Imagine your a seventeen year singer, who has just released your debut album, and suddenly, your world is turned upside down when it sells over 500,00 copies. The album reaches number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number eight in the US R&B Charts. As a result, you receive your first gold disc. This really happened, to Evelyn “Champagne” King, who aged seventeen, released her debut album, Smooth Talk in August 1977. It was the first in a series of highly successful albums recorded for RCA during the late seventies and early eighties. What’s even more amazing about her story, is the way she was discovered.

Although Evelyn was born in the Bronx in New York, in July 1960, she was brought up in Philadelphia. It was while helping her mother as a cleaner in the legendary Philadelphia International Records that Theodore T Life first heard Evelyn singing.  Recognizing that the young Evelyn was a talented singer, Theodore started coaching her. This lead to Evelyn signing a production deal with Life’s Galaxy Production’s and ultimately, a recording contract with RCA Records. It was on RCA that Evelyn had the most successful period of her career. After just six albums, Evelyn had amassed three gold albums. The first came for her debut album Smooth Talk, which featured one of her best know songs Shame. When it was released in 1978, it reached number nine in the US Billboard 100, number eight in the US Disco Charts and number seven in the US R&B Charts. Following on from the success of Shame and her debut album Smooth Talk, was her second album Music Box.

Music Box was released in March 1979, and although it didn’t reach do quite as well in the charts, reaching just number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts, it sold over 500,000 copies. This resulted in gold disc number two for Evelyn.

Evelyn’s next album Call On Me released in September 1980, failed to reach the heights of her first two albums. It only reached number 124 in the US Billboard 200 and number fifty-eight in the US R&B Charts. Had Evelyn lost her magic touch people asked? When she released I’m In Love in June 1981, she proved that wasn’t the case. Featuring four hit singles, the number one single on the US R&B Charts and the US Dance Charts I’m In Love and If You Want My Lovin’ which reached number forty-three in the UK. The album was a huge success, reaching number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts, This album proved that Evelyn hadn’t lost her magic touch. She would reinforce this with her next album, Get Loose, which saw her receive gold disc number three.

Get Loose was released in August 1982, and gave Evelyn her only number one US R&B album. The album also reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and became the first of Evelyn’s album to chart in the UK, reaching number thirty-five. On the album were three singles, the first being Love Come Down released in July 1982. It gave Evelyn her second number one single in the US R&B and Dance Charts and reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and seven in the UK. This was the single that really broke Evelyn in the UK. Before, she was known by a small coterie of fans, but now, the wider public had been introduced to her music. When Betcha She Don’t Love You was released as the second single in October 1982, it reached number two in the US R&B Charts and number forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. March 1983 saw Get Loose released as the final single from the album, it reached number sixty-one in the US R&B Charts and forty-five in the UK. All in all, Get Loose had been a hugely successful album, not only in the US, but breaking Evelyn in the UK. 

Sadly, after this, none of her albums ever matched the heights of Get Loose. She released three further albums for RCA, Face To Face in November 1983, which only reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-four in the US R&B Charts. So Romantic was released in October 1984, but was Evelyn’s first album not to enter the US Billboard 200, reaching just number 203 and number thirty-eight in the US R&B Charts. Her final album on RCA Long Time Coming (A Change Is Gonna Come) was released a year later, in October 1985. Again, it failed to enter the US Billboard 200, but reached number thirty-eight in the US R&B Charts. 

Eight years and three gold albums after joining RCA, Evelyn left the label, joining EMI Manhattan where she released two albums Flirt in 1988 and The Girl Next Door in 1989. Only Flirt charted reaching just 192 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. She released two further albums, I’ll Keep A Light On in 1995 on Expansion and 2007s’Open Book on RNB Entertainment. Sadly, neither charted, and since then, Evelyn hasn’t released any further albums. However, she had a hugely successful career, releasing some great music along the way. One of the best albums she released was Get Loose, which I’ll now tell you about.

Get Loose opens with Love Come Down, Evelyn’s second US R&B single. Written by Kasif Saleem who was Assistant Producer of Get Loose was a hugely successful single, with a joyful, feel-good sound. Keyboards, rhythm section and guitars combine to create that familiar opening, before a piano enters. Sweet sounding, joyful backing vocalists give way to Evelyn’s vocal. It too, has a joyous sound, full of emotion and happiness. Against a dance-floor friendly backdrop created keyboards, rhythm section and guitars Evelyn’s vocal grows in strength and power. Together with the arrangement, a catchy, hook laden and infectious dance classic unfolds. Although twenty-eight years old, there’s still a freshness to the track. Like all good music, Love Come Down has a timeless quality and could still pack a dance-floor today.

I Can’t Stand It opens with a funk drenched bass, drums and chiming guitars combining with keyboards before Evelyn’s vocal enters. Like the previous track, the tempo is quick, the arrangement catchy, with hooks aplenty. Evelyn’s voice is higher, with a sweetness to it. She’s accompanied by backing vocalists throughout the track, whose voices are a perfect fit for Evelyn’s. Key to the success of the track is the rhythm section, especially the fast, funky bass line and crisp beats. They combine well with keyboards and guitars, creating the perfect backdrop for Evelyn’s vocal. Towards the end of the track, an assortment of voices can be heard creating what sounds like a party atmosphere. They seem to be really enjoying themselves, maybe the soundtrack for their party was this joyous track.

When Betcha She Don’t Love You was released as a single, it reached number two in the US R&B Charts and number forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. It has a quite different sound, and there’s almost an edginess to the sound. This is apparent when the track opens, with an electronic sounding combination of drums and keyboards. The tempo is slower, the track is far from the dance-floor friendly sound of the previous tracks. There’s none of the hooks of these tracks, instead this darker, edgy sound prevails. Neither does Evelyn’s voice have the same joy and emotion in it. Instead, it’s a much more thoughtful sounding vocal sung against an arrangement that’s heavily reliant on keyboards, rhythm section and guitars. Having said that, it isn’t a bad song, quite the opposite, just a very different sounding one. However, I much prefer the previous tracks to the electronic sound of Betcha She Don’t Love You.

The title track Get Loose has a sound that combines some of the electronic influence of the previous track with funk music. The electronic influence is apparent when keyboards and drumbeats combine, before a funk laden bass enters. Atop that sits a much better vocal from Evelyn. There’s much more emotion and happiness in her voice, with backing vocalists accompanying her. Chiming guitars join the track, combining well with the bass and beats creating a succession of intriguing rhythms. Later in the track, a lovely melody reveals itself, which combines well with Evelyn’s vocal. When all of this is combined, the result is a really good song, one I much prefer to the previous track.

Back To Love was chosen as a single in Europe instead of Betcha She Don’t Love You. Of the two tracks, I much prefer this track. It has a much more appealing, feel-good sound, where hooks are plentiful. From the opening bars of the track, when the rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards combine this is apparent. There’s a combination of soul and funk in the track, with Evelyn’s vocal having a restrained soulfulness, while the rhythm section and guitars add a touch of funk. Again, backing vocalists accompany Evelyn, their voices combining beautifully with Evelyn’s. The lyrics are good too, written by Kasif Saleem, they’ve a feel-good sound. Later in the track, a saxophone drenches the arrangement, it’s addition just the finishing touch on what is one of the best tracks on the album.

As Stop That opens, a combination of keyboards, the rhythm section and chiming, shimmery guitars combine to create a lengthy introduction that veers between light and shade. Sometimes, the bass and drums add a darker sound, while the rest of the arrangement has a lighter, more melodic sound. When Evelyn’s vocal enters, it goes from a more restrained style, to a much more powerful style. Behind, her strings sweep in, joining the rhythm section, guitars, keyboards and backing vocalists. Together, they create a lovely, melodic, mostly light sounding arrangement. Combine that with Evelyn’s vocal and the result is a great sounding track, made all the better by the addition of shimmering, sweeping strings.

Get Up Off Your Love has a driving arrangement, with squelchy keyboards, funk influenced rhythm sections, piano and guitars combining. Evelyn’s vocal is stronger, laden with emotion sitting above an arrangement that mixes funk with an electronic sound. This works really well, and the result is a catchy, fulsome sound, which has an almost prototype house sound. Even as the track opens, it brings to mind some of the early house tracks, with their reliance on keyboards or piano, and their love of squelchy synths. Maybe that’s why I really liked this track, not only was it catchy with a great arrangement and powerful, emotive vocal from Evelyn, it reminded me of some of the great house tracks that were still to come.

Get Loose closes with I’m Just Warming Up a much slower track, where Evelyn’s sings backing vocals against a slow combination of rhythm section, keyboards and guitars. When her vocal enters, it’s a very different Evelyn we hear. She’s transformed into a soul singer giving a very beautiful, heartfelt vocal in an almost Anita Baker influenced style. Lush strings enter, joining with the rest of the arrangement, which has slow drums and keyboards at its heart. With the strings they combine with backing vocalists to create not only one of the best arrangements on the album, but a a hugely beautiful backdrop for Evelyn’s thoughtful, subtle and gorgeous vocal. Listening to this brilliant track, I’d love to hear Evelyn sing an album of songs like this. I think she could carry this of brilliantly, and could reignite her career. If it was as good as this track, it would be a huge success.

Listening again to Get Loose was a chance to remind myself just how good an album this really is. There are no bad tracks on the album, although I’m not a huge fan of the slightly edgy sounding Betcha She Don’t Love You. It isn’t a bad track, it just isn’t to my taste. I preferred the two tracks that preceded it Love Come Down and I Can’t Stand It, which had a much more uptempo, joyous sound. The rest of the album is just as good, with one good track following another. On the album there’s a combination of soul, funk and early electronic music. This combines well, resulting in one of Evelyn’s best albums. Of all the tracks on the album, my personal favorites are the classic dance track Love Come Down, the beautiful Back To Love and the very different soulful strains of I’m Just Warming Up.  These three tracks are the best on the album, with Stop That another of the tracks highlights. Sadly, Get Loose was Evelyn “Champagne” Kings last really successful album. However, how many artists have their first hit album aged seventeen, never mind one that’s gold selling. In total, she received three gold discs and had three albums that reached the US R&B top ten, with Get Loose reaching number one. Not only that, but Evelyn became a huge star worldwide, becoming a favorite of UK record buyers. Now Get Loose has been rereleased and remastered by BBR Records, giving people who loved Evelyn’s music to hear it again, and new fans to hear some wonderful music from a hugely talented singer Evelyn “Champagne” King. Standout Tracks: Love Come Down, Back To Love, Stop That and I’m Just Warming Up. 


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