Big Break Records has been on a big roll with its powerhouse slate of recent releases! We’ve already filled you in on the worldwide CD debut of MFSB’s Philly soul classic Universal Love; today, we’ll take a look at another quartet of releases from the Cherry Red imprint.
BBR has returned to the catalogue of Gloria Gaynor with another first-time-on-CD reissue. I’ve Got You was Gaynor’s third solo album and first for Polydor Records. Released 39 years ago in August 1976, the album found her working once more with the architects of her first two LPs Never Can Say Goodbye and Experience Gloria Gaynor (both also available on BBR): producers Tony Bongiovi and Meco Menardo, and mix specialist Tom Moulton. With his artful melding of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” as Side A of the Goodbye LP, Moulton pioneered the extended disco mix – much as he had previously spearheaded the 12-inch single and the concept of the “disco break.”
Experience featured another Moulton suite, as did I’ve Got You. Moulton merged Curtis Blandon’s “Let’s Make a Deal” with a revival of Cole Porter’s 1936 Academy Award-nominated standard “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Don Oriolo’s “Be Mine.” Each song featured the work of a different arranger, though Moulton’s mix magic beautifully meshed their disparate styles. Meco Menardo handled “Let’s Make a Deal,” while Charlie Callelo breathed new life into the Porter classic. (Though The Four Seasons frequently called upon their onetime bassist Callelo for arrangements, the group’s Top 10 reinvention in 1966 wasn’t his work, but rather that of Artie Schroeck.) Harold Wheeler, who made history with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Promises, Promises as the first African-American conductor on Broadway, brought his rhythmic yet elegant touch to “Be Mine,” much as he had for “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “How High the Moon” for Gaynor in the past. Side Two showcased Gaynor’s versatility, with ballads like Joey Levine’s smooth, lushly-arranged “Touch of Lightning” (unbelievably relegated to B-side status) and Blandon’s “Let’s Make Love” as well as uptempo R&B selections from songwriters Thomas Major (“Nothing in This World”) and once more, Blandon (“Do It Right”). Oriolo’s “Talk Talk Talk” concluded the album on the funky yet soulful note.
BBR’s reissue produced by Wayne Dickson adds the single versions of “Let’s Make a Deal” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” both culled from Moulton’s Side One medley. Christian John Wikane has penned the compelling new liner notes with the participation of both Gaynor and Moulton, and Kevin Reeves has freshly remastered at Universal in New York.
The label then moves forward with a trio of titles originally released in 1983. In the Heart continues its series dedicated to the music of Kool and the Gang. The group’s fifteenth studio album, it’s also the eighth to have received the Big Break treatment. The 1983 LP followed the string of successes produced by Brazilian music legend Eumir Deodato and returned the Gang to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts after the relatively disappointing performance of the final Deodato-helmed album As One.
In the Heart was a self-produced affair, led by Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan) with veteran engineer Jim Bonnefond. It was clear that the members of Kool and the Gang were in charge of their own destiny when James “J.T.” Taylor and guitarist Charles Smith’s “Joanna” sailed to the top of the R&B survey and No. 2 Pop and Adult Contemporary. The breezy, period-perfect pop confection was every bit as mellow as “Celebrate” was rousing. It anchored an album also featuring more danceable anthems (the brassy title track, “Straight Ahead”), guitar-driven rockers (“Tonight”), orchestrated balladry (“Place for Us,” “September Love”) and every tool in the band’s considerable shed. Although “Joanna” grabbed the most attention stateside, “Tonight” fared well, too, making the Top 10 R&B countdown and peaking at No. 13 on the Hot 100. In the U.K., “Straight Ahead” made it to No. 15 Pop, and “In the Heart” fared even better at No. 7. But the double A-side single of “Joanna” and “Tonight” rewarded Kool and the Gang with a No. 2 Pop hit.
The album has been generously expanded with a full complement of six bonus tracks: single versions of “Joanna” and “In the Heart,” plus the AOR mix of “Tonight,” and 12-inch versions of “Straight Ahead,” “Ladies Night” and “Tonight.” Wikane’s detailed liner notes serve as an appreciation of the album and a portrait of the era in which it was created. Reeves has vividly remastered.
Today, New York City’s Hudson Theatre stands as part of the Millennium Broadway Hotel as a conference center and special events hall. In 1982, however, the grand old theatre which had opened in 1903 with Ethel Barrymore treading the boards was in use as the Savoy concert venue. The Savoy hosted a revolving door of rock, pop and R&B luminaries during its short year of existence – including Rufus and Chaka Khan. The group took the stage on West 44th Street for three shows on February 12, 13 and 14, 1978, and these shows formed the basis of Live – Stompin’ at the Savoy on the Warner Bros. label.
Though Chaka Khan had been signed to Warner Bros. as a solo artist in 1978, leaving the band Rufus to press on without their superstar vocalist for that year’s Numbers, Chaka and Rufus didn’t immediately sever their ties. Chaka was back in the fold for 1979’s Masterjam; then Party Til You’re Broke featured the group on its own, once again. She was back for 1981’s Camouflage, ending Rufus’ tenure at MCA Records. The band – Tony Maiden, Kevin Murphy, David “Hawk” Wolinski, John Robinson and Bobby Watson – then moved to Chaka’s home at Warner Bros., and the label was anxious to reunite all members one last time. Bringing a new perspective as producer was Russ Titelman, whose varied C.V. ranged from writing songs with Brian Wilson (the majestic “Guess I’m Dumb” for Glen Campbell) to producing Randy Newman (Sail Away) and James Taylor (Gorilla). Joining Rufus were background vocalists including Julia Tillman and musicians such as Lenny Castro on percussion, and Jerry Hey and Ernie Watts leading the horn section.
Three sides of Stompin’ at the Savoy preserved the live concerts, with sizzling performances of hits and favorites like “You Got the Love,” “Sweet Thing,” “Do You Love What You Feel,” and “Tell Me Something Good” alongside more unexpected treats like a revival of Marvin Gaye’s Motown classic “Ain’t That Peculiar.” Chaka’s solo hit “What’cha Gonna Do for Me,” co-written by Ned Doheny, also made the setlist. The fourth side of the original double-LP set was a mini-studio album helmed by Titelman. “Don’t Go to Strangers” revived the standard in a new orchestration by Broadway’s Ralph Burns (Chicago, Sweet Charity). “Try a Little Understanding” was co-written by Khan and Maiden, and “One Million Kisses” was plucked from Jeffrey Osborne’s songbook. But the runaway hit was Wolinski’s “Ain’t Nobody,” which went to the top of the R&B chart in the U.S. and the Pop Top 10 in the United Kingdom.
BBR’s reissue of the No. 4 R&B album features never-before-published photographs as well as Christian John Wikane’s comprehensive notes featuring new recollections from Russ Titelman, John Robinson and Bobby Watson. Nick Robbins has newly remastered. Like the other two titles previously mentioned, Live – Stompin’ at the Savoy is handsomely housed in a Super Jewel Box.
This quartet of titles in the spotlight is rounded out by the newest release on BBR’s Hot Shot Records imprint. One Lover is the sole release from Forrest, a.k.a. Forrest M. Thomas, Jr. of Galveston, Texas. Having relocated from the U.S. to Europe, Forrest made his first splash with the disco/funk group Future (“I Can’t Read Your Mind”) before Ariola Records ushered him into the studio for a one-off solo revival of The Hues Corporation’s 1973 proto-disco chart-topper “Rock the Boat.” But the slickly modernized, synth-driven cover version earned Forrest unexpected success – No. 4 in the U.K., No. 7 in the Netherlands, No. 3 in Belgium, No. 9 Dance in the United States – and he was soon back into the studio to cut One Lover.
In addition to “Rock the Boat,” the album also features the smooth-voiced, expressive vocalist on the single “One Lover (Don’t Stop the Show),” a hit in the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom, and a cover of The Detroit Emeralds’ “Feel the Need in Me.” The Emeralds song was a keen choice, as well, making the Top 20 in the U.K., the Netherlands and Belgium. Gleaming ballads (“Just Let It Happen,” “I Just Want to Love You”) take their place alongside uptempo eighties-style R&B (“I Want You,” “Dancing with My Shadow”).
Five bonus tracks have been added to One Lover: non-LP B-side “Loving You” plus 12-inch mixes of “Rock the Boat,” “Feel the Need in Me,” “One Lover (Don’t Stop the Show)” and “Dancing with My Shadow.” Reissue co-producer Malcolm McKenzie supplies an excellent essay. Notes penned by Ben Liebrand, co-producer of “Rock the Boat” and “Feel the Need in Me,” are also included. The reissue, dedicated to the late Forrest, has been remastered by Nick Robbins.
All four titles from Big Break Records are available now at the links below! (I’ve Got You arrives in the U.s. on September 4.) Watch this space for an upcoming look at BBR’s recent trio of titles from the legendary team of Ashford and Simpson!
- Let’s Make a Deal
- I’ve Got You Under My Skin
- Be Mine
- Touch of Lightning
- Let’s Make Love
- Nothing in This World
- Do It Right
- Talk, Talk, Talk
- Let’s Make a Deal (Single Version) (Polydor PD-14357, 1976)
- I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Single Version) (Polydor 2066 721 (Germany), 1976)
- In the Heart
- Place for Us
- Straight Ahead
- Home Is Where the Heart Is
- You Can Do It
- September Love
- Joanna (Single Version) (De-Lite 829, 1983)
- Tonight (AOR Mix) (De-Lite PRO 274-1 DJ, 1983)
- (When You Say You Love Somebody) In the Heart (Single Remix) (De-Lite DE 17 (U.K.), 1984)
- Straight Ahead (12-Inch Long Version) (De-Lite DEX 001, 1984)
- Ladies Night (Promotional 12-Inch 1983 Remix) (TBD)
- Tonight (12-Inch Dance Mix) (De-Lite DEX 001, 1984)
- You Got the Love
- Once You Get Started
- Dance wit’ Me
- Sweet Thing
- Tell Me Something Good
- Stop On By
- Pack’d My Bags
- I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone)
- At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)
- AIn’t That Peculiar
- What’cha Gonna Do for Me
- Do You Love What You Feel
- AIn’t Nobody
- One Million Kisses
- Try a Little Understanding
- Don’t Go to Strangers
- One Lover (Don’t Stop the Show)
- Feel the Need in Me
- Could This Be Love
- Just Let It Happen
- Hand It Over
- Dancing with My Shadow
- Comin’ Up
- I Want You
- Rock the Boat
- I Just Want to Love You
- Loving You (Ariola 104-884, 1982)
- Rock the Boat (12-Inch Extended Version) (Ariola 600-710, 1982)
- Feel the Need in Me (12-Inch Extended Version) (Ariola 600-857, 1983)
- One Lover (Don’t Stop the Show) (12-Inch Extended Remix) (Ariola 600-975, 1983)
- Dancing with My Shadow (12-Inch Extended Remix) (Ariola 601-079, 1983)