THE BEST REISSUES OF 2012-PART 3.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2012-PART 3.

Throughout my review of The Best Reissues of 2012, I’ve reviewed albums that have either been commercial successful or for some reason, failed commercially. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with the music. Often, it’s too innovative, released at the wrong time or not promoted enough. Behind each of the my five final reissues from 2012 is a story.

INSTANT FUNK-INSTANT FUNK.

Often, Lady Luck has played her part in the success of artists and record labels. Back in 1978 Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records was struggling financially. Without a major distributor the outlook was bleak for his beloved record label, even though it was a subsidiary of Saloul. What Norman Harris would give for a million selling single or album. Instantly this musical genius’ problems would be solved. Then ironically, Norman brought a group to Salsoul who’d record a million-selling album…Instant Funk. Sadly, Norman wouldn’t be involved in their success.

New Jersey band Instant Funk began their career as a backing band for artists like Bunny Sigler and The Manhattans. Later they worked for Philly legends like The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Dexter Wansell and Archie Bell and The Drells. It wasn’t until 1976 that Instant Funk’s recording career began, releasing their debut album Get Down With the Philly Sound for Gamble and Huff’s T.S.O.P. label. Three years later, when Instant Funk, now signed to Salsoul, released their second album Instant Funk. On Instant Funk, which was rereleased by BBR Records in September 2012, was a song that would become a dace classic, selling one-million copies and totally transforming the career of Instant Funk. That song was I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl), which became one of Salsoul’s biggest selling singles.

Often, Lady Luck has played her part in the success of artists and record labels. Back in 1978 Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records was struggling financially. Without a major distributor the outlook was bleak for his beloved record label, even though it was a subsidiary of Saloul. What Norman Harris would give for a million selling single or album. Instantly this musical genius’ problems would be solved. Then ironically, Norman brought a group to Salsoul who’d record a million-selling album…Instant Funk. Sadly, he wouldn’t be involved in their success.

I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl), wasn’t the only Salsoul classic on Instant Funk. Crying bacame another Salsoul classic. When I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl) was released as the lead single, it reached number one in the US R&B and US Disco Charts, selling over one-million copies. Norman Harris must have looked on despairingly, especially when Instant Funk repeated this feat. Here was a single and album that could’ve save Gold Mind Records. Having brought Salsoul Instant Funk, he never enjoyed the success.

Instant Funk couldn’t have come at a better time for Salsoul. Disco had nearly died at the hands of the Disco Sucks movement and Gold Mind Records’ was experiencing financial problems. Ironically, if Instant Funk had been released earlier, Norman Harris’ financial problems at Gold Mind Records would’ve been over. Sadly, Norman was left high and dry. After doing so much for Salsoul, all his work, effort and genius went unrewarded. Now it was arrangers and producers like Bunny Sigler and Tom Moulton who were playing important parts in the next part of the Salsoul story. Bunny had already played an important part in Salsoul’s success, but now was playing a bigger role. While the artists he’d worked with had been successful, none had enjoyed the success that Instant Funk enjoyed. After spending years as a backing band and releasing just one previous album, Instant Funk hit the musical jackpot. Their fusion of soul, funk, disco, jazz and Latin was new, innovative and importantly, dance-floor friendly, reinforcing Salsoul as the premier dance label, but showing their music moving in a post-disco direction. 

INSTANT FUNK-INSTANT FUNK.

BUNNY SIGLER-THAT’S HOW LONG I’LL BE LOVING ME.

Back in the spring of 1974, Philadelphia International Records had a busy schedule of releases. They’d three albums scheduled for release. The first of this trio was M.F.S.B’s seminal Love Is The Message and the third was The O’Jays’ classic Ship Ahoy. In between these two prestigious releases was the Philadelphia International Records’ debut of a man who’d not only play an important part in Philadelphia International Records’ success but later, the success of Salsoul Records. This was singer, songwriter, musician and producer Bunny Sigler. Bunny had just completed what was his second solo album That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You, which was rereleased in October 2012 by BBR Records. It had been seven long years since Bunny had released his debut album Let the Good Times Roll (and Feel So Good) for Parkway Records.

While Bunny enjoyed writing songs, singing was his real love. Over the past two years, Bunny released four singles, to little commercial success. He hoped his Philadelphia International Records’ debut That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You see him enjoy the success the artists he wrote songs for enjoyed.

On the release of That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You, it stalled at number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Despite the quality of music on That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You, it wasn’t the commercial success it deserved to be. Possibly one reason for the album’s commercial failure was a lack of promotion. After all Philadelphia International Records were busy promoting albums by M.F.S.B. and The O’Jays. Another possibility is the wrong singles were chosen? Maybe Love Train wasn’t a good choice for the lead single? Things Are Gonna Get Better seemed a more obvious choice. Similarly, Your Love Is Good seems a much better sophomore single than the title-track. What I can say, is that That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You deserved to be a bigger commercial success. After the disappointing performance of That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You, Bunny Sigler only released two more albums for Philadelphia International. Sadly, Bunny never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim other artists enjoyed with his songs or productions.

BUNNY SIGLER-THAT’S HOW LONG I’LL BE LOVING ME.

DAN HARTMAN-RELIGHT MY FIRE.

During his career, Dan Hartman wrote almost 250 songs and appeared on over one-hundred albums and worked with everyone from Loleatta Holloway, Dusty Springfield, Little Ricard, Diana Ross, James Brown and Tina Turner. Dan also released eight solo albums between his 1976 debut album Images and his final album Keep the Fire Burning in 1994. Despite such a prolific career, many people will forever remember Dan Hartman for one song, Relight My Fire.

Ironically, when Relight My Fire was released back in 1979, it wasn’t a huge commercial success. Many people think that because the song was so popular and became a timeless, dance classic, that it was one of Dan’s biggest hits. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Neither Relight My Fire, nor the album Relight My Fire which was reissued by Purpose Music Vaults in November 2012, was a commercial success. Not by a long chalk. Indeed, it wasn’t even one of Dan Hartman’s top ten biggest hits.

While Relight My Fire wasn’t a commercial success, each of the six tracks are packed full of poppy hooks. They’re designed to make a lasting impression. Opening with Hands Down, Relight My Fire continues on its journey through good-time, party music. Love Strong sees Dan the preacher basking in deserved applause, before the album’s centerpiece and masterpiece Relight My Fire. It’s a complex, multilayered track which is like a musical roller-coaster featuring Loleatta Holloway and Dan vamping their way through the ten-minute track. After that comes three more hook-laden slices of good-time, party music, Just For You, I Love Makin’ Music and Free Ride, which closes Relight My Fire. Relight My Fire is Dan Hartman’s disco classic, featuring timeless, joyous, good-time music, full of poppy hooks aplenty. 

DAN HARTMAN-RELIGHT MY FIRE.

SYREETA-ONE TO ONE.

Mention the name Syreeta, and somewhat predictably, most people remember her as being married to Stevie Wonder. That, however, is doing Syreeta a huge disservice. Not only did Syreeta play a huge role in transforming Stevie Wonder’s career, writing and appearing on his albums, but enjoyed a successful solo career. Their marriage may have only lasted eighteen months, but the pair remained close friends. Indeed, they owed each other a great deal. Syreeta had played a huge role in transforming Stevie’s career. She helped him make the successful transition from child star to one of the most successful soul singers of the seventies. He gained artistic control over his music, and in the process, came of age musically, releasing the best music of his career between 1972 and 1974. During that period, Syreeta released two albums. Three years after her sophomore album, Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta, One To One was released in 1976. By then Syreeta’s life had changed.

For One To One, not only had Syreeta a new producer, but a new collaborator and husband. Producing One To One was Leon Ware, who’d just produced Marvin Gaye’s classic I Want You. He was on something of a roll. This made him the perfect replacement for Stevie Wonder as producer. His production style was complex, multilayered and sometimes, lavish. It was perfect for Syreeta’s third album One To One. Leon’s production style seemed to bring out the best in Syreeta.

On One To One, Syreeta gave a series of vocal masterclasses. Emotion, passion, drama and beauty all shine through during One To One. Assisted by a tight, all-star band and producer Leon Ware, One To One became the best album of Syreeta’s three-album career. While commercial success still eluded Syreeta, she proved their life after Stevie Wonder. The three year break she’d enjoyed, had rejuvenated her career. One To One, which was rereleased by SoulMusic Records In November 2012, was the finest album Syreeta had released and is indeed, a hidden gem in Motown’s back-catalogue.

SYREETA-ONE TO ONE.

THE BLUE NILE-A WALK ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe the Blue Nile, whose 1984 debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops was rereleased in November 2012. The Blue Nile are the complete opposite of most bands. Describing the Blue Nile as publicity shy, is an understatement. Indeed, since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed the Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they formed thirty-one years ago, the Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in the Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever.

On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops the album wasn’t a commercial success. It stalled at number ninety-nine in the UK charts and dropped out the album after just one week. Neither was A Walk Across the Rooftops critically acclaimed upon its release. Instead, it was a slow burner, with people only realizing the album’s genius since its release. Since then, it’s entered musical folklore, helped no end by The Blue Nile releasing just four albums in twenty long years.

So what makes A Walk Across the Rooftops such a special album? After all, it contains just seven songs and lasts just over thirty-eight minutes. Within these thirty-eight minutes, the lush, atmospheric sound draws the listener in, holding their attention. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to seven peerless vocal performances courtesy of Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. Lived them not just once, but several times over. Paul’s vocal adds soulfulness to an album that references Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tim Buckley, classic soul and seventies funk. The result is a compelling, innovative album. A Walk Across the Rooftops, was so innovative that it was way ahead of its time. Released in 1984, Blue Nile were miles ahead of other groups. They were innovators, leaders of a new wave of Scottish bands, who trailed in their wake. In many ways, A Walk Across the Rooftops is a very Scottish album, but not in a traditional way. On several of the seven songs on A Walk Across the Rooftops, the lyrics bring to mind Glasgow, its streets, its people and its secrets. For Glasgow, you could replace it with Philly, Berlin, New York or Oslo.

THE BLUE NILE-A WALK ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS.

BLUE NILE-HATS.

For most groups, a gap of five years between albums would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t happen. Either the group would be keen to get a new album released, or their record company would be pressurizing them to do so. Not The Blue Nile. In fact, the five years between their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops and their sophomore album Hats, wasn’t long by their standards. Indeed, there was a gap of seven years between Hats, and their third album Peace At Last. The gap between albums three and four grew to eight years. High, which proved to be the Blue Nile’s swan-song was released in 2004. It had been so long between albums, that a new millennia had dawned. However, fifteen years earlier, Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore released what many people perceive as their finest album, Hats, which was recently rereleased and remastered in November 2012 as a double album.

Five years had passed since A Walk Across the Rooftops had been released by Linn Records. A Walk Across the Rooftops was Linn Records first release. Since then,  The Blue Nile were even more enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. The Blue Nile weren’t exactly your normal band. Not for them the rock “n” roll lifestyle favored by other bands. In many ways, musical fashions and fads didn’t affect them. Their attitude was almost contrarian. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically as the Blue Nile strived for musical perfection. This wasn’t a group willing to jump onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. It seemed to be their way or no way. So, for their sophomore album Hats, Paul, Robert and P.J. retreated to the studio. Once there, it seemed they sought musical nirvana, perfection. What they came up with was Hats, which was pretty near it.

Hat’s is a captivating, bewitching and beautiful album, where the Blue Nile lay bare their soul. Not only do they lay bare their soul, but articulate their hopes, fears, frustrations and dreams. Articulating this range of emotions, is Glasgow’s troubled troubadour, who mixes Frank Sinatra, Tom Waits and Tim Buckley, but doing so in a way that’s almost quintessentially Scottish. This newly remastered version of Hats accentuates the Scottishness of the seven songs. However, despite this quintessentially Scottishness, the music transcends geographical boundaries. For anyone whose lived, lost and lost love, then this album speaks to and for them. It brings to life their heartache and hurt, their sense of how life will never be quite the same again. Combining elements as diverse as Brian Eno, Can, Neu and the Velvet Underground Hats is an album of many influences, but unique. Only the Blue Nile could produce an album so special, so deeply soulful, beautiful and emotive. In some ways, Hats is a very different album from A Walk Across the Rooftops, the Blue Nile’s debut album, but is Hats a better album? Choosing which is the best album is like asking a parent which of their children is their favourite child. Just like they’d refuse to answer the question, I’m going to refuse to choose between not just between two of my favorite albums, but two of the best albums released by a British band in the last forty years.

 BLUE NILE-HATS.

Looking back through twelve months of reissues and narrowing several hundred albums to just eighteen was a tortuous process. Some albums picked themselves, including albums by M.F.S.B, The Salsoul Orchestra, Billy Paul, First Choice and The Blue Nile. Other albums were harder to choose. I started with a shortlist of fifty, which became thirty, twenty and then eighteen. Albums were included, replaced by another and then sometimes, reappeared on the final list. What I ended up with, was a combination of commercially successful albums and hidden gems. Each of the eighteen albums is packed full with some quality music. Many albums will be unfamiliar to many people, but are well with discovering. In many ways, what made choosing this list so difficult, was how much great music has been released during 2012. Here’s hoping I’m faced with the same problem in a year from now, when I’m choosing the best reissues of 2013.

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