Big Break Records has dug into the vaults of De-Lite Records for a heady brew. The 1980 album Slippin' and Dippin' from the trio known as Coffee ("hot, black and sweet," per group founder Elaine Sims!) has newly arrived on CD in an expanded edition boasting five bonus tracks.
Elaine Sims, Gwen Hester and Dee Dee Bryant got their start on the streets of Chicago. Though they initially comprised a line-up of the quartet Portraits of Black, the departure of Portraits member Betty Caldwell left Sims, Hester and Bryant as a trio. Manager Ruth Moore rechristened the trio as Coffee, and following one single for the Midwest International label, Coffee landed on the De-Lite Records label, most famously the home of Kool and the Gang. Slippin' and Dippin' was recorded with producer and original Chi-Lites member Clarence Johnson, who had shopped the album around before De-Lite picked it up.
Co-produced by Johnson and Ricardo Williams, Slippin' and Dippin' was named for Jerline Shelton and Maurice Commander's brassy, uptempo dancer "Slip and Dip" which opened the six-song album. (Every track is a lengthy one, with the shortest cut clocking in at nearly five minutes and the longest extending to almost eight minutes.) Shelton and Commander's compositions bookended the LP, with an expansive, string-laden invitation to the dancefloor, "Can You Get to This," closing it out. In between, Coffee revisited Clarence Johnson's "How Can I Tell My Mom and Dad" (a minor 1969 hit for The Lovelites) as "Mom and Dad 1980," with Gwen Hester performing the dramatic spoken-word passages in the story of a teenage pregnancy. Ricardo Williams updated its lyrics for Coffee, adding a more hopeful note. Johnson and Williams also contributed "A Promise," a torridly dramatic tale. Larry Tate and Anthony W. Miller's "I Wanna Be with You" from the Midwest International single was reprised to give Slip and Dip another strong disco cut. Joshie Armstead and Milton Middlebrook's "Casanova" dated back to 1967 and had more recently been cut by soulful diva Loleatta Holloway in her pre-Salsoul days. It was refashioned into a disco opus for Coffee.
Big Break has expanded Slippin' and Dippin' with five bonus tracks, including the Midland International B-side "Say It, It's Good to You," plus the single versions of four album tracks including the disco chart entry "Slip and Dip." Though the album didn't make the charts itself, it was successful enough to yield one more album for the group (1982's appropriately-titled Second Cup). Coffee continued to perform together through 1995. Christian John Wikane fills in the history of the group in his liner notes, while producer Wayne A. Dickson has remastered with Nick Robbins.
BBR has also reissued two albums from Precious Wilson and her funky disco outfit, Eruption. Founded in the United Kingdom by members of African and Caribbean descent, the group was spotted on the road in Germany by Frank Farian. Though he would much later become notorious as the man behind Milli Vanilli, Farian was then best known as the voice of Boney M. Farian signed the five-member group fronted by Wilson (a backup singer promoted to star when Lindel Leslie had departed the ranks) to become part of Boney M's live band on a European tour. Eruption's second single, a cover of Ann Peebles' southern soul tour de force "I Can't Stand the Rain," became its most enduring hit. The epic disco reinvention became a U.K. top 5/U.S. top 20 hit in 1978 and opened the eponymous debut album Eruption on the Hansa label produced by Farian and Rainer M. Ehrhardt.
Eruption blended high-octane disco originals like "Computer Love," "Be Yourself" and "Wayward Love" with familiar covers. In addition to "I Can't Stand the Rain," the band tackled funk on Brass Construction's "Movin'," gospel soul on The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" and even classic balladry on a reprise of Gladys Knight and the Pips' medley of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's "Try to Remember" with Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman's Academy Award-winning "The Way We Were." Precious Wilson's vocals truly smoldered on the latter. BBR's reissue of Eruption adds five bonus tracks: three non-LP singles plus the single version of "I Can't Stand the Rain" and the 12-inch Disco Version of the raucous "Party, Party."
Eruption's sophomore album Leave a Light followed on Hansa in 1979. Its title was derived from Leonard Caston and Terri McFaddin's touching "Leave a Light (I'll Keep a Light in My Window)," previously recorded by artists including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye (as a duet), The Temptations and Smokey Robinson as well as co-writer Caston on his Motown LP Caston and Majors (reissued by BBR in 2013). Though the disco reworking of "Leave a Light" didn't repeat the success of "I Can't Stand the Rain," the next track from an even more unlikely source did. "One Way Ticket (To the Blues)" was written by Jack Keller and Hank Hunter and recorded by Neil Sedaka in 1961. Farian and Ehrhardt recast the song's moody melody and train-like rhythm for a new dance generation. With Precious Wilson taking the impassioned lead and Eruption providing almost robotic backing vocals, "One Way Ticket" became a major international hit. It reached No. 9 in the U.K. and in the U.S., made the Disco top 30.
Leave a Light also allowed Wilson to take on a classic Dionne Warwick hit (Andre and Dory Previn's hauntingly beautiful "(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls") as a standout ballad. Eruption originals included "Hey There Lonely Girl" (not the Eddie Holman favorite), "Up and Away," and "No Good Searchin'." Wilson penned the album's closing track, the funky "Fire is Gone," and indeed it was. Wilson departed Eruption to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Kim Davis for the band's third album. Today, Wilson controls the Eruption name and still performs. BBR's reissue of Leave a Light has two bonus cuts, the single mix of "Leave a Light (I'll Keep a Light in My Window)" and the 12-inch version of "One Way Ticket." Nick Robbins has remastered and Casper Janssen has written the copious liner notes for both titles.
All three of these recent releases from Big Break Records can be ordered now at the links below!
- Slip and Dip
- Mom and Dad 1980
- I Wanna Be with You
- A Promise
- Can You Get to This
- Say It, It's Good to You (Midwest International single MIR-001, 1980)
- Slip and Dip (Single Version) (De-Lite single DE-806, 1980)
- Mom and Dad 1980 (Single Version) (De-Lite single DE-808, 1980)
- I Wanna Be with You (Single Version) (Midwest International single MIR-001, 1980)
- Casanova (De-Lite single DE-809, 1980)
- I Can't Stand the Rain
- I'll Take You There
- Computer Love
- The Way We Were
- Do You Know What It Feels Like
- Be Yourself
- I Can't Carry On
- Wayward Love
- Party, Party
- Let Me Take You Back in Time (RCA Victor U.K. single RCA-2581, 1975)
- Funky Lover (RCA Victor U.K. single RCA-2581, 1975)
- Love is a Feelin' (RCA U.K. single PE-5080, 1978)
- I Can't Stand the Rain (Single Version) (Hansa single 11-761-AT, 1977)
- Party, Party (12-Inch Single Version) (Ariola PRO 7703, 1978)
- Leave a Light (I'll Keep a Light in My Window)
- Sweet Side
- Up and Away
- Let Me in the Rain
- (Theme From) Valley of the Dolls
- One Way Ticket (To The Blues)
- Hey There Lonely Girl
- No Good Searchin'
- Fire is Gone
- Leave a Light (I'll Keep a Light in My Window) (Single Version) (Hansa 100-008, 1978)
- One Way Ticket (U.S. 12-Inch Disco Remix) (Ariola PRO 7757, 1979)