AURRA-A LITTLE LOVE.

AURRA-A LITTLE LOVE.

It was in 1975, that Steve Washington formed his first band with his school friends Mark Hicks and Tim Dozier. Born in Newark, Steve was brought up in East Orange, New Jersey. Steve was from a musical family. His uncle was The Ohio Players’ Ralph “Pee Wee” Midlebrooks. During his holidays, Steve either stayed with his uncle in Ohio, or headed out on tour with The Ohio Players. This would give Steve a taste of what life was like as a musician. 

Having left high school, Steve’s band hooked up with another band. They initially named themselves Congress, but soon, changed their name to Slave. Their 1977 eponymous debut album, which featured the funk classic Slide, which reached number one in the US R&B Charts. Released on Cotillion, a subsidiary of Atlantic, Slave reached number twenty-two in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. Certified gold, Slave’s debut album had proved a huge success. Buoyed by the success of Slave, Slave soon began working on their sophomore album Hardness Of The World.

Later in 1977, Slave released their sophomore album The Hardness Of The World. While it didn’t replicate the commercial success of Slave, it did reach number sixty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts. By the time Slave released their third album, The Concept, Slave had two new members.

Slave’s two new members were drummer and vocalist Steve Arrington and Starleena Young. Starleana’s musical career had started when she joined a gospel choir. After that, she joined Symphonic Express. That was where Steve Washington came across Starleana. Realizing that Starleana Young was a talented vocalist, Steve brought her onboard for the recording of Slave’s third album, The Concept. On its release in 1978, The Concept reached number seventy-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. This was an improvement on The Concept. The addition of Starleena Young, a former member of Symphonic Express had helped Slave. So would the addition of another member of Symphonic Express help Slave reach the heights of Slave?

For what became Slave’s fourth album, Just A Touch Of Love another of Symphonic Express’ vocalists joined Slave. This was Curt Jones, who’d proved an important member of Slave. After all, Curt cowrote three of the eight tracks on Just A Touch Of Love. When Just A Touch Of Love was released in 1979, it reached number ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. While When Just A Touch Of Love didn’t replicate the success of Slave, it featured Slave’s most successful single since Slide. The title-track reached number nine in the US R&B Charts. Just as Slave on their way to becoming one of America’s most successful funk bands,  Steve Washington, inspired by George Clinton of Funkadelic and Parliament, decided to give Slave’s two vocalists their own musical vehicle, Aurra.

It was 1980 when Aurra released their eponymous debut album. Aurra had signed to Dream Records, a subsidiary of Salsoul Records. Featuring the twin vocals of Starleena Young and Curt Jones, the rest of Slave accompanied them. On its release in 1980, the six-track Aurra, failed to chart. The single, In The Mood (To Groove) reached number eighty-six in the US R&B Charts and number fifty in the US Dance Charts. While Aurra failed to chart, Slave’s fifth album Stone Jam replicated the commercial success of their debut album. Certified gold, it reached number fifty in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts. However, it wouldn’t be long before Aurra were enjoying commercial success.

For Steve Washington, 1981 was one of the most successful years of his musical career. Aurra’s sophomore album Send Your Love, was released on Salsoul and reached number 103 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. Things got even better for Slave when Slave reached their sixth album, Show Time. It reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. Steve Washington, it seemed had the Midas. He was replicating George Clinton, who successfully ran two bands. Would this success continue in 1982, when Slave released their seventh album and Aurra released their third album A Little Love? That’s what I’ll tell you. Then I’ll tell you about the music on A Little Love, which was rereleased by Octave Japan.

When work began on Aurra’s third album A Little Love,  Steve Washington and Curt Jones cowrote It’s You. They also cowrote six of the other seven tracks, with various songwriting partners. The exception was Thinking Of You which closes A Little Love. These eight tracks which were recorded at House of Music became A Little Love.

At House of Music, Aurra started work on their third album A Little Love. Starleana Young and Curt Jones took charge of the lead vocals. Accompanying them, were a rhythm section of drummers Kevin Moore and Thomas Lockett Jr, bassist Ray Jackson and guitarists Curt Jones and A.C. Drummer. Phillip Fields and Kevin Grady played keyboards, while Steve Washington played bass, drums Prophet 5 and Omni II. When the eight tracks were recorded A Little Love was released in January 1982.

Before A Little Love was released on Salsoul Records, Make Up Your Mind was released as the lead single. Released in November 1981, it reached number seventy-one in the US Billboard 100, number six in the US R&B Charts and number thirty-five in the US Disco Charts. A Little Love was released in January 1982, reached number thirty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. The title-track, A Little Love, released in March 1982, reached number thirty-six in the US R&B Charts. When Checking You Out was released in June 1982, it reached number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-seven in the R&B Charts. A Little Love was Aurra’s most successful album. However, Slave’s seventh album Visions Of Time, reached just number 177 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-six in the US R&B Charts. Ironically, Aurra, which had started off as an offshoot of Slave, was now surpassing the commercial success of Slave. Why was A Little Love so successful? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Tough and funky describes Make Up Your Mind, which opens A Little Love. This was the lead single from A Little Love. The funkiest of slap basses, synths, hypnotic drums and harmonies combine, before Curt’s vampish vocal struts centre-stage. His vocal is full of emotion and confusion. When Starleana Young’s vocal enters, it’s tender, heartfelt and determined to soothe Curt’s troubled soul. As their vocal drops out, the arrangement fuses elements of funk and boogie. Add to that the soul supplied by Curt and Starleana and it’s a potent combination.

Patience sees Aurra’s rhythm section, keyboards and Starleana’s sensual, vampish vocal combine. What follows is like a lost Madonna track. That’s thanks to Starleana’s needy vocal. Harmonies sweep in, proving the perfect foil to her vocal. When Curt’s vocal enters, you realize it isn’t really necessary. The track works perfectly with Starleana accompanied by harmonies. However, Curt, like the harmonies, plays his part in the success of a track that’s full of poppy hooks and dance-floor friendly.

It’s You is very different to the previous tracks. Dramatic and melancholy describes the track’s opening bars. When Curt’s vocal enters, a beautiful ballad begins to unfold. His vocal is delivered with power and passion. A subtle, tender vocal from Starleana adds the finishing touch to this sensual, dramatic and emotive hidden gem. Why this slice of smooth groove wasn’t released as a single seems a missed opportunity.

Checking You Out has a really eighties sound. Fusing funk, soul, R&B and pop it’s a swaggering, slice of sensual music. While the rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards add a funky backdrop, Curt and Starleana strut across the arrangement. Sassy and confident, their vocals add the electricity to what made Aurra such a special group. Referencing everything from disco, seventies funk, boogie, Chic-style guitars, Madonna, Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and classic pop, it’s a slick, classy and irresistibly catchy song, where musical genres and influences unite.

For just under a minute, Aurra’s rhythm section, keyboards and searing guitars jam. They’re setting the scene for Curt and Starleana’s vocal on A Little Love. When they arrive, their vocals are powerful, needy and dramatic. This matches the arrangement, which fuses funk, rock and jazz. Spurred on by the dramatic arrangement, Curt and Starleana combine power, emotion and insecurity, with their needy, dramatic vocals which bring the lyrics to life.

A Little Love, the title-track sees the tempo drop. It’s a much more “Aurra-like song.” Featuring a bass masterclass from Ray Jackson, who cowrote the song, it’s a mid-tempo dancer. Chiming guitars, Ray’s uber funky bass and stabs or keyboards produce an arrangement that reminds me of Chic. As for Curt and Starleana’s vocal, they’re heartfelt, hopeful and soulful, on this melancholy fusion of funk and soul.

In My Arms is another slow, sultry song. A sensual, pleading vocal combines with a meandering, but funky rhythm section. Augmented by keyboards and harmonies, Starleana delivers one of her best vocals. Only her vocal features and is needed. She makes the song her own, delivering a slow, sensual vocal with emotion. Accompanied by harmonies, her vocal veers between a scat and a vamp. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards combine jazz, funk, soul and R&B, providing the perfect accompaniment to Starleana’s vocal Magnus Opus.

Closing A Little Love is Thinking Of You. It’s an uptempo dance track, driven along by a funky, slithery groove from Ray Jackson’s bass. Punchy harmonies accompany Curt’s vocal. Combining drama, power and emotion his vocal, plus a plentiful supply of hooks, this joyful, melodic, mixture of soul, funk and disco is the perfect way to close A Little Love.

With its fusion of soul, R&B and funk, tinged with elements of boogie, disco and sometimes, jazz, it’s no wonder Aurra’s third album A Little Love was their most successful. Crucial to the success of A Little Love, was the twin vocals of Starleena Young and Curt Jones. They were the perfect foil for each other. Of the two, Starleana was the real star of Aurra. 

Her vocal on In My Arms is the best on the album. Accompanied by just harmonies it demonstrated just how talented she was. By then, we already knew this. On Patience, Starleana delivered a sensual, vampish vocal. The track could’ve and would’ve worked on its own. The addition of Curt’s vocal wasn’t really necessary. Having said that, Aurra’s success wasn’t just a result of Starleana. Instead, its success was as a sum of the parts. Curt played his part, delivering some powerful, emotive and effective vocals. Just like Starleana’s vocals, they helped bring the songs to life, breathing life and meaning into the lyrics. However, there was more to Aurra’s success that Starleana and Curt.

Crucial to the success of A Little Love, was the personnel involved in the album. This includes some talented musicians, including bassist Ray Jackson, who several times, gave bass masterclasses. Then there was the eight songs. Steve Washington cowrote them, produced and played A Little Love. He was the man who masterminded the rise and rise of Aurra, and before that Slave. 

Ironically, as Aurra enjoyed success with A Little Love, Slave’s seventh album was the least successful of his career. Reaching just number 177 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-six in the US R&B Charts, Visions Of Time proved to be a sign of what was to come for Slave. They’d enjoyed the most successful period of their career. Now Aurra, which had started off as an offshoot of Slave had become more successful than Slave. Aurra’s most successful album was A Little Love, was recently released by Octave Japan. Fusing musical genres and influences, A Little Love was the most soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly album Aurra would release. Sadly, neither 1983s Live and Let Live and 1985s Like I Like it replicated the success of Aurra’s most successful album A Little Love, the best album of Aurra’s career. Standout Tracks: Patience, It’s You, Checking You Out and In My Arms.

AURRA-A LITTLE LOVE.

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