Anyone who grew up in the seventies, will fondly remember Tavares’ music. They were one of the most successful US soul and disco bands of the seventies. Between 1973 and 1979, they released what seemed like one successful single after another. This lead to Tavares having three US R&B number one singles, while ten of their singles entered the US R&B top ten. Among their biggest hits were She’s Gone, It Only Takes A Minute, Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel, Whodunnit and More Than A Woman. In both the US and UK, Tavares became one of the most popular groups, with their singles seemingly were ever-present in the UK and US charts. However, Tavares weren’t just a singles band, also releasing twelve albums between 1973 and 1983, including 1980s Turbocharged which will rereleased on SoulMusic.com on 26 March 2012. Turbocharged was released at a time when Tavares’ music was changing, from their earlier disco sound, to a funkier, R&B sound. However, before I tell you about Supercharged, I’ll tell you about Tavares and the making of Supercharged.
When Tavares released their debut single and album Check It Out in 1973, they were an experienced group, having been founded in 1959 as Chubby and The Turnpikes. The group originally was composed of the brothers Tavares, Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny. As Chubby and The Turnpikes, they signed to Capitol Records, releasing two minor hit singles I Know the Inside Story in 1967 and 1968s Nothing But Promises. By 1973, the group were at a crossroads, and decided to change their name to Tavares. After 1973s Inside Story, Tavares released six further albums during the seventies, but by the end of the new decade, were at another crossroads in their career. Not wanting to be stereotyped as a just disco band, and suffer from the Disco Sucks’ backlash, Tavares decided to change their sound.
Looking back, this was a brave move, considering their first five albums had entered the top twenty in the US R&B Charts. The only album not to do so, was their previous album, 1978s Future Bound, which only reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200 and number fifty-five in the US R&B Charts. When Madame Butterfly was released in 1979, out went their disco sound, in came a funkier, R&B sound. This revived Tavares’ fortunes, with the Madame Butterfly reaching number ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and number thirteen in the US R&B Charts. Having had their brave decision to change their sound vindicated, would Tavares’ eighth album Supercharged see this improvement in their fortunes continue?
While Bobby Martin formerly of M.F.S.B. and an arranger and producer at Philadelphia International Records, had produced Tavares‘ previous album Madame Butterfly, he wasn’t available for Supercharged. Bobby had decided to leave the music industry, to train for the ministry. So, to replace Bobby Martin, Capitol Records decided to hire Bobby Columby, the drummer for rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears. He was by now an experienced producer, having turned to production in mid-seventies when he left Blood, Sweat and Tears. With Bobby Columby on-board, a number of other session musicians joined the recording sessions. This included drummer Harvey Mason, Funk Brothers’ bassist James Jamerson and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. Recording took place at Capitol Records Studios, Sunset Sound Studios and Conway Recorders Studios all in Hollywood. In total, eight tracks were recorded, with full horn string sections used. Now that Turbocharged was recorded, it was due for release in February 1980.
Turbocharged was Tavares’ eight studio album in eight years, and the first of the new decade. Released in February 1980, the album was a commercial success, reaching number seventy-five in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Two singles were released from Turbocharged. Bad Times was the first of these, reaching number forty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. I Just Can’t Go On Living Without You didn’t fare as well, when released as a single, only reaching number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. However, Turbocharged’s commercial success further vindicated Tavares’ decision to change their sound. However, although the album was a commercial success, what does it sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you.
Opening Turbocharged is Bad Times, where Chubby, Ralph and Pooch Tavares share the lead vocal. Written by Gerald McMahon, Bad Times has a spacey, funky introduction, with just electric piano, moody drums and bass combining. They give way to the sultriest saxophone solos, while lush, cascading strings enter and then a thoughtful, soulful vocal. Chubby, Ralph and Pooch share the lead vocal, their voices combining perfectly and complimenting each other. The vocal grows in power and emotion, while percussion, French horns and braying horns combine with the strings and moody rhythm section. Electric and acoustic pianos augment the stunning, polished mid-tempo arrangement, while the brothers Tavares deliver their trademark quality vocals with emotion, passion and soulfulness.
We Both Tried, which demonstrates a much more tender, romantic side of Tavares. A gentle, meandering piano combines with punchy drums and a rocky guitar solo that injects drama to the arrangement. When Tavares enter, the lead vocal are delivered with a tenderness and sadness, tinged with regret at the breakdown of a relationship. Meanwhile, the rest of the group deliver emotional harmonies, laced with drama and heartache. Behind them, the arrangement is perfect for the lyrics. Guitars soar high adding drama, while a piano, strings and French horns add to the sadness and emotion. It’s a perfect combination, even the rocky sounding guitars, which when combined with the drums add to the emotion and drama of what is, a quite beautiful and moving track.
After the sadness and emotion of the previous track, the tempo increases on Can’t Get Enough. Here, Tavares seem determined to lift the listener’s spirits. This they do, with a really joyful, uplifting track that’s a myriad of swinging, rasping horns, percussion, strings and a funky, punchy rhythm section. The vocals are equally joyous, with some frenzied interplay between the lead and backing vocals. It’s almost a call and response style, with the backing vocalists answering the lead vocal in an equally, uplifting joyous style. Meanwhile, the session musicians surpass everything that’s gone before, demonstrating how tight and talented a group of musicians they truly are. Here they’re an important part of Tavares’ recipe for delivering a slice of good-time, feel-good funky, soulful music.
Why Can’t We Fall In Love sees a return to the Tavares sound of We Both Tried. It’s the type of tender ballad that Tavares do so well. Against a slow arrangement that features The Benjamin Wright Orchestra, punchy drums, lush strings and rasping horns are key to song’s success. While the lead vocal veers between a tender and then powerful, emotive style that soars high above the arrangement. Meanwhile, the other Tavares’ brothers deliver tight, sweet and beautiful harmonies, as their brother fervently wonders why he can’t fall in love. Together with the heartfelt lead vocal, and an arrangement that fuses drama, power and emotion, this is a really beautiful track, one of real highlights of Turbocharged.
Having previously delivered a beautiful slow ballad, which is one of the highlights of Turbocharged, Tavares deliver another slow ballad, I Can’t Go On Living Without You. Like the previous track, the subject matter is love, with Tavares delivering some of the best lyrics on Turbocharged. This they do against the slowest arrangement on the album, where the rhythm section, piano, rasping horns and lush strings providing a backdrop for Tavares. For much of the track, their delivery has the sound and power of a choir, before the lead vocal drifts in and out of the track. Although a ballad, the delivery is quite unlike the previous track. Here, their sound is poignant and powerful, with the song suiting the way the group combine to deliver the lyrics. When framed against an arrangement that compliments, but never overpowers the vocal, the end-result is both moving and powerful, but emotional and sad too.
When you read the song titles for Turbocharged, they read like a turbulent and tempestuous relationship. From Bad Times and We Both Tried, to Can’t Get Enough and I Can’t Go On Living Without You, we now get to I Don’t Want You Anymore. In some ways, this is indeed a Turbocharged relationship. Here, the introduction is loud and dramatic, with the rhythm section, searing guitars, keyboards and percussion providing a backdrop for Tavares’ punchy and powerful vocals. There’s an element of bitterness and frustration in the lead vocal, matched by the melodramatic arrangement. Meanwhile, the other Tavares brother contribute tight, soulful harmonies. In amongst the bitterness and frustration of the lead vocal, an impassioned, soulful delivery escapes. Surrounded by a frenzied, emotive arrangement that includes rocky guitars, it’s a track the mixes soul, funk and even rock music.
Paradise sees the tempo drop, with Butch Tavares taking over the lead vocal. Opening with just percussion and acoustic guitar, the rhythm section and guitars gives way to a tender, beautiful vocal from Butch, enveloped in lush strings. While guitars reverberate, the group contribute subtle, gentle harmonies. As the arrangement meanders along, strings and flourishes of keyboards combine perfectly. Later, a Mini Moog plays a solo, working well. In the wrong hands this could’ve spoiled the track, but in Steven George it’s in capable hands. Like the other ballads on Turbocharged, Tavares are at their very best. This track is no exception, with Butch delivering the lyrics beautifully.
Closing Turbocharged is Got To Have Your Love, where Tiny Tavares gets his chance to sing lead vocal. His vocal is stronger, well suited to the tougher, funkier sound. Blazing horns, a funky rhythm section, piano and percussion combine, with Tiny’s impassioned, powerful vocal before sizzling guitars enter. Meanwhile the brothers Tavares contribute punchy, then soaring harmonies, on a much more uptempo track, one that combines funk and soul majestically. Not only that, but it demonstrates Tavares’ versatility as a group. Whether funk, soul or ballads, they’re just as comfortable singing them.
Turbocharged was Tavares’ eighth album since 1973, and was their second album since they turned their backs on their earlier disco sound. Although this was a brave decision, it also probably prolonged their career. If they’d stuck to their earlier disco sound, they’d have suffered at the hands of anti-disco backlash, caused by the Disco Sucks movement. By taking the brave decision to change their sound, Tavares saw their career revitalised, on both Madame Butterfly and Turbocharged. Not only that, but we saw another side to Tavares’ music. With funk, soul and beautiful ballads, Turbocharged was an album full of some quality music. From the opening bars to the closing notes, Tavares weave their magic, augmented by a group of tight and talented session musicians. With Bobby Columby producing, rather than their first choice Bobby Martin, he allowed and encouraged the group to spread their wings musically, exploring new genres of music, and adding different influences to their music. Even the rocky sounding guitars that can be heard on several tracks work, whereas in the wrong hands this sound could grate. Although quite different to some of their biggest hits like, Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel, Whodunnit and More Than A Woman, Turbocharged has the type of quality that you’d expect from the Tavares brothers. Sadly after Turbocharged, Tavares never found the same success, releasing just four further albums, the last in 1983. However, if you want to hear the best of Tavares’ post-disco sound, I can thoroughly recommend Turbocharged, an album full of some quality soulful and funky music, which will be released on 26 March on SoulMusic.com. Standout Tracks: We Both Tried, Why Can’t We Fall In Love, I Can’t Go On Living Without You and Got To Have Your Love.
- Posted in: Funk ♦ R&B ♦ Soul
- Tagged: Bad Times, Bobby Columby, Got To Have Your Love, I Just Can’t Go On Living Without You, Madame Butterfly, Tavares, Turbocharged, We Both Tried, Why Can't We Fall In Love
Now I’m CURIOUS!!…Got to get this one!!
Well Supercharged isn’t out until 26 March on SoulMusic.com, but when it is, get a copy. It’s a great album from Tavares. Tavares wanted Bobby Martin who produced Madame Butterfly to produce the album, but he’d retired from the music business by then. Bobby Columby’s production is just as good, and the Tavares brothers are in great form on Turbocharged. It was the last Tavares album to reach the upper reaches of the US R&B Charts. Hope you enjoy Supercharged. Thanks for your comments.