Friday, 16 October 2009

The Escofferys - Look Who's Loving Me 1991

East West Records America A5928T

The Escoffery Sisters have long been doyens of Britain's gospel scene. In 1991, Dance Energy on BBC2 one Monday evening added a little variety to their usual menu of hip-hop, rave and rap. In between a guide to New York clubs and gurning ravers was a short clip of The Escofferys' debut, "Look Who's Loving Me".

The track landed in British clubs as an Atlantic import, before being released here by East West Records. State-side the sisters' gospel-funk had already made an impact on the black charts and been play listed by radio and cable TV stations. In reality the family hail from Brixton, South London, and have long been at the forefront of British black gospel; they scooped the Black Gospel Association award for Best British Gospel Group four years running.

"We signed to Atlantic simply because we met our manager (Robert Butler) through a family friend. He was based in the States and he was interested in seeing if there were any artists to sign here. Our number was given to him and we got talking and eventually a rough tape got passed to Atlantic. They liked it so then we did a demo and they signed us around September of 1990," explains Marcia.
"With Atlantic, they loved what they heard on our original demos and they just let us go in the direction we were going in," says Sharon. "They haven't tried to influence us, that's what we like about them. It hasn't affected us that they're a mainstream rather than a gospel label. They want to see us do other projects like acapella, jazz and even traditional gospel."
The album 'Opinions' was cut in London using all British musicians. It was produced by The Ethnic Boyz, otherwise known as Marcus Johnson and Steve Campell, two veterans of Britain's black gospel scene.

Sharon, Sandra, Marcia, and youngster Michelle, had been singing since childhood with their father George Escoffery, (a gospel singer with The Golden Chords) as their guiding force.
"We listened to a wide variety of music and have been influenced by many different styles because our father was a great lover of music. We listened to everything from gospel to The Jones Girls, The Emotions, Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Marley," says Sharon. When a general discussion gets under way of influences, names from the world of pop, jazz, and black and white gospel rub shoulders. Shirley Caesar, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Karen Lafferty, Stevie Wonder, The Wings of Light, Frankie Beverly and Maze... "
Under the expert tuition of their father the girls developed their vocal skills performing at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Brixton, often acapella, learning harmony and swapping parts mid-song to increase their range and leave listeners baffled as to exactly who was singing what. After their appearance at the debut concert of The London Community Gospel Choir at Wands-worth Civic Suite in 1983 the word was out that the Escoffery Sisters (as they were then known) were hot.

"We were more expressive vocally and musically than most groups like us from an Adventist background," explains Marcia. "They wouldn't normally have a full band and we don't use drums in our church like the Pentecostals, so to Adventists we were probably quite radical. Yet in the eyes of the Pentecostals we were conservative! Gradually, as we mixed more with people from other backgrounds we got less restrained."
When Paul Johnson, London Community Gospel Choir soloist, went on to gain a solo pop deal he hired Sandra and the girls to come and provide backing vocals on his albums. This led to further work from an unexpected quarter.
"Paul 'phoned one day and asked if we would like to do a session the next day and when we said yes he told us it was with Stevie Wonder!", says Sandra. "We definitely weren't going to turn that down even though it was at short notice. It was an eye-opening and enjoyable experience. We had a lot of contact with Stevie during the sessions (for his 'Characters' LP); He was a very humble man, humorous as well and very down to earth. When he came over to do his concerts at Wembley and Birmingham we were in the choir and we worked on the video as well."

When it came to making their own video The Escofferys not only stayed in Britain but made sure they used a British director as well, as they are convinced that there is a lot of talent in the UK that deserves exposure. They themselves believe that their music reflects the British black experience both culturally and spiritually, as distinct from the American experience that informs US R&B and gospel.
"People tend to stereotype gospel as an American thing, because all the greatest artists have been American," says Sharon. "What we 're trying to pioneer is a British perspective. Our experience is different from the Americans. West Indians came over from Jamaica or Barbados or whatever island and had children and their background has influenced our lives - our music reflects that."
Several American artists working within gospel have set their music within a broader perspective as part of the Afro-American cultural experience - Sweet Honey In The Rock in the 70s and 80s and the hugely successful Sounds Of Blackness in the 90s spring to mind.

The Escofferys too, are proud to identify themselves with black consciousness. While they point out how different their experience is to that of the American black, whose grandparents were already in America, whereas "we know exactly where our family is from in the West Indies," they also hark back to their African roots by singing in Chanian dialect on a track on their CD. They belong to a new breed of gospel artists -standing up for their cultural identity, not afraid to pick up on what is positive in popular culture and to work alongside those whose beliefs may differ but who share the love of music instilled in the sisters since childhood. Sandra is in no doubt as to the future aims of the group.

"We see ourselves developing and becoming a household name. We want to open the door for a lot of other people who haven't had the opportunity because people haven't realised that there's a lot of talent in Britain. We don't want gospel to be cornered, restricted to one type of music and one type of message. There are other issues that can be covered - there is a positive message that can be put across about emotional issues, relationships between boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives. Social issues, without getting political - there are things that need to be spoken about and I think we can do it with the kind of music we make. We want to be positive; rappers do the same kind of thing with what they do except they're more aggressive. They're still talking about 'be a father to your child', things that are everyday issues. We can deal with the same things within songs."
There are plans afoot for the group both to go out and make pa's in the clubs to promote the 12-inch and to play live with a full band. For the live shows they plan to include some more traditional material to appease their hardcore gospel following who might be phased by the dance rhythms and somewhat inexplicit lyrics. Their inspiration for their approach to live work comes from contemporary gospel acts like The Winans and beyond.
"I think the Winans are absolutely excellent," enthuses Marcia. "I think their whole stage presentation is so spiritual and they have it from start to finish."

"We want to have concerts where you come away feeling uplifted, not just saying that was a good bass-line, I enjoyed the music and h ad a good sweat and then you leave and there's nothing left," says Sandra. "Like Anita Baker's concerts, she's very spiritual in her own way and it comes across in her music and you've got a buzz for at least the next two weeks like you've been on something. Frankie Beverly and Maze have the same effect and it's because of their positive message."
This is not to say that the gospel roots of their music will be drowned in a sea of commercialised platitudes. As Sandra told a British journalist:

"The message we want to project is not our message. It's Christ's message and that message is to love thy neighbour as God loves us."
As you would expect from The Ethnic Boyz, all the tracks sound great. The Radio Edit is five minutes worth, the R&B Remix does 'exactly what it says on the can' and the House Remix is a slow and steady, loping, 4x4 affair that is very soulful and 'Knuckles' sounding. The Instrumental is the House Remix backing track.

  • Radio Mix
  • R&B Remix
  • House Remix
  • Instrumental
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: The Escofferys.rar Filesize: 35.07 MB

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Jomanda - I Like It (Remixes) 1993

Atlantic Records A8377TX

I have written of New Jersey's Jomanda previously and touched on the career of Joanne Thomas, Cheri Williams and Renee Washington. Their 1989 song, Make My Body Rock, appeared on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They had several hits on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart during the first half of the 1990s, including Got a Love for You, which hit number one in 1991. It also crossed over to the mainstream, peaking at number 40, on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. They are best remembered for that song, now considered a house music classic.

I Like It is a Hit Factory recording, penned by Randy & El DeBarge, licenced from Big Beat Records and produced and mixed by Buff Love at The Fat House.

Kenny 'Rah-Rah Smoove' Kornegay
mixes up the Nubia Soul Remix (which you can find in CD quality on the previous post along with the Original Mix) and a nice Jazzy Version alongside Darin 'Piano Man' Whittington, for Untouchables Productions.

This 12" features remixes by The Beatnuts who were an underground Latino production crew that first hooked up in the '80s. The Beatnuts entered the recording industry in 1990 producing two tracks for the electronica group Stereo MC's.

Junkyard Ju-Ju (Jerry Tineo) and Psycho Les (Lester Fernandez) were DJ-ing parties under the alias Beat Kings. The Jungle Brothers claimed that they were not kings, but rather 'two nuts' for their comical nature. Thus, they changed their name and "it stuck". The two members met up with rapper Kool Fashion (born Berntony Smalls now known as Al' Tariq) and made their name as a production trio before Kool Fashion left the group to start a solo career.

Over the next two years, they produced songs for many rappers. As of 1992, Ju-Ju had not appeared on a record but Fashion and Psycho Les appeared on tracks that he produced. The Beatnuts made their name as remix specialists by remixing songs for Monie Love, Cypress Hill, MC Lyte, Da Lench Mob, Naughty by Nature and, of course, Jomanda, as well as many others. Here, they serve up the fine Vibes Mix and it's Instrumental counterpart. My personal favourite is their Lounge Mix which has a nice smooth feel to it. Enjoy!

  • Original Mix
  • Nubia Soul Remix
  • Lounge Mix
  • Vibes Mix
  • Vibes Instrumental
  • Jazzy Version
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Jomanda.rar Filesize: 42 MB

Friday, 9 October 2009

Serenade - Friend Not A Lover 1993

Mission Records 12 MISH 4

What can I say, I have no info on Serenade but they were produced and mixed by The Ethnic Boyz. The song is written by Marcus Johnson, Mark Beswick and Steve Campbell. The music is published through Passion Music Ltd. which is associated with good independent soul releases.

Sweet Mercy and Bush Beat are House mixes by Eric Powell and Joti Sidhu. They didn't impress then and they leave me cold now. Just my opinion of course?
  • R&B Mix
  • Hip Hop Mix
  • Dub Vocal Mix
  • Sweet Mercy Mix
  • Bush Beat Mix
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Serenade.rar Filesize: 45.19 MB

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Blue Zone - Thinking Of His Baby 1987

Rockin' Horse Records RHT 115

Devaney & Morris were indeed a Big Thing. Ian Devaney (Trombone and Guitar) and Andy Morris (Trumpet and Flugelhorn) made a fair impact on the UK dancefloors. Two very competent producers, both contributing keyboards, backing vocals and writing skills.

Blue Zone (simply called Blue Zone in the UK and Europe, Blue Zone UK in the United States) was something extra special. This project introduced the planet to the vocal stylings of 'The Rochdale Lass', Lisa Stansfield, who also contributed lyrics to the songwriting.

After the the singles 'On Fire', 'Thinking About His Baby' and 'Jackie', all released in 1987, the 'Big Thing' album was released in 1988 (all but one of the songs written by Stansfield/Devaney/Morris) and then the trio and label Arista decided to focus on Lisa's solo career. Morris would co-write and co-produce the first three Stansfield albums before departing the trio.

Thinking About His Baby is stark bilge, in my humble opinion of course, it's all about Big Thing on the flip which is an absolute gem of a track. Funny enough, side 1 is engraved RHTX (X scratched out) 115 (A1 scratched out) A2, which might indicate that they intended to change Big Thing to the lead track. Unfortunately, it's marked RHT 115 B1 which doesn't support that argument?

Devaney and Stansfield would eventually marry and now own a music publishing business and continue to write and record together.

  • Thinking About His Baby (Extended)
  • Big Thing (Extended)
The The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Blue Zone.rar Size: 32.61 MB

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Caron Wheeler - I Adore You 1992

Perspective Records PERT 7407

OK, this is another fine Caron Wheeler moment that had me all excited. Built around a sample taken from the Burt Bacharach & Hal David penned 'Don't Make Me Over' performed by Sybil. during the second 'Summer Of Love'. It was featured in the movie Mo' Money' and boasted a Flyte Time production by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and a Remix and another three remixes from Danny Tenaglia.

It turned out to be a wasted opportunity. Six tracks on this 12" and nothing touches the original LP Version. The sound of 1989 is all over the remixes, even the Jam & Lewis Dance Hall Version echoes to the melody of Todd Terry. It's a shame (IMO) but also fortunate that the splendour of the original needs no assistance.

  • LP Version
  • Dance Hall Version
  • I Adore Dubb
  • Club House Mix
  • Catch The Groove Mix
  • LP Radio Mix
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Caron Wheeler.rar Filesize: 62.2 MB

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Closer Than Close - You Got A Hold On Me 1992

Slam Jam Records SLAM 3T

Closer Than Close featured the voice of Beverley Skeete, before she became the voice behind Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. Closer Than Close had some success with You Got A Hold On Me and A New Life, but it was only moderate success. They got involved in the production of other artists for a short time before disbanding the group.

Beverley Skeete is one of the UK's hardest working vocalists with commitment, enthusiasm and real passion. She is also one of the UK's most renowned background singers and has an awesome voice which will stir a touch of deja-vu in most people, since it has featured on more records than the average household has in its collection. One of my favourite performances is on Atmosfear's Xtra Special which can be found elsewhere on here and she is also Guilty by Perception which came as a surprise.

You Got A Hold On Me is written by Beverley Skeete, Hamilton, Coello & Allabaster but I know nothing of the other names and my lame research has turned up now't. I seem to recall Steve Hobbs writing about the group in Blues & Soul mag but my collection bit the dust in my last move (downsizing). Although the Blacksmith Remixes make this release interesting, I thought The Original Jam was strong enough to stand up under it's own power. The Brixton Club and Dub mixes have some dodgy breaks that had me checking the vinyl but I guess the Brixton Bass Mix is the main joint. Enjoy!

  • The Original Jam
  • Brixton Bass Mix
  • Brixton Club Mix
  • Brixton Dub Mix
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Closer Than Close.rar Filesize: 42.54 MB

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Soul Vendor

Another whole heap of work thanks to the deletion of my site.

No contact, no complaint, just...


..... gone?

I have had contact from some of the artists on here, appreciating my work. I try not to post things that are available to buy so who wants to delete my site... and why?

Friday, 31 July 2009

Mica Paris - Stay 1998

Cooltempo Records 12COOLDJ 334

I have written much of Mica Paris elsewhere on this blog. Seek & ye shall find? Basically, I love her voice and believe her to be one of the worlds finest vocalists. For me, she was the standard by which all others were measured during the early 90's. With regard to her material, she lost her cutting edge during the mid 90's but her voice was still in fine fettle.

Written by Sylvester Stewart, Stay was a Sly & The Family Stone classic from their 1973 album Fresh. Originally entitled If You Want Me To Stay, I recall hearing it opening an episode of ER (sorry, I love it) a few years back and being surprised at how good it still sounds.

Mica covered the song on her 1998 Black Angel album, the Radio Edit of that version is on here. She works the vocals into her own groove, staying with the original song but making it her own and doing a fine job as expected. Of course, The Soul Vendor requires a little more to make the shelves look impressive and on this promo release we have Blacksmith back in the house again. The Brooklyn Funk Mix puts some bounce into the song giving it a whole new lease of life while the Blacksmith Club Rub takes us into head nodding territory but letting Mica's vocal smoulder. Summer Funk for the Bar-B-Que, you just know this is bad!

  • Brooklyn Funk R'n'B Mix
  • Radio Edit
  • Blacksmith Club Rub
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Mica Paris.rar Filesize: 37.65 MB

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The System - The Pleasure Seekers 1985

Boiling Point Records POSPA 753

Vocalist/guitarist Mic Murphy and keyboardist David Frank got together in New York during 1982. As The System, they performed the energetic title track of their 1985 album The Pleasure Seekers on an episode of the hit series Miami Vice. Murphy's soulful vocals & Frank's expertise in recording studio technology gave their material a robotic, synthesizer-driven sound that many felt was ahead of its time. Their music was used in films such as Beat Street, Beverly Hills Cop & Coming to America, while their talents were commisioned for Scritti Politti, Phil Collins, Chaka Khan and Mtume among others.

That said, The Pleasure Seekers is puerile 80's drivel (in my humble opinion of course) and should be listened to once only, just to confirm my opinion. It's a shame there isn't a Radio Edit to make the job a little less painful?

This release is all about the B-Side. The Extended Version of their 1982 dance floor hit, You Are In My System from their début album Sweat, it was their first success. Nearly eight blissful minutes of top notch 80's Groove. Smooth as a baby's bum with a wonderful bubbling bass line. Listen to that opening cymbal rattling away like a angry rattlesnake and the eerie keyboard chords. I love this song, don't know how I missed the original release but I'm very pleased that I got tipped off and managed to pick up this 12". Essential!

  • The Pleasure Seekers (Long Version)
  • The Pleasure Seekers (Dub Mix)
  • You Are In My System (Extended Version)
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: The System.rar Filesize: 35.12 MB

Posted By Mickey P. to The Soul Vendor on 7/30/2009 12:00:00 PM

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Samuelle - Living In Black Paradise 1990

Atlantic Records 7567-82130-4

My apologies for this post, it is ripped from a cassette album. I have no idea why I chose to buy a cassette but then I do not post albums as a rule and the only reason I'm posting this is because it's cassette quality. I'm not sure if it's available on CD but I don't have the vinyl. Having apologised, I must say it's better quality than I expected?

OK, I bought this album for Circle Of Love which is my favourite track on the album. The second single, Black Paradise, is also worth mentioning but the album is not what I would call essential. On the other hand, it isn't lame either and a quick run through the credits reveals the En Vogue girls on backing vocals. It is therefore, worth checking out and has its place in your collection.

  • Black Paradise (5:29)
  • So You Like What You See (4:41)
  • Greedy Man (5:59)
  • I'm So In Love (4:41)
  • Take My Heart (5:54)
  • Stay (4:34)
  • Struck By Your Love (4:51)
  • When Love Calls (4:47)
  • Circle Of Love (4:33)
  • Wanna Make You Feel Real Good (4:52)
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Samuelle - Living In Black Parad..rar Filesize: 56.07 MB

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Samuelle - So You Like What You See 1990

Atlantic Records A 7864 (T)

Club Nouveau were formed by record producer/performer Jay King in Sacramento, California, subsequent to the break up of the Timex Social Club. The group included Jay King, Grady Samuelle Prater, Denzil Foster, Thomas McElroy & Valerie Watson. They turned out a 'Go-Go' style (who remembers Go-Go) cover of the Bill Withers classic, Lean On Me in 1986 which was quite successful. It was catchy (and very mainstream) but they didn't manage to repeat that success again. Foster & McElroy soon left to form their own projects and focus on producing other acts. They would, of course, soon score big with The Tonies and En Vogue. Prater also left for a solo attempt.

So the 80's ground to a halt and in the UK we had half the dancefloors shouting "Acieeeed!" while the other half done the bump & grind to SIIS beats or New Jack Swing. Prater released his debut album, Living In Black Paradise as Samuelle in 1990, co-written, produced and arranged by his old friends Foster & McElroy under the umbrella of 2 Tuff-E-Nuff Productions (nothing to do with the UK's Tuff Jam's Matt & Karl).

So You Like What You See was the lead off single from the album. The Extended LP Mix is mixed by Ken Kessie who was on the recent Sinclair post. Teddy Riley got involved in the remixes adding his New Jack Swing Production to the mix and Wrecks N Effect added a rap to the 12" Remix. It slammed the dancefloors and made an impact on the specialist charts in the summer of 1990.

The follow up single, title track Black Paradise, was criminally ignored and no more was heard of Samuelle. In 1996 he released All That Matters To Me which didn't make the charts at all. He resurfaced in 2005 and recorded with his brother as Samuelle & D'Lynn. The release, Don't Worry, There's Love In the Ghetto, is inspired by classic 60's and 70's soul and was released on an independent label.

  • Extended LP Mix
  • 12" Remix
  • Club Remix
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Samuelle.rar Filesize: 39.95 MB

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Family Stand - Ghetto Heaven 1990

Atlantic Records A7997T

Formed by Peter Lord, Vernon Jeffrey Smith and Sandra St. Victor in the early 90s, the band released their debut album, Chain, from which the huge club hit, Ghetto Heaven, was taken. Built around the songwriting and production talents of Smith and Lord and the excellent vocals of St. Victor,

The Family Stand
combined elements of rock, folk, soul, free jazz, hip hop, funk and hardcore gospel. More than the sum of their influences though, the group took on social issues with leftfield classics such as Plantation Radio and The Education Of Jamie.

I think it's fair to say that the production talents of Beresford Romeo and Nellee Hooper on The Remix, definitely made this an essential tune and gave The Family Stand the break they needed. The difference between this and The Original is rather dramatic, losing the rough edges that delivered the message but gaining a smooth dance floor edge. I think it showed admirable restraint by the marketing team, choosing not to use the extremely fashionable Soul II Soul name on the front cover. Jazzie B's name was just as well known, of course. The follow up, In Summer I Fall barely made an impact.

They then made the legendary Moon In Scorpio album and became the production team of the moment, working with Paula Abdul, Daryl Hall, Des'ree and Aftershock to name but a few, before going on hiatus in 1999.

  • The Remix
  • The Original
  • The Dub
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: The Family Stand.rar Filesize: 31.9 MB

Monday, 13 July 2009

Princess - Say I'm Your Number 1 1985

Supreme Records SUPE T 101

When Desiree Heslop decided to take a tilt at the music industry windmill she had the good sense to change her name. She joined Osibisa in the late 1970s before touring as a background vocalist with several artists, among them Evelyn Thomas and Precious Wilson. In the early 80's with her brother Donovan Heslop as her manager, she took a shot at a solo career. Releasing Another World in 1984 she made barely a ripple but the following year she found herself with a new production team.

Adopting the stage name Princess, she was signed as a solo act to PWL, where the production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken & Pete Waterman took a vested interest in her. Say I'm Your Number One was written and produced by Stock Aitken & Waterman and released on the new Supreme Records label. It was a UK Top 10 hit in 1985 selling over a million copies worldwide. They produced her first solo album Princess which was released in 1986. The album included three further Top 40 singles.

  • Say I'm Your Number 1
  • Short Version
  • Senza Voce

Supreme Records SUPET D 103

Despite being under the same umbrella as Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan, the launch of Princess was handled well by S.A.W. PWL were using all the latest technology and were heavily involved in the use of the promotional remix. In the capable hands of 'The Mixmaster' Phil Harding, she was digitally mastered (in 1985 people!) and released on Supreme Records who sported the by-line "A Statement In Soul". I'm not sure what the statement was but with Mel & Kim and Lonnie Gordon as her stable mates, 'Popular' springs to mind but 'Soulful' doesn't. Princess rose above this for a while though, keeping it slow and low with a walking bass line she retained a modicum of credibility despite the odds.

Say I'm Your Number 1 came in a variety of mixes. This 12" came free with (I think?) After The Love Has Gone but I can't find the 12". I always played the Chief Inspector Mix from Street Sounds 15 so I guess my 12" was lost back in the 80's.

The remixes are the work of The Funky Sisters who were responsible for a rework of Windjammer's Tossing & Turning the year before. Pulling heavily from Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, the bass line is worked to the max and the song ends up around the nine minute mark.

Princess recorded her second 1987 album, All For Love in the United States but it didn't match up to the success of her debut. From 1991 to 2003 she lived in U.S. before returning to England and appearing in ITV's Hit Me Baby One More Time. For an in depth read click here.

  • REMIX Number 2
  • H.R.H. Mix No. 3

The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Princess.rar Filesize: 71.29 MB