On this day in music history: May 11, 1980 – “About Love”, the sixteenth studio album by Gladys Knight & The Pips is released. Produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, it is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in New York City and A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1980. Rising to their greatest success during the first half of 70’s, by later part of the decade, Gladys Knight & The Pips see their career abruptly go off of the rails. In 1977, the family group find themselves in the middle of two lawsuits with Motown Records, and with Buddah Records after being asking to be released from their contract. Their legal issues with both labels prevent them from recording together for nearly three years. Still tied to Buddah Records, Gladys records her first solo album for the label in 1978 before moving to Columbia to record a second solo effort in 1979. The Pips are briefly signed to Casablanca Records and cut two disco flavored albums (one produced by Arthur Wright and the other by Bunny Sigler) in 1977 and 1978, receiving only minimal notice. With their record company issues behind them by late 1979, The Pips reunite with Gladys at Columbia Records. For their first new album in nearly two years, the group are paired with Ashford & Simpson, who write and produce the project. Having known each other since their stints at Motown, the collaboration turns out to be an inspired one. The first glimpse of “About Love” comes in March of 1980, with the single “Landlord” (#3 R&B, #46 Pop). The mid tempo groove is warmly received by the groups long time fans, returning them to the top ten on the R&B chart for the first time since 1977. It’s followed by “Taste Of Bitter Love” (#38 R&B) and “Bourgie’, Bourgie’” (#46 R&B) during the Spring and Summer. “Bourgie’” had been originally recorded by Nick and Val on their 1977 album “Send It”, but as an instrumental only. Nick Ashford pens lyrics to go with the plush groove he and his wife Valerie had previously composed. Though not major chart or airplay hits, both singles become club classics when both tracks are issued as a coveted promo only 12" single (in the US, released commercially overseas). The album puts Gladys Knight & The Pips back on track for their fourth decade in the music business, leading them to work with Ashford & Simpson again on the follow up release “Touch” in 1981. Originally released on vinyl and cassette only, “About Love” goes out of print for nearly thirty years, before being remastered and making its belated CD debut in 2010. It is reissued by Big Break Records, and includes the edited versions of all three singles as additional bonus tracks. “About Love” peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number forty six on the Top 200.
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