On July 29, Iconoclassic Records will release a pair of albums from two very different artists - yet both releases look to be equally essential.
The Ohio Players famously topped the U.S. Hot 100 in 1975 with the irresistible "Love Rollercoaster," the group's second song to reach that coveted spot after "Fire." The band's history is a bit of a roller coaster itself, with plenty of ups and downs. Upon its release in 1981, Tenderness might have been considered a down, but Iconoclassic is revealing it to be one of the group's most exciting ups.
When The Ohio Players signed to Boardwalk Records - the upstart label founded by Neil Bogart, late of Buddah and Casablanca Records - the line-up had changed considerably since their early days. Half of the group had recently departed to form their own band, Shadow, while shady business practices saw another senior member out (and into jail). This turn of events left lead singer/guitarist Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (a.k.a. Sugar a.k.a. Ragus) to be supported by Marshall "Rock" Jones on bass and Marvin "Merv" Pierce and Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks in the horn section. The Ohio Players might have been slimmed down, but they weren't down for the count.
Mercury had let the Players go after a series of diminishing returns in 1977-1978; one Arista album, 1979's Everybody Up, failed to turn their fortunes around. Boardwalk would represent a new beginning for the remaining quartet. Pierce, acting as de facto leader, assembled additional musicians Jimmy Sampson on drums, Vinnie Thomas on percussion, and Dave Johnson on keyboards. He executive-produced the LP which would be helmed by Sugar, with Johnson as associate. Its title Tenderness came from one of two road-tested Otis Redding classics that would feature on the album, "Try a Little Tenderness." The other Otis staple was the late singer's posthumous classic "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay." The remainder of the album consisted of seven Players originals including the straightforward country ballad "Sometimes I Cry" on which Chuck Rich handled the evocative pedal steel guitar. The lithe "Boardwalkin'" paid tribute to their new label home, and "It Takes a While" showcased Sugar at his bluesy best.
The album's elegant cover was shot by the legendary Harry Langdon; it was more tasteful than provocative. (The group would return to the latter with their next and last Boardwalk album, Ouch!) Tenderness disappointed on the charts, reaching No. 165 on the Billboard 200 and barely cracking the top 50 of the R&B survey. "Try a Little Tenderness" did earn them a top 40 R&B single, while "Skinny" reached No. 46.
Iconoclassic's reissue has been remastered from the original tapes by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios and includes a booklet with new liner notes by soul historian A. Scott Galloway drawing extensively on a new interview with Merv Pierce. Two bonus tracks have been added: the 12-inch mix of "Try a Little Tenderness" and a choice cut from the band's subsequent album, Sugar's "Just Me."
Also due from Iconoclassic on July 29 is a lost gem from power-pop hero Dwight Twilley: 1986's Wild Dogs. The singer-songwriter notched two top 20 hits on the Billboard 200 almost a decade apart: "I'm on Fire" (1975) with The Dwight Twilley Band and "Girls" (1984). "Girls" had been plucked from the artist's EMI America album Jungle, but the album's next single "Little Bit of Love" peaked at a disappointing No. 77. When it came time to record another long-player, Twilley opted for a move to promoter Joe Isgro's indie label Private I. With producer Val Garay (Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, James Taylor) on board and Twilley armed with another batch of catchy earworms, Wild Dogs had all the ingredients of success. The artist's old friends Susan Cowsill, Bill Pitcock IV, and Noah Shark joined the sessions as did Dwight's partner in the Dwight Twilley Band, Phil Seymour. The poignant "Shooting Stars" featured Seymour, then battling the terminal cancer which would claim his life. Kim Carnes stopped by to add background vocals on "Hold On," while other illustrious personnel included Jerry Scheff on bass, Waddy Wachtel on guitar, and venerable arranger-conductor Jimmie Haskell to add strings to "Sexual," the track earmarked for single release.
Garay's clean, unfussy production concentrated on the power of Twilley's songs and the might of the rhythm section, and Wild Dogs looked to be the album that could have cemented Twilley's place in the pop pantheon. But things went quickly downhill for Private I. Joe Isgro was under investigation for payola; he was prosecuted in 1990 for 57 counts of related offenses, and while those charges were dismissed by a judge, he was convicted of extortion a decade later and sentenced to 50 months in prison. With Isgro indisposed, Twilley was moved to the CBS Associated label. (CBS had distributed Private I's releases.) With little support from the heads of that imprint, Wild Dogs was left to languish. The LP was released in May 1986 with little promotion and Private I's cloud hanging over it. It remains Dwight's final major label album to date.
Over 35 years later, Wild Dogs' time has come. Iconoclassic's deluxe expanded reissue adds the 7-inch single version of "Sexual" along with eight demos straight from the Twilley archives. Dwight has also penned track-by-track commentary which accompanies Ken Sharp's new liner notes drawing on quotes from Twilley, Garay, Cowsill, and single-named photographer/friend/art director Zox. Vic Anesini has remastered Wild Dogs from the original tapes for this CD premiere.
Look for both Tenderness and Wild Dogs from Iconoclassic Records on July 29 at the links below!
Ohio Players, Tenderness: Expanded Edition (Boardwalk LP FW 37090, 1981 - reissued Iconoclassic ICON 1053, 2022) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Try a Little Tenderness
- Sometimes I Cry
- Try to be a Man
- Call Me
- Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
- It Takes a While
- Hard to Love Your Brother
- Just Me (from Ouch!, Boardwalk LP NB1-33247, 1981)
- Try a Little Tenderness (12" Remix) (Boardwalk 12-inch single AS 941, 1981)
Dwight Twilley, Wild Dogs: Expanded Edition (CBS Associated LP 40266, 1986 - reissued Iconoclassic ICON 1054, 2022) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Wild Dogs
- You Don't Care
- Hold On
- Shooting Stars
- Baby Girl
- Ticket to My Dream
- Secret Place
- Spider & The Fly
- Sexual ('New Edit' 7" version) (CBS Associated single ZS4 06050, 1986)
- You Don't Care (Demo)
- Wild Dogs (Demo)
- Ticket to My Dream (Demo)
- Baby Girl (Demo)
- Radio (Demo)
- Secret Place (Demo)
- Spider & the Fly (Demo)
- Sexual (Demo)
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