I thought that since the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set was due out on 21st May 2012, that I’d revisit a few of the artists that’ll feature on the box set. This has included The Jacksons, first post-Motown album The Jacksons, which gave them the most successful album of their career. Another group that feature on the box set are The Futures, who released two albums for Philadelphia International Records. The first was 1978s Past, Present and The Futures, which I’ve previously reviewed. That was the second album of The Futures’ career, the follow-up to 1976s Castles In the Sky, released on Buddah Records. Two years after the release of Past, Present and The Futures, The Futures released their second album for Philadelphia International Records, 1980s The Greetings of Peace. Sadly, this would be the last album of The Futures career, released ten years after they released their debut single Our Thing in 1970, on Amjo Records. After I’ve told you about the background to the Greetings of Peace, I’ll tell you about the music on the album.

Whereas Gamble and Huff hadn’t been particularly hands-on for the recording of Past, Present and The Futures, The Futures previous album, they played a much bigger part in The Greetings of Peace. They cowrote four of the tracks, and together with Sherman Marshall, Gamble and Huff produced five of the album’s tracks. Kenneth Gamble and Sherman Marshall produced one further track, while Cynthia Biggs and Ted Wortham cowrote and produced Why Must It End? Arranging the eight tracks on The Greetings of Peace, were Dexter Wansel, Jack Faith and William Bloom. Together with M.F.S.B. Mk 2, which included organist Lenny Pakula, percussionist Larry Washington, guitarist Dennis Harris, keyboard players Leon Huff and Ted Wortham they’d record The Futures third album The Greetings of Peace. Joining the a cast of multitalented musicians that made up M.F.S.B. Mk 2, was Don Renaldo’s Strings and Horns and Cecil Womack. He’d would play guitar on Silhouettes. Recording of The Greetings of Peace would take place at the scene of so many previous Philadelphia International success stories. Would The Greetings of Peace be another of these success stories?

Before the release of The Greetings of Peace, Silhouettes was released. This was a cover of The Rays’ 1957, with The Futures’ version reaching just number seventy-nine in the US R&B Charts. Sadly, this was the only success The Futures would enjoy during the rest of their time on Philadelphia International Records. Similar to other R&B albums released during this period, The Greetings of Peace was overlooked by the record-buying public. It seemed that by the time of the album’s release, R&B albums full of ballads weren’t big sellers. This spelt the end of The Futures time on Philadelphia International Records. By 1981, Gamble and Huff were scaling down the label’s roster. One of several artists leaving the label were The Futures. After this, The Futures released just two further singles, for the small Warped label. Then in 1982, The Futures were a thing of the pass, with the group splitting-up. However, The Greetings of Peace is an album that’s well worth revisiting, and I’ll now tell you about the music on the album.

Opening The Greetings of Peace is Victory, the first Gamble and Huff penned track on the album. They produced the track with Sherman Marshall, with Dexter Wansel arranging it. Straight away, when the rhythm section and stabs of keyboards combine, there’s a funky sound to the track. When The Futures’ soaring, dramatic vocals enter, Frank Washington, Kenny Crew, Henry McGilberry and brothers James and John King combine seamlessly. As the vocal changes hands, the rest of the group add punchy harmonies. Meanwhile, Don Ronaldo’s strings cascade, as bursts of guitars and rasping horns augment The Futures vocals. Their vocals are dramatic and punchy, but still soulful, delivered against an equally dramatic, but funk-tinged arrangement from Dexter. 

Although the proliferation of ballads on The Greetings of Peace is seen as part of the failure of the album on its release, The Futures delivered ballads so well. I’m So Proud of You Woman proves this perfectly. Again the track’s written by Gamble and Huff, with Dexter Wansel arranging it.  Leon Huff plays keyboards, which together with the rhythm section, lush, sweeping strings and Larry Washington’s percussion, provide the perfect backdrop for the vocal. It’s full of emotion, pride and adoration, while the other Futures add beautiful, tight harmonies. When the swathes of strings that dance above the arrangement are added to the emotion of the rhythm section, the result is the finishing touch to one of the best tracks on the album.

When Peace opens, it has a quite different sound to the two previous tracks. It’s another Gamble and Huff song with a message. This is something they’ve previously done so well. Jack Faith, one of Philadelphia International’s best arrangers arranges the track. There’s a jazzy sound when the track opens, before revealing elements of soul and funk during the track. The Futures vocals range from subtle and sincere, to powerful and dramatic. Their harmonies are tight and peerless, while Jack Faith’s mostly understated arrangement compliments the vocals. Later, the vocal becomes a proto-rap, delivered against bursts of horns, keyboards and sweeping strings, as the track heads in the direction of jazz. Still The Futures can deliver their message of Peace, doing so with the same soulful sincerity and passion. 

Cynthia Biggs and Ted Wortham cowrote and produced Why Must It End? Here, The Futures flourish, doing what they do so well, delivering a ballad with equal amounts of sadness, emotion and passion. As the track opens, with swathes of strings, bursts of rasping horns and the rhythm section combining, they reflect the emotion and passion of The Futures vocals. Then, when the lead vocal enters, it’s tender, tinged with sadness. Quickly, it changes hands, accompanied by one of the best arrangements on the album. The harmonies are tight, emotive and impassioned, augmented by punchy horns and drums. Meanwhile, a piano and strings reflect the heartache and emotion of the vocal. When all this is combined, the result is one of the most emotive, heartfelt and beautiful tracks on The Greetings of Peace.

The Rays originally released Silhouettes as a single back in 1957. Here, Cecil Womack was drafted in to play guitar on the track, with his guitar playing key to the understated sound of this vintage sounding arrangement. With just guitar, percussion, lush strings and a subtle rhythm section accompanying The Futures, the deliver their vocal in a doo-wop style. This is really effective, demonstrating another side to The Futures, especially when combined with the subtle, beautiful arrangement from Jack Faith, whose use of strings, guitar and piano is truly, a masterstroke. 

We’re Gonna Make it Somehow is the last of the Gamble and Huff penned tracks on The Greetings of Peace, which they co-produce with Sherman Marshall. Straight away, it’s obvious that this is song with made in Philadelphia written all over it. From the opening bars when the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion this is Gamble and Huff personified. The lead vocal is delivered gently, with a tenderness, accompanied by punchy harmonies. Meanwhile, bursts of punchy horns, keyboards and the rhythm section combine, playing their part in the song’s success. By the end of this hook-laden track, it’s almost impossible to resist the track’s obvious charms.

Mr. Bojangles a track written in the thirties, has previously, been covered by a many artists. Here, with swathes of dramatic strings throwing a curve-ball, the The Futures with producers Kenny Gamble and Sherman Marshall, deconstruct the track, turning it into a cross between a waltz, doo-wop and soul. While The Futures begin delivering doo-wop vocals and harmonies, drummer Quinton Joseph produces a waltz beat. Later, a soulful vocal dances above the arrangement, perfect for the beat, while layers and layers of lush strings sweep and swirl, as if they, too are dancing. This deconstruction and reconstruction of the track breathes new life and meaning into Mr. Bojangles, offering something quite different and soulful.

Closing The Greetings of Peace and The Futures career at Philadelphia International Records is Feels Just Like The First Time, written by Frankie Smith and William Bloom. A solitary piano precedes the vocal, before a drum roll signals that soon, the track will reveal its charms and beauty. Ed Shea’s vibes and Don Ronaldo’s lush strings play vital roles in the arrangement, while tender backing vocals drift in and out. Later, Jack Faith plays a sultry, seductive saxophone solo that drifts above the arrangement, before dancing strings and backing vocals replace it. Along the vibes, they provide the perfect accompaniment for the emotive, impassioned vocal, on this very beautiful and fitting farewell from The Futures to Philadelphia International Records.

Sadly, after the failure of The Greetings of Peace, The Futures were dropped by Philadelphia International Records, who in 1981, were trimming their roster of artists. For me, the failure of The Greetings of Peace was nothing to do with the quality of music on the album. Quite the opposite. Instead, The Greetings of Peace fell victim to the vagaries of musical fashions and trends. Back in 1980, R&B albums  full of ballads, weren’t selling well. The Greetings of Peace was an album that primarily, was full of ballads. This was what The Futures did so well. They were a hugely talented group, who during a career that spanned three decades, would only three albums. The last of these was The Greetings of Peace, where with the help of Gamble and Huff, who cowrote four of the tracks, and together with Sherman Marshall, Gamble and Huff produced five of the album’s tracks, they played their part in an album that’s deeply soulful, full of emotion, passion and sometimes, heartache. To me, The Greetings of Peace is a hugely underrated album, full of some sumptuous Philly Soul. Along with arrangers like the hugely talented Jack Faith, and Dexter Wansel, plus house-band M.F.S.B. Mk 2 and Don Renaldo’s Strings and Horns The Futures’ final album The Greetings of Peace is one that’s well worth discovering. Together with Past, Present and The Futures, The Greetings of Peace was rereleased by Demon Music as Party Time Men-The Futures on PIR. For anyone yet to discover The Futures, then why not discover the music of The Futures, Philadelphia International Records’ very own Party Time Men? Standout tracks: I’m So Proud of You Woman, Why Must It End?, We’re Gonna Make it Somehow and Feels Just Like The First Time.



1 Comment

  1. Emir B

    Great articel!
    Nice to read something about the futures. One of the most underrated soul groups of our time. Could listen to them all day long.
    Can i ask you whatever happened to Kenny crew?? There is absolutely zero information about him. His voice was godlike! Can’t understand there’s no info about him. His soft tenor voice is still to this date hard to beat! Would love to hear what happened to him

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