Category: funk

On this day in music history: May 22, 1981 – &…

On this day in music history: May 22, 1981 – “It Must Be Magic”, the fourth album by Teena Marie is released. Produced by Teena Marie, it is recorded at Motown Hitsville U.S.A. Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA and Wanderland Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA from Late 1980 – Early 1981. With her previous album “Irons In The Fire” still on the charts, Teena Marie begins work on her fourth release. She utilizes the members of her touring band including Allen McGrier (bass), Paul Hines (drums), James S. Stewart (keyboard), Jill Jones and Mickey Hearn (backing vocals). Marie is also supported in the studio by Patrice Rushen (keyboards), Gerald Albright (saxophone), Bill Wolfer (synthesizer), Temptations members Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Stone City Band Members Oscar Alston (bass), Tom McDermott (guitar), Daniel LeMelle (saxophone), and Marie’s friend and mentor Rick James (vocals). The first single “Square Biz” (#3 R&B, #12 Club Play, #50 Pop) co-written with McGrier is an immediate smash becoming Teena’s biggest single to date. It is also unique in that it is one of the first R&B songs to feature rap verses, at a time when rap is still considered by many to be a novelty. The title track “It Must Be Magic” (#30 R&B), features The Temptations’ Melvin Franklin reprising his spoken vocal from The Marvelettes’ 1967 single “My Baby Must Be A Magician”. The third single “Portuguese Love” (#54 R&B) becomes a Quiet Storm radio classic and a fan favorite. The album ascends to the runner up spot on the R&B chart, ironically behind Rick James’ “Street Songs”. In spite of the success, it also marks the beginning of the end of her relationship with Motown Records. The singer has issues with the label over her contract and royalty payments. Hiring attorney Don Engel to represent her, Teena looks to be released from her contract. The ensuing legal battle between both sides results in “The Brockert Initiative”, a precedent setting piece of legal legislation. It makes it illegal for a record label, to hold an artist under contract without releasing new material, or allowing that artist to leave and sign with another label. Eventually she is released from Motown, and signs with Epic Records in 1983. First released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 2002, with liner notes by A Scott Galloway. The 12" mix of “Square Biz” replaces the slightly shorter LP version, and includes three additional bonus tracks including the instrumental mix of “Biz” and two live tracks recorded at the Long Beach Arena on July 30, 1981. The original nine track album is remastered and reissued in Japan in 2013 as an SHM-CD, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve. “It Must Be Magic” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty three on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 22, 1980 – “…

On this day in music history: May 22, 1980 – “diana”, the eleventh studio album by Diana Ross is released. Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and Motown/Hitsville USA Studios in Hollywood, CA from November 1979 – April 1980. Motown superstar Diana Ross approaches Edwards and Rodgers about producing her, after her children take her to see Chic at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Never having worked with a major artist before, the producers agree to do the project. Sessions are arduous, as they clash with the singer over their working methods. The situation comes to a head during one vocal session, when Edwards tells Ross she’s singing flat. She storms out of the studio, and goes the south of France for several weeks. After the sessions resume, she expresses her unhappiness with the way the album is initially mixed. The producers make some slight alterations and then tell her that if she still isn’t happy, she can remix them herself. With veteran Motown mix engineer Russ Terrana, Ross remixes the entire album, which creates more friction between both sides. So much so, that Edwards and Rodgers nearly ask to have their names removed from the credits. Fortunately cooler heads prevail, and producers credit remains intact, though they insist that Ross and Terrana be credited for the remixes. In spite of all of the behind the scenes drama, the album is ecstatically received by the public, becoming the Motown superstar’s most successful release ever. Fans and critics are further taken aback by the striking black and white cover photo, taken by legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo (Seventeen, Cosmopolitan). Instead of the normally high glamour look Ross is known for, she is shown on the front cover with her natural length hair, wet and swept back, wearing a white top and blue jeans (borrowed from model Gia Carangi). The albums stark cover photo is contrasted, with a casual, glossy inner gatefold photo taken by famed photographer Douglas Kirkland (Look, Life Magazine). It spins off the hits “Upside Down” (#1 Pop & R&B), I’m Coming Out" (#5 Pop, #6 R&B), and a third in the UK (“My Old Piano” #5 UK). It is remastered and reissued in 2003 as a two CD Deluxe Edition with the original “Chic Mix” being released for the first time. The second disc features rare and unreleased remixes of several Diana Ross dance floor classics. The CD booklet also features annotation by former Record World and Billboard dance music columnist Brian Chin. In April of 2017, the “Chic Mix” is issued as a double vinyl LP set, pressed on translucent pink vinyl. “diana” spends eight weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1983 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1983 – “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on April 30, 1983, and peaking at #14 on the R&B singles chart on May 28, 1983. Written by David Bowie, it is the second US chart topper for the British rock icon. Newly signed to a worldwide record deal with EMI Records in 1982 worth over $10 million, David Bowie collaborates with musician Nile Rodgers of Chic on his first album with the label. Before the recording sessions begin, Bowie plays Rodgers a number of new songs he has written including one titled “Let’s Dance”. Originally written on a 12-string acoustic guitar, Bowie’s original arrangement bares almost no resemblance to what it becomes. Rodgers takes the folk-rock acoustic based song, and transforms it into a funky, uptempo dance rock song. Recorded at The Power Station in New York City in December of 1982, “Let’s Dance” along with the rest of the accompanying album is recorded in under three weeks. “Dance” features most of the core rhythm section of Chic including Tony Thompson (drums), Rob Sabino (keyboards), Sammy Figueroa (percussion) and Rodgers himself (guitar) as well as Carmine Rojas (bass), and a then little known blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan providing the stinging lead guitar on the track. The title track from David Bowie’s fifteenth studio album, it is released in March of 1983 and is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on March 26, 1983, it  climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single also tops the chart in the UK, becoming his third chart topper in his home country. “Dance” not only become Bowie’s biggest single and album, but also introduces him to a new audience, winning him a new generation of fans. The song is accompanied by a music video directed by long time collaborator David Mallet, shot in Sydney, Australia in early 1983. To commemorate the thirty fifth anniversary, the original demo recording of “Let’s Dance” is released digitally on January 8, 2018, Bowie’s 71st birthday. The complete version along with a live recording from the “Serious Moonlight Tour”, is released as a limited edition 12" single for Record Store Day on April 21, 2018. “Let’s Dance” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – “Rags To Rufus”, the second album by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan is released. Produced by Bob Monaco, it is recorded at Quantum Recording Studios in Torrance, CA from December 1973 – February 1974. Originally known as Ask Rufus when they form in 1971, the band originally consists of former American Breed (“Bend Me, Shape Me”) members Kevin Murphy (keyboards), Chuck Colbert Jr., Willie Weeks (bass), Lee Graziano (drums), Al Ciner (guitar), James Stella and Paulette McWilliams (vocals). They’re signed to Epic Records and record an album, which is shelved and they are dropped. Manager and producer Bob Monaco helps them to land another contract, this time with ABC/Dunhill Records. Before it’s recorded, Weeks is replaced by Dennis Belfield, Stella is replaced by Ron Stockert, and Graziano by Andre Fischer. During this time McWilliams becomes close friends with a young Chicago based singer named Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens), who initially joins as a background singer. Paulette eventually decides to leave, grooming Khan to replace her. Shortening their name to Rufus, they release their debut album in July of 1973 (#44 R&B, #174 Pop), then quickly beginning work on the follow up. In spite of being very pregnant with her first child Indira Milini (born December 21, 1973), Chaka delivers powerful vocals throughout. During the sessions, Rufus receive a visit in the studio by R&B and pop superstar Stevie Wonder, who had become aware of them through their cover of his song “Maybe Your Baby” on their first album. Wonder offers to write the band a song for them, initially coming up with one titled “Come and Get This Stuff”. Chaka tells Stevie bluntly that she doesn’t like it. Stunned at the rejection, Wonder asks Khan what her birth sign is, to which she replies “Aries-Pisces”. Stevie comes back with another song titled “Tell Me Something Good” (#3 R&B and Pop). It also features future members Tony Maiden (talk box, guitar), and Nate Morgan (keyboards), though both are uncredited. Putting her unique vocal stamp on the unusually structured but ultra funky song, “Tell Me” becomes a crossover smash. The single wins Rufus and Chaka Khan their first Grammy Award For Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1975. It is followed by the equally funky “You Got The Love” (#1 R&B, #14 Pop), co-written by Khan and former Stevie Wonder guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., pushing the album past the million mark in sales. First released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Geffen/Universal Japan in 2004, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve. “Rags To Rufus” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart and Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 18, 1981 – &…

On this day in music history: May 18, 1981 – “Knights Of The Sound Table”, the seventh album by Cameo is released. Produced by Larry Blackmon, it is recorded at H&L Recording Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ and The Power Station in New York City from December 1980 – January 1981. With their sixth album “Feel Me” in record stores only two months, Cameo continue their break neck pace of recording and touring, returning to the studio between tour dates to begin work on yet another. Like many of their previous releases, bandleader and drummer Larry Blackmon has a hand in co-writing all of the material. When the album is released in the Spring of 1981, barely seven months after the previous one, the funky horn driven first single “Freaky Dancin” (#3 R&B, #45 Club Play), gives Cameo another hit right out of the box. It is followed by the breezy funk of “I Like It” (#25 R&B). Though not released as a commercial single in the US (UK only), the track “Don’t Be So Cool” featuring singer Nona Hendryx as a boastful and haughty socialite, begins receiving play on radio and on club dance floors as an album cut. Well received by fans at the time of its release, it becomes their fourth consecutive Gold album. But like its predecessor, “Knights Of The Sound Table” is seen as a “transitional” album for the New York City based funk band. It is also the last Cameo album to feature the bands large self contained line up of ten members. That number is cut virtually in half with the release of the next album “Alligator Woman” in March of 1982. “Knights” makes its long awaited CD debut in Japan in 1992, and is remastered and reissued in the US in 1995. It is remastered and reissued in Japan in 2008, with UK reissue label Soul Brother Records re-releasing the title in 2013. Universal Japan reissues it a third time in 2015, as a limited edition SHM-CD as part of their Universal JB & Funk 1000 Best Collection series. “Knights Of The Sound Table” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty four on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1980 – &…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1980 – “Let’s Get Serious” by Jermaine Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on July 12, 1980. Written by Stevie Wonder and Lee Garrett, it is the biggest solo hit for the former co-lead vocalist and bassist for The Jackson 5. Jermaine Jackson begins his career as a solo artist in 1972 while still a member of The Jackson 5, scoring a hit with a cover version of the Shep & Limeliters classic “Daddy’s Home” (#2 R&B, #9 Pop). When his brothers leave Motown in 1975, Jermaine remains with the label, though subsequent albums such as “My Name Is Jermaine” (1976), “Feel The Fire” (1977) and “Frontiers” (1978) are only modest sellers. Looking to give his career a boost, Jackson turns his friend and Motown label mate Stevie Wonder for assistance. Wonder writes three songs for Jermaine’s fifth album including the funky uptempo “Let’s Get Serious” with childhood friend and songwriting collaborator Lee Garrett. Having known each other when both were students at the Michigan School For The Blind, Garrett and Wonder have previously co-written the classics “It’s A Shame” for The Spinners and Stevie’s own “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”. Once the song is completed, Stevie takes Jermaine into the studio in the Summer of 1979 to record the track. Ever the perfectionist, it takes fifteen recording sessions spread over a period nearly seven months to complete “Serious” and the other Wonder penned songs “You’re Supposed To Keep Your Love For Me” and “Where Are You Now”. Released as a single in late February of 1980, “Let’s Get Serious” is an immediate smash on R&B radio and quickly crosses over to the pop singles chart. The success of the single drives the accompanying album (also titled “Let Get Serious) to the top of the Billboard R&B album chart for five weeks beginning on June 7, 1980, peaking at number six on the Top 200 and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. "Let’s Get Serious” is ranked the top R&B single of 1980 by Billboard Magazine, edging out his brother Michael’s “Rock With You” which is ranked at number two for the year.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1975 – &…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1975 – “That’s The Way Of The World”, the sixth studio album by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B album chart for 5 weeks (non-consecutive) on April 19, 1975. Produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney, it is recorded at The Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO from September 16, 1974 – October 2, 1974. The bands’ sixth release also serves as the soundtrack to the Sig Shore (“Superfly”) produced and directed film, the movie flops at the box office, but the album takes on a life of its own, becoming EWF’s mainstream breakthrough. It spins off two singles including “Shining Star” (#1 Pop & R&B) and the title track (#5 R&B, #12 Pop), as well as fan and airplay favorites such as “Reasons”, “Yearnin’ Learnin’” and “Africano”. It also wins the band their first Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group (for “Shining Star”) in 1976. At the time of the album’s original release, it is also issued as a quadraphonic stereo LP and 8-track tape. Well regarded by audiophiles for its excellent sonics, the album is also issued as a half-speed mastered LP in the mid 80’s by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, and as a hybrid SACD disc by the label in 2005. Both are long out of print and command premium prices on the collectors market. “That’s The Way Of The World” is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 16, 1984 – &…

On this day in music history: May 16, 1984 – “When Doves Cry” by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is the fifteenth single release for the singer, songwriter and musician from Minneapolis, MN. With principal photography having wrapped on Prince’s first feature film “Purple Rain” by early 1984, the film quickly goes into post production to make its projected late July release date. As the film is being edited, director Albert Magnoli requests an additional song to underscore a montage sequence he is cutting together. The director gives the artist an idea of the type of song he’s looking for, stating that “it’s about your parents, and about love and loss”. Prince says “OK” to Magnoli, then returns the next day with two complete song demos. Upon hearing the one titled “When Doves Cry”, the director likes it immediately. Prince enters Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood on March 1, 1984, recording and mixing the song in a single thirty six hour session. During the mixing stage, Prince comes up with the idea of removing the bass line from the already spare track. Warner Bros. is initially hesitant to the release the song, but the artist insists that it be issued as is. Issued five weeks ahead as the first taste of the landmark “Purple Rain” soundtrack, it is an instant smash upon its release. “When Doves Cry” becomes the fastest selling single in the history of the label, selling over a million copies in its first five days. Part of the initial press run of 45’s are pressed on purple vinyl, with a 12" single featuring the full unedited version being released commercially a month later on June 13, 1984. The 7" and 12" singles are backed by the non LP B-side “17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose, if U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose)” which is originally intended for Apollonia 6, but Prince changes his mind, and re-records the song at Sunset Sound on January 8, 1984. “17 Days” also receives significant airplay and becomes a fan favorite. “When Doves Cry” hits number one on the Billboard R&B singles chart on June 30, 1984 (spending 8 weeks at the top) and top the Hot 100 on July 7, 1984 (spending 5 weeks at the top), selling more than two million copies (certified Platinum by the RIAA) in the US alone and is ranked the top single of 1984.

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On this day in music history: May 13, 1978 – &…

On this day in music history: May 13, 1978 – “Take Me To The Next Phase Part 1” by The Isley Brothers hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks. Written by Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, Chris Jasper, Rudolph Isley, O’Kelly Isley and Ronald Isley, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the family band from Cincinnati, OH. The main body of the song is written by the three younger members of the band while recording at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. They cut two different versions of the song before settling on the final released version. It is issued as the first single from their sixteenth studio album “Showdown” in March of 1978. “Take Me” surprisingly does not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, though its success on the R&B chart helps propel the “Showdown” album to Platinum status, peaking at number four on the Billboard Top 200, spending three weeks at number one on the R&B album chart. In 2004, Sony Legacy releases a remix album of Isley Brothers classics titled “Taken To The Next Phase”. The set features ten of the band’s best known songs remixed by Will I. Am, Stuart Matthewman (of Sade), Raphael Saadiq and Mos Def. The remix version of “Take Me To The Next Phase” featured on the album is by the production team The Ignorants.

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On this day in music history: May 13, 1977 – &…

On this day in music history: May 13, 1977 – “Right On Time”. the second album by The Brothers Johnson is released. Produced by Quincy Jones, it is recorded at A&M Recording Studio “B” in Hollywood, CA from February 1 – March 21, 1977. With their Platinum selling debut “Look Out For #1” having spent most of 1976 on the charts, brothers George and Louis Johnson turn their attention to working on the follow up release in early 1977. Collaborating again with Quincy Jones, they work with several of the same musicians that had played on the previous album including Harvey Mason (drums), Dave Grusin and Ian Underwood (keyboards). The Tower Of Power Horns (Mic Gillette, Emilio Castillo, Stephen “Doc” Kupka, Greg Adams and Lenny Pickett) are also featured on the album. Working out their label’s studios on the famed Chaplin Lot in Hollywood, the album is engineered by veteran A&M staff engineer Norm Kinney, along with Chuck Trammell and Don Hahn. Seven of the eight songs included on “Right On Time” are written by George and Louis (either together or with others), with one exception. The brothers decide to record a cover of multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis’ (the son of R&B music pioneer and band Johnny Otis) song “Strawberry Letter 23” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop). George hears it when he is dating Otis’ cousin after she turns him on to Shuggie’s 1971 album “Freedom Flight” that the song is featured on. Together with Jones, George and Louis come up with a new funky arrangement for the song, with guitarist Lee Ritenour playing the memorable solo at the instrumental break. It’s released as the first single from the album in early June of 1977 and quickly turns into an R&B and pop crossover smash, becoming The Brothers Johnson’s second million selling single. It is followed by the laid back groove “Runnin’ For Your Lovin” (#20 R&B, #107 Pop) in the Fall. The instrumental track “Q”, named for their producer and mentor wins them a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1978. Original vinyl copies of the album come packaged with a full color eight page booklet featuring song lyrics, credits and photos. First released on CD in 1986 (Japan only), it is remastered and reissued in 1996 in the US. “Right On Time” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirteen on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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