I’ve always been one of these people who studies sleeve notes on albums carefully, to see which musicians played on an album, or even who arranged or produced the album. Sometimes this pays off, because you end up finding some great music. Often, I buy an album blind, having never heard it before because I recognize either a musician, arranger or producer. About twenty years ago, I came across an album that I wasn’t familiar with, but having always admired Bobby Martin the producer’s work on Philadelphia International Records, decided buy the album. After all, if it was as good as Bobby’s work on Philadelphia International Records, then I couldn’t go wrong. The album was L.T.D. fourth album from 1977 Something To Love. Having bought the album, I wasn’t disappointed and grew to love the music of L.T.D., which features some great production from Bobby Martin, who arranged and produced many great tracks on Philadelphia International. However, you may be unfamiliar with L.T.D.’s music, so I’ll briefly tell you them and their music.

L.T.D., which means Love, Togetherness and Devotion, were formed in 1968, in Greensboro, North Carolina. The group was formed by former members of the Fantastic Soul Men, who’d previously backed Sam and Dave. With multi-instrumentalist Arthur “Lorenzo” Carnegie, who played alto and tenor sax, flute and guitar, trombonist Jake Riley, Carle Wayne Vickers playing trumpet, flute and soprano sax joining with tenor saxophonist and vocalist Abraham “Onion” Miller they headed to New York. Once there, they hooked up with baritone saxophonist Toby Wynn. Now the newly formed group started performing, and it was whilst playing a concert in Rhode Island, that they met drummer and lead vocalist, Jeffrey Osborne. For two years, the group played around the New York area, before two years later, heading on a road trip where they’d record even more members.

Having headed to Los Angeles with all their worldly possessions in two cars and a trailer, Billy Osborne, Jeffrey’s brother was recruited into the band. Billy, a talented musician, played organ, drums, keyboards and became co-lead vocalist. Also joining the band were vocalist Celeste Cole, bassist and vocalist Henry E. Davis and conga player and percussionist Henry Santiel joined L.T.D. This was the line-up of L.T.D. that signed with A&M Records in 1974, the year they recorded their debut album.

Love, Togetherness and Devotion was recorded and released in 1974, with Calvin Carter producing the album. On its release, it reached number fifty-four in the US R&B Charts. 

Their second album was Gittin’ Down, recorded at the A&M Studios in Los Angeles and produced by L.T.D. On the album’s release, it fared better than its predecessor, reaching number forty in the US R&B Charts. However, a change of producer for their third album saw an improvement in the group’s fortunes.

As well as a new producer, L.T.D. had a new member, guitarist Johnny McGhee. With  Larry and Fonce Mizell producing what became Love To the World, the album was produced at The Sound Factory in Los Angeles. The album reached number fifty-two in the US Billboard 200 and number seven in the US R&B Charts. Love Ballad, the first of two singles released from Love To the World, reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number twenty in the US Billboard 100. However, with another new producer on board, the group would see a huge upturn in their fortunes.

This new producer was Bobby Martin, who previously, had arranged and produced so many great tracks for Philadelphia International Records. L.T.D. headed into the recording studios in 1977, and released Something To Love later in 1977. On its release, Something To Love reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number twenty-one in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in the first of two gold discs for L.T.D. When (Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love was released as a single, it too, reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number four in the US Billboard 100. It seemed that Bobby Martin had sprinkled some of his magic over L.T.D.’s music, like he’d done so often at Philadelphia International, as this was the most successful album of the group’s career so far. In total, Bobby Martin produced a trio of albums for L.T.D., with 1978s Togetherness reaching number three in the US R&B Charts and number eighteen in the US Billboard 200, resulting in a platinum disc for L.T.D. The final album Bobby Martin produced was Devotion, released in 1979. It reached number five in the US R&B Charts and number twenty-nine in the US Billboard 200. However, the first of this trio of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums was Something To Love, which I’ll now tell you about.

Something To Love opens with Age of the Showdown, which has a sweeping, swirling introduction that has a Philadelphia feel, the way the strings and horns combine. They combine with a funky rhythm section, percussion and guitars, while Billy Osbourne’s lead vocal is strong and joyous. Bobby Martin’s arrangement is excellent, with strings playing an important part, before dropping out to be replaced by a punchy rhythm section, percussion and searing guitars. Later, equally joyful backing vocalists and horns augment the sound, before they too drop out, being replace by Billy’s almost growling lead vocal. It’s an impressive and joyous sounding track, played and sung by a group of hugely talented musicians and singers. 

There’s a change in the sound and style on (Won’t Cha) Stay With Me which sees a more soulful sound replace the funk of the previous track. The arrangement is slow and subtle, keyboards and rhythm section combining before Billy’s quite beautiful, thoughtful vocal. Again, Bobby Martin’s influence shines through, with strings and horns joining the meandering arrangement. They add to the beauty of the arrangement, augmenting and highlight the tender and impassioned vocal from Billy Osbourne. Of the nine tracks on the album this is one of the best, displaying the soulful side of L.T.D.

The funk returns on (Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again, where a funk laden rhythm section exploit a hugely catchy groove, repeating it over and over. Here, you certainly can’t have too much of a good thing. Billy’s vocal is strong, powerful and passionate, while blazing horns punctate the funky arrangement along with sweet backing vocalists. As Billy’s almost growls, the rhythm section, guitars and horns contribute to this hook laden arrangement, while the backing vocalists add just the finishing touches. If you like funk music, well played and hugely catchy, complete with an impassioned vocal, you’ll love this track, like I do.

It seems to be a case of one track’s funky, the next is soulful, with You Come First At Last being the next of the soulful tracks. The tempo is quicker, with chiming guitars and rhythm section combining before Jeffrey Osbourne’s emotive and joyful vocal enters. After this, strings sweep in, accompanied by backing vocalists. This arrangement has Bobby Martin’s name written all over it, especially when the arrangement starts to grow quicker, building and building, becoming slightly more dramatic. As the track progresses, Jeffrey’s vocal gets even better, the emotion and passion shining through in this love song. With backing vocalists accompanying him, this really helps the track, and is like just the finishing touch to a beautiful, uplifting track, that’s one of the album’s best tracks and is a great way to close Side One of Something to Love.

Side Two of Something to Love opens with the fantastically funky We Party Hearty. It opens with percussion and the rhythm section combining with Billy’s enthusiastic vocal, where he encourages everyone to “Party Hearty.” Getting in on the act are backing vocalists, before the track unfolds, with the rhythm section, percussion and horns driving the track along. With Billy’s enthusiasm and joyful vocal augmented by backing vocalists who sound as if they’re having a party in the studio, searing guitars, blazing horns and the funkiest of rhythm section all give a funk drenched masterclass, above which sits Billy Osbourne’s vocal.

A piano hesitantly opens If You’re In Need, while Jeffrey Osbourne’s vocal is a mixture of drama and emotion. Eventually, the track reveals itself, with the rhythm section, piano and lush strings combining to provide a subtle, but sometimes dramatic backdrop for his vocal. The vocal grows in emotion as the track progresses, with sweeping strings, chiming guitars, rhythm section and the piano all playing important roles. Later, a horn subtly augments an arrangement, where Bobby Martin’s skills as arranger shine through. Here, he uses all the experience gained at Philadelphia International to arrange and produce a track that combines emotion, drama and beauty wonderfully.

There’s a real Philly Sound influence on Never Get Enough of You, an uptempo track with an uplifting sound. Here rasping horns combine with swirling, sweeping strings, keyboards and a punchy rhythm section before Billy’s vocal enters. Straight away, the similarities with the Philly Sound are apparent in the arrangement. Meanwhile, Billy’s vocal is perfect for this track, with his voice full of emotion and passion, as the arrangement sweeps along, with punchy drums punctuating the track, while lush strings swirl above. It’s a hugely catchy, hook laden track, one that features an excellent arrangement from Bobby Martin and uplifting vocal from Billy Osbourne.

Make Someone Smile, Today! is a slow ballad with a meandering, but impressive arrangement. Strings sweep slowly in, while a piano combines with rasping horns and the rhythm section. Above sits a vocal from Billy that’s laden in emotion, demonstrating his talent as a vocalist. Here his delivery is a mixture of sincerity and emotion against an arrangement that starts of subtly, building and building until it has grown into a climax of strings, horns, piano and rhythm section, with gospel tinged backing vocals accompanying Billy’s vocal. From what was just a quite subtle introduction, an uplifting and quite joyful track developed, during which the listener is taken on a majestic and almost spiritual musical journey.

The final track on Something To Love is Material Things. It sees a return to the funky side of L.T.D., with the rhythm section, searing guitars, percussion and blazing horns combine with Billy’s vocal. Again, backing vocalists accompany him, the interplay between the two almost in a call and response style. However, what I really like about the track is the standard of playing on the track. In L.T.D. were some really talented and versatile musicians. They were as happy playing funky tracks like this as the more soulful tracks. During this track, the rhythm section play quickly and with real skill, while the horns and percussion augment their sound. When this is combined with Billy Osbourne’s vocal, the result is a fantastically funky track that’s a good way to close the album.

Although L.T.D. were gradually becoming a successful group, with the Mizell Brothers producing their previous album Love To the World, it took the introduction of Bobby Martin to transform the group’s fortunes. Before that they’d had three separate producers for their first three albums, including producing their second album Gittin’ Down themselves. While the Mizell’s gave them a top ten album, with Bobby Martin’s help they went on to receive two gold and one platinum album for the trio of albums he produced. He was an experienced arranger and producer who’d worked with some big artists, and helped harness the group’s talent as well as offering continuity to them. For three albums Bobby worked with L.T.D. transforming their fortunes and bringing out their potential as musicians and singers. Something To Love was just the start of a journey where they’d achieve fame and become one the most successful soul and funk bands of that time. It was an album where funk and soul sat happily side by side. Some people believe the band at their best delivering the more soulful songs, whereas others prefer their funky side. It’s all about which side of the band you like best. Personally, the soulful side appeals more to me, but I did enjoy the funkier side of L.T.D. Regardless of which side of L.T.D. you prefer, you’ll be able to hear both sides of the band on Someone To Love, one of their best ever albums. Standout Tracks: (Won’t Cha) Stay With Me, You Come First At Last, If You’re In Need and Never Get Enough of You.



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