By the time Jackie Moore recorded the album entitled I’m On My Way, she certainly was. After early singles on the Shout and Wand labels, the Florida-born R&B vocalist had scored a success on the larger Atlantic Records with “Precious, Precious.” The single, produced by southern soul veteran (and her cousin) Dave Crawford and co-written by the singer and producer, made it to No. 12 on the R&B chart and No. 30 Pop, and established Moore as a chart presence. Working with Crawford and his frequent collaborator Brad Shapiro, Moore notched other hits including “Sometimes It’s Got to Rain (In Your Love Life),” “Time,” and “Darling, Baby.” She moved up north from Miami’s Criteria Studios to Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound to begin a new chapter, working with the loose collective known as The Young Professionals. With them, she charted her second biggest hit: “Sweet Charlie Babe,” which crossed over from R&B to Pop thanks to its polished Philly soul sound. Sweet Charlie Babe was also the title of her first and only Atlantic LP. A move to Brad Shapiro’s Kayvette label yielded the album Make Me Feel Like a Woman and its hit title track (No. 6 R&B), but she was really on her way when she signed with Columbia Records.
Though Jackie’s first single for her new label was another rootsy southern soul production (helmed by William Bell, no less), Columbia had another idea. It was back to Philadelphia and Sigma Sound Studios – this time for a slick production in the disco genre which had blossomed from the sumptuous sound of Philly soul. The producer was to be MFSB and Salsoul Orchestra guitarist (and accomplished songwriter) Bobby Eli, who had played on those Young Professionals records, and the musicians would include many of Eli’s famous bandmates including Keith Benson on drums, Larry Washington on congas, Lenny Pakula on keyboards, Dennis Harris and T.J. Tindall on guitar, and of course, Don Renaldo leading the horns and strings. A second group featured Porter Carroll on drums, Clifford Archer on bass, David Laurie on guitar, Wayne Lewis and Bruce Gray on keyboards, plus Washington and Joey Phillips on percussion. With either group, I’m on My Way merged the lush splendor of Philly soul with the pulsating rhythms of disco. Now, that disco classic has been remastered and expanded by Big Break Records in a shimmering new edition.
The album’s opening track, “This Time Baby,” became a Moore signature and a Disco chart-topper. Penned by Leroy Bell and Casey James (a.k.a. A&M recording artists Bell and James), the driving track was originally produced and arranged for The O’Jays by Leroy’s uncle Thom Bell in his signature, lavish style. Producer Eli and arranger Jack Faith upped the tempo and recast it as a sleek disco floor-filler, while still paying homage to Thom’s original chart with the prominent, essential strings and horns. Moore glided over the arrangement with her pristine yet powerful tone. The 7+-minute album version was mixed by John Luongo, subject of Can You Feel the Force?, the recent anthology from Groove Line Records. As the album and 12″ versions are identical, the 12″ version hasn’t been repeated among the bonus material. Luongo’s restructuring of the track and trademark added percussion have been often imitated, but rarely duplicated.
After “This Time Baby,” I’m on My Way cools down with a ballad respite bearing another Thom Bell connection. Kenny Gamble, Norman Harris and Allan Felder’s yearningly melancholy “Joe” had been introduced by Dusty Springfield on her 1970 Atlantic album A Brand New Me in a Bell arrangement. Bell refined his work further when he had a chance to re-arrange the song for Nancy Wilson’s Now I’m a Woman album on Capitol later that same year. The combination of Bell’s second, more majestic orchestration and Wilson’s captivatingly dramatic vocal made for the definitive reading of the song. Moore’s treatment, arranged by the song’s co-author Harris, is less gripping and far breezier than either Wilson or Springfield’s recordings; Harris’ chart has a sheen and a sparkle matched by Moore’s expressive yet restrained vocal.
The second single off I’m on My Way, the infectious “How’s Your Love Life, Baby,” was written by the team of Greg Perry, Sidney Barnes, and Steve Stein, and was first aired on Perry’s 1977 solo LP Smokin’. It was subsequently covered by Eddie Kendricks, but Moore brought her own soulful sensibility to it. Bobby Eli furnished Jackie with a quartet of his own strong compositions, all co-written (in whole or in part) with Jeffrey Prusan, and arranged by Eli. The smooth and sultry “Can You Tell Me Why” has a strong hook that Moore winningly sells; the high-octane title track “I’m on My May” is pure disco pleasure. “Wrapped Up in Your Lovin'” and “Do Ya Got What It Takes” add an extra dash of drama to showcase Moore’s always-expressive, soulful leads. The solo Prusan wrote the lightly Latin trifle “Let’s Go Somewhere and Make Love,” which has a delicious Salsoul feel to it thanks to Jack Faith’s lighter-than-air arrangement.
Six bonus tracks have been appended to this release: three versions of “This Time Baby” (Mike Maurro’s compelling and very different extended remix, and the original single edit and instrumental versions) plus the single edit, and 12-inch vocal and instrumental versions of “How’s Your Love Life, Baby.” Malcolm McKenzie has supplied the informative essay found in the 16-page booklet, and Nick Robbins has remastered.
Now is this time, baby to rediscover Jackie Moore’s enduring Philly disco classic. It’s available at the links below from Cherry Red and Big Break Records!
- This Time Baby
- Can You Tell Me Why?
- Let’s Go Somewhere and Make Love
- I’m on My Way
- How’s Your Love Life Baby
- Wrapped Up in Your Lovin’
- Do Ya’ Got What It Takes
- This Time Baby (12-Inch Mike Maurro Remix) (Brookside BR03, 2016)
- How’s Your Love Life Baby (12-Inch Disco Mix) (Columbia 12-inch single 44-11136, 1979)
- This Time Baby (12-Inch Instrumental Version) (Columbia 12-inch single 44-05035, 1984)
- How’s Your Love Life Baby (12-Inch Instrumental Version) (Columbia 12-inch single 44-11136, 1979)
- This Time Baby (Single Version) (Columbia single 3-10993, 1979)
- How’s Your Love Life Baby (Single Version) (Columbia single 1-11140, 1979)