Friday, 16 October 2009

The Escofferys - Look Who's Loving Me 1991

East West Records America A5928T
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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.

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

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24 comments:

  1. It's not just the great music posts on this site that have me coming back for more, but it's also the effort and time put into the posting of all the background informtation - sharp!

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  2. I do steal it tough Sasha, my collection of Blues & Soul has long since gone so I trawl the internet for the info. ;-)

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  3. Brill post mate ... takes me back to Finsbury park, Footprintz records days ....

    Nitro
    Thanks man

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  4. Even so, it still takes time to get it together and 'borrow'..!!

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  5. I'm having major internet problems guys. Anybody that wishes to follow my blog should subscribe and then, I think, you'll be notified when I finally do get back on track with my posts.

    Be assured that there is much more to post when I get the opportunity. :-(

    Mickey P.

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  6. Thanks for the update. I thought you had jumped ship... ;)

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  7. I absolutely love that song. Thanks for all of the great information.

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  8. you're the man. a genius, a wizard, a true star.

    keep the shit coming, pls.

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  9. OK, watch this space. Hopefully, in the New Year I will be back in business guys. Fingers crossed.

    Mick ;-)

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  10. HAPPY NEW YEAR :)!

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  11. Happy New Year too from Spain. Finger crossed

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  12. Happy New Year folks, I still have PC problems but I expect a fix sometime soon. On a positive note, I thought The Soul Vendor had beenshut down again cos I couldn't get on it last year.... Yay! ;-D

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  13. Happy New one and all!!

    I've been mad busy here (new job mostly), but will be back with some brand new second hand soulfulness later this month!

    Peace & luvizm to you all!

    Kymba
    xxx

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  14. also, that should've read Happy New Year one and all.

    *sigh*

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  15. That's how I read it Kymmi.... good to har from you, thought I'd lost you. Don't wanna be Clyde if I ain't got no Bonnie? :-(

    Mick

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  16. I have a problem: I no longer have access to that huge scanner, meaning I can't scan 12" artwork anymore, unless I do it piecemeal, which isn't the best method, really!

    Still, my USB turntable turned out to be useless, so it might be a moot point anyway lol

    Oh, and Right Turn, Clyde! ;)

    Kymba x

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  17. Can't wait for your return, guys.

    Jaybilla

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  18. Hey Kymba, all my 12's were jigsaw puzzles. I got turntable trouble so vinyl may be out for awhile anyway?

    Mickey P. :-(

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  19. Just saying Hi in case there's still anybody out there. My PC has been targeted 3 times since NYE and I lost all my contacts in the re-install. Had several pages shut down too. Hey Kymba, still available on hotmail if you want to get in touch?

    Mickey P. ;-)

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  20. Hi Mickey

    Frank Black

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    1. Nice to see you still about, Frank x

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  21. Mick... I haven't got your hotmail addy honey... drop me a message on here or something - I NEEEEEED you xx

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  22. Would you be good enough to reup this fantastic peice? Cheers.

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