THE POINTER SISTERS-ENERGY.
THE POINTER SISTERS-ENERGY.
All too often, when a group lose one of their members, this can prove fatal, resulting in their career being over. Often, if somehow the group survive, then their music is never the same again. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, with The O’Jays, Rolling Stones and Temptations all having successful careers after losing a member. Another group who survive losing one of their founding members were the Pointer Sisters. After releasing their 1977 album Having A Party, Bonnie Pointer left the group, resulting in the group briefly splitting up.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, this was the last album produced by David Rubinson, who’d produced their first four albums. During this time, their first two albums, 1973s The Pointer SIsters and 1974s That’s A Plenty were certified gold in the US. However, after Bonnie’s departure, June also left to pursue a solo career. However, that wasn’t the end of the group.
The two remaining Pointer Sisters decided to reform, resulting in the group entering the most successful period of their career. Three albums were certified gold in the US and Canada and one in the UK, while two album were certified platinum in the US and Canada. The album that launched this commercially successful period for Ruth, Anita and June Pointer was 1978s Energy. It relaunched their career, and in the process, The Pointer SIsters became one of the biggest bands of the next decade.
After Bonnie and June Pointer left the band, the four sisters decided to split the group up. Then, after a brief split, Ruth and Anita Pointer decided to reform the group. As befitting a new beginning, the group signed with producer Richard Perry’s new label Planet. He was going through a hot streak, working with artists like Diana Ross, Nilsson and Barbara Streisand and was tasked with rejuvenating the Pointer Sisters’ music.
The group’s two previous studio albums 1975s Steppin’ and 1977s Having A Party hadn’t matched the success of their first two albums, 1973s The Pointer SIsters and 1974s That’s A Plenty which were both certified gold in the US. To help the group regain their earlier popularity, they decided to change their sound. Although this could’ve lost the group their loyal fans, it would prove to be a gamble worth taking. It result in the Pointer Sisters becoming even more popular than ever before. However, there was a problem their new third member wasn’t a suitable replacement for the other two Pointer Sisters. Then, fate would intervene, or should that be fate and a phone call from Richard Perry.
Having signed with Richard Perry’s newly launched label Planet, the producer set out working his magic with The Pointer Sisters. Once he got them into the studio, Richard Perry immediately spotted a problem. The new third member of the group was the weak link, bringing Ruth and Anita Pointer down to her level. He pointed this out to the group and immediately, the search for a new member was underway.
A variety of singers were auditioned, but nobody seemed to suit the group’s style. Then as a throwaway question, Richard Perry asked where Bonnie and June were?
By then, recording had started with Sylvia St. James the third member of the group. However, the music sounded like a including Sylvia St. James solo album. Ruth and Anita Perry didn’t think this worked, so Richard asked for June’s phone number. Richard Perry spoke with June’s husband, saying he’d a song for her to sing on an album with her two sisters. She agreed.
When June Pointer entered the studio and sung her part, the music just came alive. Immediately, Richard realized this was the solution. However, June’s husband said June would only sign if she could get a solo project as part of the deal. With this agreed, the three Pointer Sisters would start recording what would become Energy.
Recording took place at Studio 55 in Los Angeles, with Richard Perry recording the three Pointer Sisters. The material chosen for the Pointer Sisters fifth album would be quite different from previous album, and so would the sound. Songs were written by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Steven Stills, Allen Toussaint, Sylvester Stweart plus Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. This resulted in an album that would be a mixture of R&B, soul and rock. In total, ten tracks were recorded and would become Energy, album number five from the now trio of Pointer Sisters and would be released in November 1978.
Energy was released in November 1978, reaching number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and number nine in the US R&B Charts, resulting in a third gold disc for the Pointer Sisters, while the album was certified platinum in Canada. The first single was released in November 1978, and was a Bruce Springsteen track Fire. It reached number two in the US Billboard 100 and number fourteen in the US R&B Charts, while reaching number thirty-four in the UK. Happiness was the second single, released in February 1979, reaching number thirty in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Meanwhile, Everybody Is A Star was released as a single in the UK, reaching number sixty-one in July 1979. Overall, Energy had been not just a huge commercial success, but was well received by critics who loved their new sound .
Opening Energy is Lay It On the Line, co-written by Patrick Henderson and Wornell Jones. Straight away, you can hear the change in the Pointer Sisters’ sound, with the track having a really rocky sound. Searing, chiming guitars, the rhythm section and piano opening the track, while June’s vocal is powerful, with a ballsy sound. The sound is big and bold, driven along by the rhythm section. Waddy Watchell’s lead guitar and Dave “Baby” Paich’s piano playing are key to the track, as Danny Kortchar’s rhythm guitar fills in the spaces. With Anita and Ruth contributing backing vocals that augment June’s lead vocal, this is a track that makes a big impression as it grabs your attention.
Dirty Work was a track from Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill album. Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Anita takes over the lead vocal on this track. Her voice suits the track, with her heartfelt vocal laden with emotion and later, power. Richard Perry’s arrangement is perfect and one of the best on Energy. A weeping guitars matches the emotion of the vocal. It’s a mixture of anger and frustration and the lyrics are delivered like an ultimatum or warning. Together with an electric piano, the rhythm section has a Steely Dan influence mixed with a country sound. Later, the heartbreaking saxophone solo from Bryan Cumming, adds to the emotion and drama of the track builds and backing vocals add to the frustration. By the end of the track, you can’t help but be won over by this country-tinged cover of a Steely Dan classic.
Hypnotized is a Fleetwood Mac track that sees The Pointer Sisters share the lead vocal. Here, the track is very different from the two previous tracks. It has a loose funky feel combined with elements of rock. Just the rhythm section and guitars combine before the vocal enters. The vocal is slow, with some peerless harmonies accompanying it. Meanwhile the backdrop of guitars, synths, clavinet and electric piano combine to give the track a thoughtful, even slightly moody sound that suits the lyrics. A slide guitar glides in and out of the track, adding an atmospheric sound to a track that’s taken on a real rocky sound.
Stephen Stills wrote As I Come of Age, another track where The Pointer Sisters share the lead vocal. It gives themthe chance to demonstrate the quality of their harmonies which are peerless. Of all the tracks on Energy, no other track demonstrates this better. Accompanied by a backdrop of rock guitars, electric piano and the rhythm section, they combine slowly with an organ that drifts effectively in and out of the track. With the bass meandering prominently throughout the arrangement, the three Pointer Sisters deliver some beautiful, heartfelt vocals. You can’t help surrender to their emotion and beauty, and they’re key to the success of the track.
The Pointer Sisters move up through the gears on Come and Get Your Love which was written by Russ Ballard. Pounding drums, sizzling guitars and a Hammond organ wailing beautifully combine as the track unfolds. When Ruth’s vocal enters, it’s loud, strong and impassioned, while Anita and June contribute similar powerful, impassioned and punchy backing vocals. By the time the track gets to the bridge, Ruth unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal, against searing, rocky guitars. However, her delivery has a real soulful quality and is augmented by punchy backing vocals. Together the trio of Pointer Sisters inject some soul into a track with a rocky arrangement
Happiness was written by Allen Toussaint and unfolds slowly and dramatically as June Pointer delivers a soulful vocal against a jazzy piano. By then, there’s no indication of the direction the track is heading. Suddenly, it’s all change and punchy harmonies usher in they vocal against the catchy arrangement. There’s a contemporary drum sound on the track, while the rhythm section drive the track along and are augmented by synths, guitars and piano. The backing vocals are of the highest quality, sweeping in, before soaring soulfully above the funky sounding arrangement. They play their part in the song’s sound and success.
The biggest single from Energy was a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Fire. Opening with just guitars and hissing hi-hats, this gives way to Anita Pointer’s vocal. There’s even a Bruce Springsteen sound to the arrangement, with the rhythm section, guitars, pianos and Hammond organ combining. Together, the vocal and the arrangement slowly and dramatically reveals the song’s subtleties and charms on the best track on the album.
Angry Eyes was co-written by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, and it’s June Pointer who was chosen to sing the song. When the guitars open the track they indicate the direction the track is heading in. This is a dramatic and impassioned vocal sung against a seventies southern rock arrangement. June’s vocal is impassioned, full of anger and frustration. She almost barks out the lyrics, accompanied by tight harmonies and screaming guitars which are key to the arrangement’s sound and drama. Both the delivery and arrangement are perfect for the track, getting across the anger and frustration in the lyrics.
Echoes of Love was co-written by two men who played a huge part in the success of Hi Records, Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle. Along with Patrick Simmons they cowrote a track sung by Anita. Piano and synths open the track, before guitars announce the arrival of Anita’s vocal. While the piano drifts in and out the track, The Pointer Sisters deliver some of their trademark quality harmonies. They’re delivered in a punchy, then really soulful style, against an arrangement that fuses flourishes of piano, synths and searing rocky guitars. Together, The Pointer Sisters deliver a impassioned version of what was originally a Southern Soul track and take it in a new direction.
Closing Energy is a gorgeous and fitting track for the Pointer Sisters, Everybody Is A Star, written by Sylvester Stewart. The tempo is slower, the sound understated. A slide guitar escapes from the arrangement, as the rhythm section, guitars and piano play thoughtfully and carefully, as they combine with the vocal. Fittingly, the lead vocal is shared by The Pointer Sisters. When one sister singer sings lead, the others deliver punchy backing vocals on the album closer.
Energy was very different from The Pointer Sisters’ four previous albums which were produced by David Rubinson. The mixture of R&B, rock and soul reinvigorated and rejuvenated their career, resulting in gold and platinum albums in the US, UK and Canada, as well as two further Grammy Awards to add to their 1975 award for Fairytale.
During the period 1978 to 1985, which was like a fairytale for The Pointer Sisters who they became one of the biggest groups worldwide. The album that started it all of was Energy, ten tracks of R&B, rock and soul. However, if it hadn’t been for Richard Perry’s persistence and phone call to June Pointer, none of this might have happened. Instead, the two remaining Pointer Sisters Anita and Ruth may have have persisted with a third member who didn’t match their vocal talents. Thankfully, June Pointer rejoined the group, and The Pointer Sisters achieved success beyond their wider dreams over the next seven years and seven albums.
These albums contained some of greatest music of the Pointer SIsters long and successful career, a career that was launched in 1973 with The Pointer SIsters as a quartet, then relaunched in 1978 as a trio with Energy. This meant the Pointer Sisters joined the list of groups who survived losing one of their members and went onto bigger and better things, starting with Energy.
THE POINTER SISTERS-ENERGY.