After the release of Ronnie Foster’s previous album, 1978s Love Satellite, Ronnie headed out on the road with George Duke, before accompanying George Benson on one of his tours. On his return home, Ronnie would release the most commercially successful album of his career, Delight. On Delight, which was rereleased by SoulMusic Records on 25th June 2012, Ronnie Foster is joined by a host of guest artists, including George Benson, who he’d recently toured with. Joining Ronnie’s all-star band were also Stevie Wonder, Fred White of Earth Wind and Fire, Robert Pops Popwell of the Crusaders and Phyllis Hyman who sang backing vocals. Together, this all-star band helped Ronnie create not just some of Ronnie’s best post-Blue Note music, but his most successful album Delight, which reached numbe nineteen in the US Jazz Charts. Its success was helped no end by the radio play a track from Delight Argentina garnered. After I’ve told you about the background to Delight, I’ll tell you about the music on the album and why it proved so successful.
With Ronnie finished touring with George Benson, he had nine songs ready for what would be his sixth studio album since his 1972 debut The Two Headed Freap, released on Blue Note. Delight would be his second and final album for Columbia Records. Joining him to record the nine tracks on Delight would be some of the best jazz and funk musicians of the day.
Among this all-star cast of musicians were Stevie Wonder, Fred White of Earth Wind and Fire plus Leon Ndugu Cahncler who’d all play drums. Bassists Nathan Watts and Robert “Pops” Popwell, The Crusaders would provide another strand of Delight’s rhythm section and George Benson played guitar. Phyllis Hyman, Jim Gilstrap and George Benson would all add backing vocals. Ronnie would play keyboards, Bass Moog, piano and sing the lead vocals. With this cast of hugely talented musicians assembled, they joined Ronnie in two separate Hollywood studios.
Recording of Delight took place at two studios in Los Angeles, Devonshire Sound Records and The Village Recorders. Producing Delight was Jerry Peters, who’d produced Ronnie’s previous album Love Satellite. Ronnie was responsible for arranging the nine tracks on Delight. With such talented musicians accompanying Ronnie, the nine tracks that made up Delight were recorded. The now titled Delight was ready for release. However, could it surpass the somewhat disappointing sales of Love Satellite?
On the release of Delight in 1979, it climbed to number nineteen in the US Jazz Charts. You’re the One was the only single released from the album, but failed to chart. However, Delight was Ronnie’s highest chart placing, easily surpassing sales of 1978s Love Satellite, which had stalled at number thirty-three in the US Jazz Charts. The success of Delight was helped by the radio play Argentina, a track from the album attracted on Quiet Storm radio stations. Although Delight had hit the upper reaches of the US Jazz Charts, it failed to crossover into the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. This must have proved disappointing to Ronnie and everyone at Columbia, given the mystical brew of music on Delight, which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening Delight is Argentina, a driving slice of jazz fusion, where Ronnie uses two separate drummers, Leon Ndugu Cahncler who’d just left Santana and Fred White of Earth, Wind and Fire. Ronnie’s Bass Moog open the track, before pounding drums kickstart the track. From there, Ronnie plays both Bass Moog and keyboards. His keyboards provide an elegant sound, that dances along the arrangement, with the two drummers and Crusaders bassist Robert “Pops” Popwell, providing the track’s engine room. They do the hard work, driving the track along, while Ronnie’s keyboard playing adds the vital finishing touch, to a track that would become a staple of Quiet Storm radio.
Ronnie drops the tempo on You’re the One, the only single released from Delight. The track features Ronnie’s first vocal on the album. His vocal is tender and heartfelt, with backing vocalists adding, subtle beautiful backing vocals, that compliment his vocal. Meanwhile Leon Ndugu Cahncler plays drums and adds percussion while Nathan East takes charge of bass playing. Later, when Ronnie’s vocal drops out, he lays down a prolonged keyboard solo, while the arrangement meanders along. When his vocal returns, Phyllis Hyman andJim Gilstrap add equally impassioned backing vocals, to what’s a quite beautiful track.
Using his keyboards to provide a slightly space-age sound, while his piano provides a musical contrast We As Love begins to divulge its secrets. His piano playing is some of the best on the album, with Ndugu Cahncler adding bongos and percussion to a rhythm section of Nathan East and drummer Dennis Davis. They play subtly, allowing Ronnie’s piano playing to take centre-stage, where it quite rightly belongs.
Let Me Into Your Life sees Stevie Wonder join Ronnie, playing drums on the track. Not only does Ronnie play Moog Bass and keyboards, but sings lead vocal. Here, he sounds not unlike Stevie Wonder. His impassioned voice has a similar tone and warmth. Backing vocalists including George Benson, accompany Ronnie, on a track where he and his band fuse soul, jazz and funk. The addition of some of Ronnie’s big-name friends on the track, seems to spur him on. His vocal is one of his best on Delight and his lyrics are just as good.
Feet is a track that takes part of its inspiration from the popularity of disco. It bursts into life, with Ronnie’s keyboard and Bass Moog key to the track’s sound. The arrangement is driven along at breakneck speed by the rhythm section, who provide the track’s disco-inspired heartbeat. Also inspired is Leon Ndugu Cahncler’s playing during a percussive break. He demonstrates his mastery of percussion, plus plays timbales. Then when Ronnie’s keyboard and Bass Moog reenter, they collaborate, encouraging each other to even greater heights. It becomes like a duel, but so good is their playing it ends a dead-heat. For nearly seven minutes Ronnie and his band mix disco, jazz-fusion and funk, resulting in a stunning track.
When Will I Write You A Song sees Ronnie drop the tempo again, revealing his talents as both a songwriter and singer. Backing vocalists add tender harmonies, while the rhythm section and keyboards combine, before another tender, emotive vocal from Ronnie. His playing and vocal are both key to song’s success, and unlike Let Me Into Your Life, Ronnie seems to find his own voice. The similarity with Stevie Wonder is gone. Instead, Ronnie Foster’s real vocal is revealed and it’s even better. The addition of gentle, harmonies not only compliments his vocal but adds the beauty and quality of this lovely romantic track.
The title-track Delight opens with stabs of keyboards, Bass Moog and drummer Dennis Davis. Along with Leon Ndugu Cahncler who adds percussion and plays congas, they combine to create a slow, jazz-funk track. Sometimes, there’s a glimpse of Ronnie’s early Blue Note sound, but mostly it’s a much more funky Ronnie Foster you hear. From the get-go, Ronnie’s plays slowly, unleashing waves of keyboards, before he and his band transform the track, turning it into into a real seventies classic funk track. He flits between the two styles seamlessly, and in doing so, creates a track that’s shows two sides two Ronnie and his music, both just as good.
Closing Delight is I’ve Got Your Love, another track where Ronnie takes charge of the lead vocal. His vocal is different again, quite unlike his two previous vocals. He sings higher, delivering the lyrics in sharp bursts, against a jagged, funky arrangement. He’s accompanied by a rhythm section of drummer Dennis Davis and bassist Nathan East. Ronnie’s the busiest man, playing synths, piano, electric piano and organ. His keyboards are layered. Layer upon layers of keyboards are accompanied by bursts of punchy, pounding drums that punctuate the arrangement, while punchy backing vocalists are drift in and out. While the track has a quite different sound, albeit with jazz and funk still present, it demonstrates the versatility and creativity of Ronnie Foster, as he bids farewell to Columbia Records.
Delight was Ronnie Foster’s second and final album for Columbia Records, with Ronnie leaving Columbia with his most successful album. On Delight, he called upon some of his high-profile musical friends, with George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Fred White and Phyllis Hyman all playing their part in Delight’s success. Although Delight reached number nineteen in the US Jazz Charts, still Ronnie couldn’t make a breakthrough in mainstream music. His albums never entered either the US Billboard 200 or US R&B Charts, giving him mainstream success. However, Argentina the track that opens Delight proved a staple of Quiet Storm radio stations. You’re the One the only single failed to chart, which must have been disappointing, given its quality. After leaving Columbia Records, Ronnie Foster didn’t release another album until 1987, The Racer. That was his final album, with Ronnie content to write songs for other people and accompany them in the studio and live. Of all the albums of Ronnie Foster’s career, not only was Delight his most successful album, but contained some of his best and most eclectic music. On Delight, which was rereleased by SoulMusic Records on 25th June 2012, Ronnie Foster mixes jazz, funk and soul, along with his all-star band. The music on his sixth album is indeed a Delight. Standout Tracks: Argentina, You’re the One, Let Me Into Your Life and When Will I Write You A Song.