SoulMusic Records has recently brought together the five Columbia/ARC albums of the beloved R&B trio The Emotions on one 3-CD set with a selection of eight bonus tracks. Don’t Ask My Neighbors: The Columbia/ARC Recordings (1976-1981) has Flowers (1976), Rejoice (1977), Sunbeam (1978), Come Into Our World (1979), and New Affair (1981) in one clamshell case.
Sisters Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette Hutchinson first recorded on the small Brainstorm and Twin Stacks labels before receiving national attention on Stax’s Volt imprint. But when Stax shuttered in 1975, The Emotions were left without a label. Earth, Wind and Fire founder Maurice White and producer-arranger Charles Stepney saw the sisters’ potential and signed them to Columbia via White’s Kalimba Productions with 1976’s Flowers. Al McKay and White’s lithe, shimmering title track was just one of the many delights on the LP (produced by White and Charles Stepney) including Wanda’s “How Can You Stop Loving Someone” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” (the latter co-written with Jeanette) and Deniece Williams, Lani Groves and Clarence McDonald’s “Special Part.”
Their 1977 sophomore set Rejoice (on which Hutchinson sister Pamela stepped in for Jeanette) introduced the song which is still most closely associated with the trio today: McKay and White’s “Best of My Love.” The bold, bubbly, and effervescent dancer went all the way to No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop and R&B charts and propelled Rejoice to pole position on the R&B Albums survey and No. 5 on the Top LPs and Tapes chart. Rejoice featured a number of other Emotions classics including the lilting waltz “Key to My Heart” penned by Maurice’s brother Verdine White, and Maurice and Jerry Peters’ affecting “Blessed.” Wanda was among the co-writers of the inspirational “Rejoice,” which like “Blessed,” returned The Emotions to their spiritual roots in beautiful fashion.
The band’s guiding light, Maurice White penned “Smile” with McKay for 1978’s Sunbeam, the follow-up to Rejoice. R&B veteran Skip Scarborough joined Maurice to write the smooth “Walking the Line,” while “Smile” played like a slightly more funked-up version of “Best of My Love.” “Smile” earned The Emotions another Top 10 R&B hit. The rousing, funk-jazz brew of “Love Vibes” from Sunbeam is one of the many tracks to betray the Earth, Wind and Fire influence, so naturally a full-fledged “team up” between the two groups was in order. The joyous dancefloor explosion of Jon Lind and Allee Willis’ “Boogie Wonderland” arrived in April 1979 on EWF’s I Am album. Released one month later as a single, it was another triumph for both groundbreaking groups, reaching No. 6 Pop and No. 2 R&B. It’s included here among the bonus tracks in both its original and 12-inch single version.
The propulsive floor-filler “I Should Be Dancing” is just one of the highlights from the oft-overlooked Come Into Our World, their first release on Kalimba successor ARC. Maurice White again produced what would turn out to be the most dancefloor-oriented album of The Emotions’ career to that point. Sheila, Jeanette, and Wanda were joined by Pamela and their brother Joey, plus a “Who’s Who” of musicians including Toto’s David Paich on keyboards, Average White Band’s Steve Ferrone on drums, Keni Burke and EW&F’s Verdine White on bass, and the ubiquitous Paulinho da Costa on percussion. David Foster and Allee Willis co-authored the upbeat “What’s the Name of Your Love” with Maurice, and the trio were rewarded with a No. 30 R&B hit. Foster and White joined Sheila to pen “On and On,” and David Paich joined White, Willis, and Foster for “The Movie,” on which White appears in a vocal spot. Other songs came from writers including Ross Vannelli and R&B vet Marlo Henderson. Come Into Our World reached a No. 35 R&B/No. 96 Pop peak. Only one more album would follow for ARC/Columbia, 1981’s New Affair. Maurice ceded production to Billy Meyers for tracks like the mellow “Now That I Know,” though he helmed the presciently-titled “There’ll Never Be Another Moment” himself. Two uptempo cuts, “Turn It Out” and “All Night, Alright,” were produced by Wanda and her husband, Wayne Vaughn.
In addition to the two versions of “Boogie Wonderland,” the SoulMusic set also adds two more non-LP sides (“My Baby Dance” and “Changes”) and single versions of “I Should Be Dancing,” “Where Is Your Love,” “Don’t Ask My Neighbors,” and “Flowers.” Compilation producer David Nathan has written the lengthy essay in the24-page booklet, while Nick Robbins (who mastered The Emotions’ catalogue for Big Break Records) has handled the sound here in typically fine fashion.
Don’t Ask My Neighbors: The Columbia/ARC Recordings (1976-1981) is a rousing celebration of The Emotions’ silky and resplendent grooves. It’s available now at the links below!
Flowers (Columbia PC 34163, 1976)
- I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love
- Me for You
- You’ve Got the Right to Know
- We Go Through Changes
- Special Part
- No Plans for Tomorrow
- How Can You Stop Loving Someone
- God Will Take Care of You
Rejoice (Columbia PC 34762, 1977)
- Best of My Love
- A Feeling Is
- A Long Way to Go
- Key to My Heart
- Love’s What’s Happenin’
- How’d I Know That Love Would Slip Away
- Don’t Ask My Neighbors
Sunbeam (Columbia C 45253, 1978)
- Love Is Right On
- This Is Passing By
- Walking the Line
- Ain’t No Doubt About It
- Love Vibes
- I Wouldn’t Lie
- My Everything
- Spirit of Summer
- Whole Lot of Shakin’
- Music Box
Come Into Our World (ARC/Columbia JC 36149, 1979)
- What’s the Name of Your Love?
- ‘Cause I Love You
- Come Into My World
- On and On
- I Should Be Dancing
- Where Is Your Love?
- The Movie
- Layed Back
- Yes, I Am
New Affair (ARC/Columbia FC 37456, 1981)
- All Night, Alright
- Love Lies
- Now That I Know
- There’ll Never Be Another Moment
- Turn It Out
- New Affair
- Here You Come Again
- When You Gonna Wake Up
- Boogie Wonderland – Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions (ARC/Columbia single 3-10956, 1979)
- I Should Be Dancing (Single Version) (CBS single 7869, 1979)
- My Baby Dance (Non-LP B-side) (CBS single 7869, 1979)
- Changes (Non-LP B-side) (Columbia single 3-10791, 1978)
- Where Is Your Love? (Single Version) (ARC/Columbia single 1-11205, 1980)
- Don’t Ask My Neighbors (Single Version) (Columbia single 3-10622, 1977)
- Flowers (Single Version) (Columbia single 3-10347, 1976)
- Boogie Wonderland (12-Inch Version) – Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions (previously unreleased on CD, from The Essential Emotions: The Columbia Years, digital-only release, 2018)