“Make That Move,” “I Can Make You Feel Good,” “A Night to Remember,” “The Second Time Around”: these are just a few of the hits that put Shalamar on the musical map. One of the leading lights of impresario Dick Griffey’s SOLAR (Sounds Of Los Angeles Records), Shalamar placed over 20 twenty entries on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart and more than 10 on the Pop survey; across the pond, the group scored 19 hits on the U.K. Singles Chart. Now, the group’s towering accomplishments have been chronicled on a new entry in Demon Music Group/Crimson Productions’ Gold anthology series. The series, which has released titles from artists ranging from T Rex to Brotherhood of Man, may be budget-priced, but the content certainly isn’t on the cheap. Shalamar’s Gold features 41 shimmering classics (including all 24 of the group’s U.S. and U.K. top 40 entries) on 3 CDs including rare 12-inch dance mixes that will leave you ready to do some body-popping of your own.
Shalamar began life as a studio group created by U.K. producer Simon Soussan for the nine-minute “Uptown Festival,” a medley of popular Motown tunes aimed at the disco market. When the medley became a top 5 hit, a real group was needed to be the “face” of the song. Don Cornelius of Soul Train Records plucked Jeffrey Daniel and Jody Watley from the ranks of the famous Soul Train dancers. Session vocalist Gary Mumford was selected as the third member and was the only member of the original trio to have sung on the Uptown Festival album which had been inspired by the single’s success.
Following that LP’s 1977 release (represented on Gold by not only the medley but another Motown cover, Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby”), Soul Train Records folded, and Griffey launched SOLAR. Mumford, uncomfortable with the spotlight, resigned and was replaced by Gerald Brown. Disco Gardens, produced by Dick Griffey and Leon Sylvers, introduced the “real” Shalamar. Blending a traditional vocal group style with a dance-oriented vibe, Disco Gardens‘ “Take That to the Bank” peaked at No. 11 R&B and seemed to augur for future success. (“Stay Close to Love” and “Leave It All to Love” have also been reprised from the LP.) But there was a major change yet to come. Gerald Brown, having balked at Griffey’s business practices, was replaced with Howard Hewett. Despite personal tensions, Watley, Daniel, and Hewett “clicked” musically, and the classic Shalamar line-up was born.
The non-chronologically sequenced Gold includes selections from all of the group’s SOLAR albums through 1987’s Circumstantial Evidence, eschewing the 1990 new jack swing-inspired effort Wake Up. (Nothing from that album charted.) 1979’s Big Fun, introducing the Watley/Daniel/Hewett group, is represented with five tracks including the song which became Shalamar’s biggest hit. Produced and co-written by Leon Sylvers, “The Second Time Around” shot to the Pop top 10 as well as No. 1 R&B and Disco. It propelled the album not only to R&B success but to the top 25 of the Billboard 200.
The compilation then takes in highlights from the classic albums which reached Gold and/or Platinum status in the U.S. and the U.K. including Three for Love (1980, containing the smash “Make Your Move”); Friends (1982, boasting “A Night to Remember”), and The Look (1983, featuring “Dead Giveaway,” with The Time’s Jesse Johnson on guitar). The latter turned out to be the final album from Watley, Daniel, and Hewett. Watley and Daniel left following the release of The Look, to be replaced by Delisa Davis and Micki Free. This iteration placed a couple of songs on 1984’s Heartbreak in very successful films; both “Dancing in the Sheets” (heard in Footloose) and the Grammy-winning “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills” (from Beverly Hills Cop) are included on Gold. The next Shalamar LP didn’t arrive in stores until 1987, by which point Howard Hewett had gone solo. Davis and Free were joined by Sydney Justin for Circumstantial Evidence in 1987, its production by A-listers L.A. Reid and Babyface, Jerry Peters, and Bernadette Cooper reflecting the changes in the urban music landscape.
Gold shines a spotlight not only on the talented and distinctive singers that gave Shalamar its sound but also the behind-the-scenes personnel such as veteran arrangers Gene Page and Gene Dozier and producers like Leon Sylvers, George Duke (who worked on some of Heartbreak), L.A. Reid and Babyface, and even Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte (responsible for “Deadline U.S.A.” from director Joel Schumacher’s film D.C. Cab). Remixes by John “Jellybean” Benitez, John Morales, and Rick Gianatos all add further luster.
Everything on Gold has been remastered to customarily fine effect by Nick Robbins under the supervision of compilation producer Wayne A. Dickson. Malcolm McKenzie has provided brief historical liner notes in the digipak. This release (also available in a highlights version on – what else? – gold 180-gram vinyl) is, quite simply, the ultimate dancefloor celebration from one of R&B’s most beloved trios. As the song goes, take that to the bank!
Shalamar’s Gold is available now from Crimson/Demon at the following links: