THE SPINNERS-YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.
THE DETROIT SPINNERS-YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.
For The Detroit Spinners, their 1977 album Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow would mark an end of an era for the group. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was Phillip Wynn’s final album as lead singer of The Detroit Spinners. This wasn’t the only thing to change. Unlike their five previous studio albums, there were no songs written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. Similarly, there was a change in the personnel that accompanied The Detroit Spinners.
No longer was the classic lineup of M.F.S.B. providing the musical backdrop for The Detroit Spinners. Granted guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli, percussionist Larry Washington and legendary backing vocalists The Sweethearts of Sigma all feature on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Given much of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was recorded at the same time as Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section didn’t provide the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow heartbeat. The biggest difference with Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was its commercial performance. Between 1973s Spinners, through 1974s Mighty Love and New Improved then 1975s Pick of The Litter, The Detroit Spinners and 1976, The Detroit Spinners and Happiness Is Being With The Spinners had enjoyed five consecutive gold albums. That was about to change, as you’ll find out, when I tell you the background to The Detroit Spinners’ seventh album Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
For Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, eight songs were chosen. Thom Bell only cowrote one track, Honey, I’m In Love With You, with Leroy and Tony Bell. Sherman Marshall cowrote four tracks on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. He penned Me and My Music and You’re Throwing A Good Love Away with Ted Wortham, plus I Found Love (When I Found You) and Just To Be With You with Phillip Pugh. Charles Simmons and J.B. Jefferson wrote I Must Be Living For A Broken Heart and I’m Riding your Shadows Down To Love with Bruce Hawkes. Phil Terry and Michael Burton cowrote You’re The Love of My Life. These eight tracks became Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Like the Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, recording of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was split between Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, but also at Kaye Smith Studios in Seattle. Indeed, much of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was recorded at the same time as their Happiness Is Being With The Spinners.
When the recording sessions began at the two studios, Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, but also at Kaye Smith Studios in Seattle, little did The Detroit Spinners realize that Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow would be the final album released by the classic lineup. This included the three lead singers Phillip Wynn, Bobby Smith and Henry Fambrough. They were joined by Billy Henderson and Pervis Jackson. John Edwards makes his Spinners’ debut on You’re Throwing A Good Love Away. Accompanying them, were joined by a tight, talented band. This included a rhythm section of drummer Andrew Smith, bassist Bob Babbit and guitarists Tony Bell and Bobby “Electronic” Eli. Pervis Jackson also played bass on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. They were joined by keyboardist Thom Bell and percussionist Larry Washington. Adding backing vocals were legendary backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Thom Bell arranged and produced Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, which would be released in 1976.
In the release of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in 1977, it reached number twenty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. This became The Detroit Spinners’ least successful album since signing to Atlantic. There was no sixth gold disc for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. However, considering that disco was now at the height of its popularity, this is no surprise. Indeed, for a soul album, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow had been a commercial success. After all, disco was now King. Over in the UK, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow didn’t fare any better, stalling at number thirty-six. By the time Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was released, Phillip Wynn had announced his departure from The Detroit Spinners. You’re Throwing A Good Love Away was the lead single from Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, reaching number forty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. Me and My Music then stalled at number thirty-nine in the US R&B Charts. While Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and the singles released from the album weren’t as successful as previous releases, this was the end of an era for The Detroit Spinners. DId this era end on a high? That’s what I’ll tell you, when I tell you about the music on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
Opening Side One of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, is Me and My Music, the second single released from the album. A piano, rhythm section and chiming guitar combine, before growling horns enter. They set the scene for Phillip’s joyous vocal, which swings along. He seems to be holding back, doesn’t quite unleash his vocal. Punchy harmonies and braying horns accompany him, while the rhythm section provide the arrangement’s heartbeat. There’s quite a different sound and feel from The Detroit Spinners’ previous albums. Although the band are tight, they don’t have the slick, polished sheen of M.F.S.B. Having said that, it’s still a good song, although not a classic from The Detroit Spinners.
Just subtle, pizzicato strings opens I Found Love (When I Found You), Straight away, this much more like what you’d expect from The Detroit Spinners. The tempo is slow, with layers of lush, emotive strings and wistful horns accompanying Phillip’s heartfelt tender vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide an understated backdrop, while harmonies from the other Spinners and The Sweethearts of Sigma sweep in. They provide the perfect accompaniment and play their part in a track that has “Philly Sound” written all over it.
I’m Riding Your Shadows (Down To Love) picks up where the previous track left off. Here, the tempo is slow. Thom Bell’s arrangement combines swathes of sweeping strings, keyboards, pensive horns and a subtle rhythm section. When the lead vocal enters, Henry takes charge, and then shares lead vocal with Pervis. The vocals are beautiful and impassioned vocal. The contrast between the vocal styles adds to the emotion of the lyrics, as do the tight, soulful harmonies. Flourishes of harpsichord punctuate the arrangement, adding to the beauty and emotion of this tender ballad, something The Detroit Spinners do so well.
You’re The Love of My Life is another track that has The Detroit Spinners’ name written all over it. Growling horns and swirling strings swirl are at the heart of the arrangement. The rhythm section and Larry Washington’s percussion combine, as the band build the drama. Having set the scene, Henry’s grateful, needy vocal enters. He goes on to deliver one of his best vocals on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Phillipe Wynne singing the hook Harmonies from the Spinners and The Sweethearts of Sigma sweep in. They match the emotion and sincerity of the lead. Meanwhile, strings dance and horns punctuate the arrangement, as The Detroit Spinners roll back the years, one more time.
I Must Be Living For A Broken Heart, written by Charles Simmons and J.B. Jefferson closes Side One of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It’s a hurt-filled ballad, where each of The Detroit Spinners play their part. Just piano, the rhythm section, complete with Southern Soul guitars and harmonies combine to create an emotive backdrop. Then Pervis, Henry and Philippe take turns of delivering the lead vocal. Phillip’s delivers his vocal with equal amounts of hurt and heartache. Quivering strings and piano add to the melancholy sound of the arrangement. Later, harmonies from the Spinners and The Sweethearts of Sigma. They add to the sheer emotion and heartache, as The Detroit Spinners demonstrate how they were capable of breathing life and meaning into lyrics.
A chiming, funky guitar opens Honey, I’m In Love With You, which opens Side Two of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Soon, things get uber funky, thanks to the rhythm section, wah-wah guitars, percussion and growling horns. The tempo increases, as the arrangement mixes funk, soul and disco. John Edward makes his Spinners’ debut, combining power and passion. Sometimes, it becomes vampish, complete with hollers and whoops Punchy, soaring harmonies accompany him, while sometimes, the horn riffs seem to “borrow” from David Bowie’s Fame. It’s a very different track from The Detroit Spinners, straddling musical genres, as they attempt to keep up to date with musical fashions
Just an understated combination of piano and drums opens Just To Be With You. It’s the first of two eight-minute epics on Side Two of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Gradually, the arrangement builds. The bass and half-spoken, almost ironic vocal are joined by the lushest of sweeping strings. Then come the wistful horns and Phillip’s hopeful, needy vocal as Thom Bell’s arrangement reveals its beauty and secrets. Heartfelt harmonies join the deliberate piano, swathes of strings as the rhythm section create a beautiful, emotive backdrop as Phillip delivers a captivating, soul-baring vocal, that demonstrates how important he was to The Detroit Spinners’ success story.
Closing Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Phillip Wynn’s time as lead vocalist of The Detroit Spinners is You’re Throwing A Good Love Away. This eight minute epic, is a fitting finale from Henry singing lead and Phillipe following him. Bursts of rasping horns, cascading strings and a rhythm section complete with hissing hi-hats give way to a melancholy vocal. Flourishes of harpsichord, bursts of braying horns and dancing strings see the vocal change hands. Soulful, heartfelt harmonies cascade, while Thom Bell adds jazz tinged piano and Larry Washing adds piano. Here, The Detroit Spinners deliver some of their tightest, most soulful harmonies, demonstrating just why this was the classic lineup of The Detroit Spinners.
In many ways, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow closed a chapter in The Detroit Spinners’ career. Not only was Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Phillip Wynn’s final album as lead singer of The Detroit Spinners, but ended a run of five gold albums. From 1973s Spinners, through 1974s Mighty Love and New Improved then 1975s Pick of The Litter, The Detroit Spinners could do no wrong. This incredible run of critically acclaimed and commercially successful music ended with Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. While Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was still a commercial success, it didn’t match the success of The Detroit Spinners’ five previous albums. This wasn’t helped by the lack or material from the songwriting team of Thom Bell and Linda Creed. Although they’d only written two tracks on Happiness Is Being With the Spinners, they contributed no songs for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Similarly, the lack of the Baker, Harris, Young who for so long, had provided the heartbeat on The Detroit Spinners’ albums, including Spinners, Mighty Love, New and Improved and Pick of The Litter, were badly missed. Granted the rhythm section that played on Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow were tight and talented, they were no match for The Mighty Three. Another problem for The Detroit Spinners was the change in musical tastes.
By 1977, when The Detroit Spinners released, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, disco was the most popular musical genre. Soul groups, even commercially successful and critically Philly Soul groups weren’t as popular. So in some ways, that Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was as commercially successful bucked musical trends. Phillip Wynn, seeing how musical tastes were changing, decided it was time to part company with The Detroit Spinners. In January 1977, Phillip announced he was leaving The Detroit Spinners. When, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was released, John Edwards was chosen as Phillip Wynn’s replacement. Although The Detroit Spinners still enjoyed sporadic success, they never replicated the success they enjoyed with Phillip Wynn as one of the three lead singers. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow marks Phillip Wynn swan-song. Although not as consistent as previous Detroit Spinners albums, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow demonstrates just why The Detroit Spinners were one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed groups in the history of Philly Soul, which their five albums between Spinners and Pick of The Litter proves.
THE DETROIT SPINNERS-YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.