Renowned vocalist Al Jarreau made his album debut in 1975 with the Reprise Records release We Got By, a collection of original songs from the jazz-rooted singer. He followed that effort with Glow, incorporating tracks by a wide range of writers including Elton John, James Taylor and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Jarreau was slowly but surely building a worldwide fan base with his distinctive vocal style, and he picked up a Grammy Award for his 1977 live album Look to the Rainbow. It wasn't long before Jarreau was looking to expand his musical horizons even further. In 1980, he teamed with producer Jay Graydon for This Time, which emphasized R&B over jazz. Though it still topped the Jazz chart, This Time also placed impressively on the Billboard 200 and the R&B survey. Graydon and Jarreau took another new step, this time towards pop, on its follow-up, 1981's Breakin' Away. Their gamble paid off with what remains the biggest album of Jarreau's distinguished career. BBR has given the deluxe treatment to Breakin' Away with a newly-remastered and expanded edition adding five bonus tracks.
The musicians assembled for the Warner Bros. LP hailed from the cream of both jazz and pop including Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro on drums, Abe Laboriel on bass, Tom Scott on horns, George Duke and Michael Omartian on keyboards, Steve Lukather on electric guitar, and David Foster, Jerry Hey and Broadway and jazz's Billy Byers all contributing arrangements. (Hey and Foster also played on the album.) Bill Champlin, Richard Page and Steve George were brought in for background vocals. Jarreau co-wrote five of the album's tracks, also drawing on standards from pop (Sammy Cahn and Gene DePaul's "Teach Me Tonight") and jazz (Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" from the Brubeck Quartet's Time Out). The album's biggest hit came from the pens of Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall, two songwriters better known for country music. Their breezy "We're in This Love Together" fit Jarreau's soulful yet smooth style like a glove, and it went to No. 15 Pop and No. 6 AC and R&B.
Breakin' Away won Jarreau two Grammy Awards and reached a career peak of No. 9 Pop, No. 1 R&B and No. 1 Jazz. The crossover classic has been expanded with the 12-inch single mix of the album's opening cut "Closer to Your Love" as well as four Jarreau guest appearances from the period: Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager's "Girls Know How" from the soundtrack to director Ron Howard's Night Shift, and three duets with Randy Crawford from Casino Lights - Recorded Live at Montreux, Switzerland. Christian John Wikane has penned new liner notes based on an interview with Jarreau, and Nick Robbins has newly remastered.
Norman Whitfield's Motown credits are far too many to name here; a brief list of his memorable work as writer and/or producer includes such immortal songs as "Too Many Fish in the Sea," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)." Following his departure from Motown, Whitfield struck out on his own with Whitfield Records, distributed by the Warner Bros. label. He lured The Undisputed Truth from Motown to join him, and welcomed another alumnus in Junior Walker. But Whitfield Records' biggest act was Rose Royce. BBR has previously released the group's Epic album Stronger Than Ever, and in January, Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom will arrive. Now, however, the label has released an expanded and remastered reissue of Rose Royce III: Strikes Again!
Strikes Again! scored the nine-member group their third gold album for Whitfield. Los Angeles-based Total Concept Unlimited - a.k.a. Henry Garner (drums), Terral "Terry" Santiel (congas), Lequeint "Duke" Jobe (bass), Michael Moore (saxophone), Kenny Copeland (trumpet, vocals), Kenji Brown (guitar, vocals), Freddie Dunn (trumpet) and Victor Nix (keyboards) came to Whitfield's attention after touring overseas with his frequent collaborator, Edwin Starr. Whitfield urged a change of name to Magic Wand, and helped them gain stage work with Motown's Yvonne Fair as well as guest spots for the members on albums by The Temptations, David Ruffin and The Undisputed Truth. When Whitfield snagged the assignment of scoring the 1976 motion picture Car Wash, he realized it would be the perfect vehicle for Magic Wand. Adding lead vocalist Gwen Dickey (rechristened Rose Norwalt), Whitfield changed the group's name once more. His punning name change stuck, and Rose Royce was born.
Rose Royce's debut single "Car Wash" produced and arranged by Whitfield on the MCA label topped the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B chart, and made it to No. 3 on the Disco countdown. The soundtrack album fared almost as well, reaching No. 14 Pop/No. 2 R&B. The producer-songwriter then brought the band to his own label. 1977's In Full Bloom came next, topping the R&B chart and making the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 as it spawned the hit single "Wishing on a Star." Rose Royce's winning streak continued with Strikes Again! in 1978. Whitfield once again produced, and wrote or co-wrote all but four of the album's nine tracks encompassing funk, disco, rock, and balladry. The major exception was Miles Gregory's song "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" which became a U.K. No. 2 smash and inspired covers by artists from Madonna to Mary J. Blige. It also went to No. 5 R&B stateside, the same position landed by Whitfield's "I'm in Love (And I Love the Feeling)." The album itself reached No. 4 R&B/No. 28 Pop in the U.S., and an even more impressive No. 7 across the pond. Big Break's reissue, with audio overseen by Nick Robbins and producer Wayne A. Dickson and new liner notes by Christian John Wikane, adds three bonus tracks - the single versions of ""First Come, First Serve," "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" and "That's What's Wrong with Me."
Both titles, housed in deluxe Super Jewel Boxes, are available now from Cherry Red and BBR at the links below!
- Closer to Your Love
- My Old Friend
- We're in This Love Together
- Our Love
- Breakin' Away
- Roof Garden
- (Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo a la Turk
- Teach Me Tonight
- Girls Know How
- Your Precious Love (Live)
- Who's Right, Who's Wrong (Live)
- Sure Enough (Live)
- Closer to Your Love (12-Inch Long Version)
Track 10 from Night Shift: Original Soundtrack, Warner Bros. 23702-1, 1982
Tracks 11-13 from Casino Lights - Recorded Live at Montreux, Switzerland, Warner Bros. 1-23718, 1982
Track 14 from Warner Bros. 12-inch single K 17876, 1981
- Get Up Off Your Feet
- Do It, Do It
- I'm in Love (And I Love the Feeling)
- First Come, First Serve
- Love Don't Live Here Anymore
- Angel in the Sky
- Let Me Be the First to Know
- That's What's Wrong with Us
- First Come, First Serve (Single Version) (Whitfield single WHI-8789, 1979)
- Love Don't Live Here Anymore (Single Version) (Whitfield single WHI-8712, 1978)
- That's What's Wrong with Me (Single Version) (Whitfield single WHI-8712, 1978)