THE TRAMMPS-THE TRAMMPS III.

THE TRAMMPS-THE TRAMMPS III.

Just five days apart, in November 1977, two albums were released that would play a huge part in The Trammps’ career. On 10th November 1977, The Trammps released The Trammps III. Then five days later, on 15th November 1977, the Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack was released. It featured Disco Inferno, the title-track from The Trammps 1976 album. Little did any of The Trammps realize that Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack would sell over fifteen-million copies and was certified platinum fifteen times. For The Trammps, this surpassed the success of any of their previous albums. Suddenly, The Trammps were known worldwide, having recorded an iconic and anthemic disco classic. Before this, The Trammps most successful album had been Disco Inferno, which had reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number sixteen in the US R&B Charts. So when The Trammps III was released, surely the success of Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack would give The Trammps career a huge boost. Was that the case?

Like previous Trammps albums, many of the same personnel worked on The Trammps III. This included some of Philly’s finest and most talented musicians. Among them, were Ron Baker and Norman Harris, Trammps drummer Earl Young’s partners in the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. They also worked together as songwriters, arrangers and producers. When Norman Harris produced an album, Ron Baker and Earl Young would both be there. So would many other Philly songwriters, arrangers and producers. This was the case for the recording of The Trammps III.

Of the eight tracks that became The Trammps III, Ron Baker and Ron Tyson cowrote four tracks, Living The Life, Life Ain’t Been Easy, I’m So Glad You Came Along and It Didn’t Tale Much. Norman Harris cowrote two tracks, including The Night The Lights Went Out with his songwriting partners Allan Felder and Ron Tyson. People of The World, Rise was penned by Norman, Bruce Gray and T.G. Conway. Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and Leroy Green cowrote Love Per Hour, while Jerry Akines and Johnny Belmon penned Seasons For Girls. These eight tracks became The Trammps III, which was recorded at Philly’s SIgma Sound Studios.

For the recording of The Trammps III, the five members of The Trammps, Jimmy Ellis, Earl Young, Robert Upchurch and Harold and Stanley Wade, head to SIgma Sound Studios.  They were joined by many musicians that played on Disco Inferno. Baker, Harris, Young provided the rhythm section and Bobby “Electronic” Eli and T.J. Tindall the guitars. Larry Washington played congas, while Bruce Grey, Carlton Kent, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and T.G. Conway added keyboards. Evette Benton, Carla Benson and Barbara Ingram, The Sweethearts of Sigma added backing vocals and were joined by Don Renaldo Strings and Horns. Producers included Norman Harris, Ron Baker, T.G. Conway and Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey. Once The Trammps III was recorded it was released on 10th November 1977, right at the height of disco’s popularity. Would The Trammps III build on the success of Disco Inferno and later, by helped by the popularity of Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack?

On the release of The Trammps III on 10th November 1977, it reached number eighty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. The Night The Lights Went Out was released as the lead single in 1977. It reached number eighty in the US R&B Charts. Given the success of Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack, Disco Inferno was rereleased as a single, reaching number eleven in the US Billboard 100 and number eleven in the UK. Seasons For Girls was then released as the second single from The Trammps III, reaching number fifty in the US R&B Charts. Maybe if The Trammps III had been released later, then it might have cashed in on the popularity of Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack? However, that wasn’t the case and The Trammps III didn’t achieve the commercial success the music deserved? You’ll realize that when I tell you about the music on The Trammps III.

The Trammps III opens with The Night The Lights Went Out, which Norman Harris arranged and produced. This seven minute epic, was the lead single, and tells the story of the power cuts that hit New York during 1977. Keyboards and a flute build the drama. Then the powerhouse that’s the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section combine with blazing horns and swirling strings. They signal the arrival or tight, cascading harmonies before Jimmy Ellis growling, impassioned and dramatic vocal enters. The interplay between Jimmy and harmonies from the other Trammps is peerless. Similarly, the arrangement matches the power, passion and drama of Jimmy’s vampish vocal. Strings sweep and swirl, horns bray and blaze and the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Later, during a breakdown The Trammps ad-lib, to a backdrop of congas and rhythm section. After that, Jimmy unleashes another of his trademark vamps, playing his part in another Trammps’ classic.

Love Per Hour was arranged by Fred Wesley and sees no let up in the tempo and drama. Searing guitars and an explosive combination of Baker, Harris, Young growling horns and handclaps provide the backdrop for Jimmy’s vocal. He grabs the song by the scruff of the neck, mixing power, passion and soulfulness. Elegant, soulful harmonies sweep in, while percussion and Norman Harris’ jazz-tinged guitar weave their way across the arrangement. Keyboards and Earl’s drums take charge during a breakdown, as The Trammps add harmonies and handclaps. You sense that soon, Jimmy’s about to make his entrance. Jimmy scats while together, braying horns bray and Baker, Harris, Young provide a funky laden backdrop. Then Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s searing, riffing guitars provide the finishing touch, as The Trammps brilliantly fuse funk, Philly Soul, disco with a twist of Latin and rock.

Norman Harris produced People of The World, Rise, which gradually reveals its secrets. A howling wind and banks of synths add a hint of mystery to the track.  Baker, Harris, Young join blazing horns and cascading strings, setting the scene for sweeping harmonies. They float in and out of the arrangement, playing their part in building the drama. Key to the drama are the pounding rhythm section, rasping horns, sweeping, swirling strings. By then, Jimmy Ellis becomes like a preacher, encouraging People of The World, Rise. That is Jimmy’s hopeful message, delivered with passion and sincerity. He drives The Trammps and band to even greater heights of drama. This proves a fitting way to close SIde One of The Trammps III.

Living The Life opens Side Two of The Trammps III. It’s the first of four Ron Tyson and Ron Baker penned tracks. Ron Baker arranged and produced the track, which marks a change in style. The tempo drops and we hear a deliciously soulful ballad. Cooing harmonies from The Trammps and Sweethearts of Sigma give way to Baker, Harris, Young, blazing horns and keyboards. Having set the scene for Robert Upchurch to take charge of the lead vocal. He delivers a beautiful, tender and wistful vocal. Elegant, equally heartfelt and soulful harmonies match prove the perfect accompaniment for Jimmy. Lush strings join the rasping horns, rhythm section and keyboards. They play their part in this beautiful, wistful and soulful ballad.

Seasons For Girls was produced by Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and is another ballad. This allows Jimmy to showcase another side to his delivery. His slow, gentle, and impassioned delivery, brings to life the lyrics. Harmonies tight and soulful, sweep above the arrangement. They join the lushest of strings, keyboard and Baker, Harris, Young. Norman Harris’ chiming guitar weaves its way across the arrangement. One difference, is the use of synths. Thankfully, they’re used properly, especially as Jimmy delivers one of his tenderest and most heartfelt vocal. Transformed into a Philly Soul balladeer, Jimmy Ellis handles the role perfectly.

After two slow ballads, Life Ain’t Been Easy produced by Ron Baker sees The Trammps and their all-star Philly band lick loose. Earl Young’s drums opens the track, before Baker, Harris, Young drive the arrangement along. As the drama builds, horns growl, strings cascade and Jimmy embarks on a heartbroken vamp. Harmonies from the other Trammps and the Sweethearts of Sigma accompany him, as he lays bare his soul. Meanwhile, the uptempo Philly-made arrangement unfolds in waves. Melancholy horns, jazzy piano and wistful, but soulful harmonies provide the backdrop for Jimmy, as he unleashes a soul-baring, heartbroken vocal. To me, this is Jimmy Ellis at his very best.

I’m So Glad You Came Along has an unmistakable Philly Soul sound. Growling horns, woodwind and Baker, Harris, Young combine. Earl’s hissing-hats and Ron Baker’s prowling bass are joined by swathes of lush sweeping, swirling strings. By now, the Philly Sound is evident. When Jimmy’s powerful vocal enters, it’s filled with hope and happiness. “I’m So Glad You Came Along” Jimmy sings, with harmonies, stabs of piano and dancing strings for company. Soon, Jimmy unleashes his powerful, heartfelt vocal and hope and happiness become one.

Closing The Trammps III is It Didn’t Tale Much, which was produced by Ron Baker and features Robert Upchurch’s lead vocal. Just Norman Harris melancholy guitar, deliberate, thoughtful stabs of piano and pensive strings combine. Then bursts of rasping horns signal the arrival of Robert’s heartfelt, grateful vocal. Filled with joy, and even tinged with disbelief, the arrangement grows. It matches the emotion and drama in Robert’s vocal. Swathes of lush strings, rasping horns and soulful harmonies provide the perfect backdrop, as Robert gratefully and joyously sings of the happiness he’s found. Just like Robert’s vocal on Living The Life, this shows that there was more to The Trammps than Jimmy Ellis lead vocals. Indeed, The Trammps weren’t short of talented vocalists. Indeed, any one of them could deliver a vocal with style, panache and soulfulness.

The Trammps III proved to be quite different to their two previous albums That’s Where The Happy People Go and Disco Inferno. On The Trammps III there were a number of ballads, with Jimmy Ellis and Robert Upchurch each delivering the lead vocal. Like previous albums, there were still plenty of uptempo, dance-floor friendly songs. Maybe The Trammps had realized that disco’s popularity was bound to fall. Then they could fall back on the ballads, taking their music in the direction of The O’Jays and previously, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. By 1977, when The Trammps III was released, groups like Blue Magic, The Detroit Spinners and The Stylistics and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes were no longer as successful. Now The O’Jays were the biggest, most successful Philly Soul group. So, maybe The Trammps were looking at challenging The O’Jays success? This would’ve meant there was life after disco. Although The Trammps III was quite different from previous Trammps albums, it certainly wasn’t lacking in quality.

Indeed, from the opening bars of The Night The Lights Went Out, right until the run out grooves on It Didn’t Tale Much, The Trammps are at their best. The only surprising thing about It The Trammps III, is that it wasn’t a bigger commercial success. Especially given the success of Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack, which featured The Trammps anthemic disco classic Disco Inferno. Sadly, The Trammps III was the last of The Trammps albums to be a commercial success. While The Trammps released three more albums, 1979s The Whole World’s Dancing, 1980s Mixin’ It Up and 1981s Slipping Out,  The Trammps III was their last album to prove commercially successful. For anyone yet to discover The Trammps music, then then Where The Happy People Go, Disco Inferno and The Trammps III, are The Trammps as their very best,  fusing disco, funk and Philly Soul with panache, aplomb and sheer soulfulness. Standout Tracks: The Night The Lights Went Out, Life Ain’t Been Easy, I’m So Glad You Came Along and  It Didn’t Tale Much.

 THE TRAMMPS-THE TRAMMPS III.

 

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