkadelic). Beyond the albums’ two hit singles, the lead track “Chic Cheer” also becomes a dance floor favorite, later being sampled on singer Faith Evans’ hit “Love Like This” in 1998 and on Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful”. Originally issued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Warner Japan in 1998, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve (w/ HDCD encoding). Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, the album is  reissued as a 180 gram LP by Friday Music in 2013. The album is remastered again, by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios. It’s reissued as part of the box set “The Chic Organization: 1977 -1979” as a five CD, or four LP + 12” single half speed mastered vinyl set, on November 23, 2018. The vinyl edition is also issued separately, coming with an OBI strip detailing the half-speed mastering process. “C’est Chic” spends eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 on December 23, 1978. Written by Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, it is the first solo chart topper for the lead singer of the R&B band Rufus. After recording five albums with Rufus, Chaka Khan begins work on her first solo album with producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Average White Band, the Bee Gees) in early 1978. While searching for material to record, Mardin finds the song “I’m Every Woman”, written by Ashford & Simpson, who Khan had recently collaborated with on Quincy Jones’ R&B chart topper “Stuff Like That”. The husband and wife duo play the demo for Mardin off of an acetate disc they had recorded some years before. The producer writes out the chord changes and lyrics, before coming up with a new arrangement. Recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City, the track features musicians such as AWB members Steve Ferrone (drums), Hamish Stuart and Onnie McIntyre (guitars and background vocals), bassist Anthony Jackson, guitarist Phil Upchurch and keyboard player Richard Tee. An instant R&B radio and club classic upon its release in September of 1978, it also crosses over into the pop Top 30 before the end of the year. Whitney Houston covers “Woman” (#4 Pop and R&B) for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack in 1992, and Khan makes a cameo appearance in the music video. “I’m Every Woman” is the first of three solo number one singles for Chaka Khan, with that single propelling the accompanying album “Chaka” to Gold status in the US.

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