T-Connection were an unlikely success story of the disco era. First up, they weren’t American, like most disco artists. Instead, they were from the Bahamas. Founded in 1975, T-Connection’s charismatic lead singer and keyboard player Theophilus T. Oakley was a classically trained musician. Along with bassist Kurt Oakley, drummer Berkeley Van Byrd, guitarist Monty Brown and percussionist Tony Flowers, T-Connection were unlikely stars of the disco era. Indeed, T-Connection were more than a disco group.
Whether it was disco, funk, soul and R&B, T-Connection were equally at home. Versatile describes T-Connection. That’s why T-Connection didn’t crash and burn when disco nearly died. Not at all. T-Connection’s success surpassed amd outlasted disco. They released eight albums between 1977 and 1984. Their debut album was 1977s Magic, which was recently rereleased by BBR Records. Six further albums followed, with 1984s Take It To The Limit proving to be T-Connection’s finale. By then, disco was but a distant musical memory. However, when T-Connection released their debut album Magic, disco was at the height of its popularity.
It was in 1975, when Theophilus T. Oakley founded T-Connection. Each of the five members had been born and brought up in the Bahamas. Straight away, T-Connection were playing live. They were determined to hone their sound. The best way to do this, was by playing live. Soon, they were playing in bars, clubs and concert halls around the island. Playing everything from the funk, soul, R&B and disco were soon a tight and accomplished band. It was then time for T-Connection to record a demo.
Having recorded a demo, T-Connection were inspired by another Bahamian band, The Beginning Of The End. They’d recorded the funk classic Funky Nassau, which was released on Henry Stone’s Alston Records. Following the success of Funky Nassau, Henry Stone founded T.K. Records, who T-Connection took their demo to. Liking what they heard, T.K. Records signed T-Connection one of their many imprints, Dash.
Now signed to Dash, T-Connection would begin work on their debut album Magic. Theophilus T. Oakley was the principle songwriter. He wrote seven of Magic’s eight tracks. Do What You Wanna Do, Go Back Home, Got To See My Lady, Crazy Mixed Up World, Mother’s Love, Monday Morning and Peace Line were penned by Theophilus T. Oakley. He also cowrote Disco Magic with co-producer Cory Wade. Cory and Alex Sadkin would produce Magic at Criteria Studios in Miami.
When work on Magic began at Criteria Studios, Theophilus T. Oakley sang lead vocals and played keyboards. He was joined by the rest of T-Connection. This included bassist Kurt Oakley, drummer Berkeley Van Byrd, guitarist Monty Brown and percussionist Tony Flowers. They all added harmonies, which compilmented Theophilus’s lead vocal. Once the eight songs were recorded, Magic was released in April 1977. Before that, T-Connection decided to release some Disco Magic.
Disco Magic was chosen as the lead single from Magic. Released in August 1976, it reached number ten in the US Disco Charts. February 1977 saw the release of Do What You Wanna Do. It reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. In the UK, Do What You Wanna Do reached number eleven. When Magic, which was released in April 1977, reached number 109 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts. In two years, T-Connection had come a long way. Formed in 1975, they’d enjoyed two hit singles and a successful debut album, Magic. This was almost unheard of. So what made T-Connection so special? That’s what I’ll tell you, once i’ve told you about T-Connection’s debut album Magic.
Opening Magic is Do What You Wanna Do. With the funkiest of bass lines weaving its way across the arrangement, the rest of the rhythm section, percussion and keyboards provide a backdrop that’s a mixture of P-Funk and disco. When Theophilus’ vocal enters, its sassy and confident, swaggering its way across the arrangement. He’s got punchy, but subtle harmonies for company. During a breakdown the rest of T-Connection get chance to showboat. It’s like listening to a funk masterclass. Keyboards, wah-wah guitars, percussion and rhythm section unite creating a track that’s dramatic, edgy, funky and dance-floor friendly.
Genre-sprawling and enthralling describes Disco Magic. T-Connection fuse everything from jazz, disco, funk and proto-boogie. Propelled along by the rhythm section, percussion and P-Funk keyboards each member of T-Connection gets their moment in the sun. After unleashing their solo, they return to the fold, becoming part of the band, who create a mesmeric, energetic and hypnotic Magnus Opus.
There’s no let up in the energy of the previous track. Go Back Home is driven along at breakneck speed by keyboards, percussion and the rhythm section. They provide the heartbeat to this groove-driven song. They’re joined by Theophilus’ soaring, sweeping, vocal. Full of frustration and confusion, it’s augmented by harmonies, which help add to the emotion and drama of this catchy track.
Got To See My Lady literally explodes into life. Keyboards, synths, funky rhythm section and guitar accompany Theophilus’ heartfelt vocal. It’s accompanied by harmonies and handclaps. Searing guitars, buzzing keyboards and percussion provide the backdrop as funk, soul and West Coast rock to Theophilus’ needy vocal.
Rock-tinged guitars and jazz-funk combine as Theophilus delivers an impassioned vocal on Crazy Mixed Up World. Sizzling guitars, urgent piano and pounding drums accompany Theophilus, as he sings about war and poverty. Ironically, and tragically, these problems remain, thirty-six years later. As Theophilus delivers the lyrics, anger and frustration fill his world-weary vocal, while the rest of T-Connection reinforce his frustration, sadness and anger.
Mother’s Love, you think, is the first slow song on Magic. A languid piano and percussion accompany Theophilus’ tender, emotive vocal on this jazzy ballad. Quickly, his vocal gets quicker and grows in power. Harmonies accompany him as the arrangement quickens. That’s perfect. It helps to reinforce the heartbreak and emotion in the lyrics. Crucial to the song’s success is the interplay between Theophilus’ lead vocal and the sweeping harmonies. Then there’s the variation in tempo. This adds to drama and emotion of what is, one of the most beautiful songs on Magic.
A deliberate, dramatic piano opens Monday Morning. A drum signals the entrance of Theophilus’ vocal. Enveloped by pianos, harmonies and swathes of strings, they provide the backdrop to Theophilus’ melancholy vocal. Monday Morning is the source of his melancholia. That’s when his worries and woes become the focus of his attention. That’s not the case. Even at the weekend, regardless of how hard he tries, he can’t forget his worries. They’re never far from his mind, as his wistful, weary vocal proves.
Peace Line, with its message of “live and let live” closes Magic. Funky and soulful, keyboards, rhythm section and percussion accompany his heartfelt vocal. Equally soulful, sweeping harmonies prove the perfect foil for Theophilus’ vocal. After that, the arrangement takes on a futuristic funky sound. Sci-fi synths join the keyboards and rhythm section in creating a P-Funk arrangement. When the vocal reenters, it’s all change. Although the vocal is elegant, impassioned and soulful, the message of “live and let live” is delivered with emotion. Sadly, that was just a pipe dream. Thirty-six years later, and we still can’t “live and let live,” as Magic’s fusion of futuristic funk and soul hoped.
Five years after The Beginning Of The End released their hit single Funky Nassau, T-Connection’s debut single Disco Magic reached number ten in the US Disco Charts in 1976. This was just the first step in T-Connection’s eight-year musical journey. Remarkably, this was just a year after T-Connection were founded by the charismatic Theophilus T. Oakley. Little did he realize when he founded T-Connection that they’d go on to release eight albums and enjoy a string of hit singles.
These albums were innovative and influential. This was the case from their debut album Magic. It combined disco, funk, soul, R&B, jazz, P-Funk and proto-boogie. Whether it was dance tracks, instrumentals, jazz-tinged ballads or songs with a social message, T-Connection were equally at home. Their versatility, which is apparent on Magic, was crucial to their longevity. If they’d just been a disco group, they’d have crashed and burned in 1979. They weren’t and they didn’t. Instead they released five albums after disco’s untimely demise. However, the album that launched T-Connection’s career was Magic, which was recently rereleased by BBR Records. Magic, T-Connection’s debut album is best described as a genre-sprawling, innovative, influential album with a social conscience. Standout Tracks: Do What You Wanna, Disco Magic, Mother’s Love and Monday Morning.