MAJOR HARRIS-HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR LOVE.

MAJOR HARRIS-HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR LOVE.

Two years after the release of his 1976 sophomore album Jealousy, Major Harris returned with How Do You Take Your Love, which was rereleased by Funkytown Grooves on 21st January 2014. How Do You Take Your Love found Major Harris’ career at a crossroads.

His 1975 debut album My Way reached number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. No wonder. My Way featured a Philly Soul classic and a song that became synonymous with Major Harris, Love Won’t Let Me Wait. The success of My Way vindicated Major Harris’ decision to leave The Delfonics in 1974. However, the commercial success and critical acclaim of My Way wasn’t replicated by the followup, Jealousy.

When Jealousy was released, the same personnel that worked on My Way reconvened. This included many members of The Salsoul Orchestra. They arranged, produced, wrote and played on Jealousy. Despite this, Jealousy reached number 153 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts in 1976. Jealousy had failed to match the success of My Way. This was a huge disappointment. After all, there was nothing wrong with the music on Jealousy.  

Part of the problem was that musical fashions were changing quickly. Disco had became the most popular musical genre. For soul singers like Major Harris, this presented a problem. Granted some of the songs on Jealousy are dance-floor friendly, but that didn’t help make Jealousy the commercial success it deserved to be. Atlantic Records realising that music was changing, decided that Jealousy was the last album Major Harris they’d release. So, Major Harris founded himself without  a record label. 

Having left Atlantic Records, Major Harris signed to RCA in 1978. They decided a change of tack was needed to rejuvenate Major Harris’ career. They decided the way to rejuvenate Major Harris career was to record an album in New York. This is ironic, given Philly was still one of the music capitals of America. Other record companies were still sending artists to Philly to record with some of the best arrangers, producers, songwriters and musicians. Not RCA. They decided to record what was essentially an album of Philly Soul in New York. 

In New York, Major Harris would work with another Philly native, Jerry Ragavoy. He was born in Philly, but moved to New York as a child. Jerry would produce and write much of How Do You Take Your Love. This includes I Wanna Dance With You, Lucky Day, How Do You Take Your Love and Night Moods. Jerry cowrote Pretty Red Lips (Kiss My Blues Away) and You’re So Good You’re Bad with Aaron Schroeder. The other three tracks included Ted Daryll’s This Is Forever and two tracks that Chris Palmaro cowrote. Chris cowrote Your Sweet Song with Ken Bloom and Let Me Take You There with Joey Levine. These nine tracks were recorded at Counterpoint Recording Studios, New York.

When recording of How Do You Take Your Love began at Counterpoint Recording Studios, New York, different musicians were drafted in to play on different tracks. The rhythm section included drummers Leo Adamian Steve Jordan, bassists Will Lee and Wilbur Bascomb while guitarists included Jeff Layton, Joe Caro and Jeff Mironov. They were joined by percussionist Sammy Figueroa and pianists Cliff Carter and Paul Shaffer. Backing vocalists included Diva Gray, David Lasley, Gordon Grody, Phillip D. Ballou, Alfa Anderson and Luther Vandross. Once How Do You Take Your Love was finished, it was released later in 1978. On the release of How Do You Take Your Love in 1978 it sank without trace. It didn’t come close to troubling the charts. Since then, How Do You Take Your Love has never been released. It’s lain in RCA’s vaults So, is How Do You Take Your Love another hidden gem in Major Harris’ back-catalogue? That’s what I’ll tell you.

I Wanna Dance With You opens How Do You Take Your Love. Straight away, the Philly Soul influence is apparent from the opening bars. Lush strings sweep, while the bass prowls guitars weep and join keyboards in setting the scene for Major Harris. His vocal is tender, needy and seductive. Harmonies answer his call, proving a perfect foil for his vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, horns rasp and strings sweep. They provide a Philly Soul back drop to Major Harris as he reminds us what he’s capable of. However, one question needs to be asked. Why if RCA wanted a Philly Soul album, did they send Major Harris to New York?

Lucky Day is another track where the Philly Soul influence shines through. Strings dance, horns rasp and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat to this mid-tempo dance track. Major Harris rolls back the years. His sassy vocal is accompanied by punching, soaring harmonies, grizzled horns and the dancing strings. With cooing harmonies for company Major Harris combines Philly Soul, jazz and disco to create a hook-laden dance track.

Pretty Red Lips (Kiss My Blues Away) sees the tempo and a dramatic, emotive ballad unfold. It’s reminiscent of the type of music coming out of Philly between 1972 and 1978. Having said that, the one difference is the quality. Chiming guitars and wistful strings combine before dramatic drums set the scene for Major Harris. His vocal is heartfelt and emotive. Meanwhile the band build the drama and emotion, as Major Harris unleashes a powerful, pleading vocal. Horns growl, strings sweep and the drums provide the heartbeat to what’s best described this slice sensual Philly Soul.

How Do You Take Your Love is a slow sensual ballad written by Jerry Ragavoy. Again, Major Harris delivers a seductive, sultry vocal. Swathes of strings, keyboards, rhythm section and blazing horns join urgent harmonies. My only criticism rogue funky guitar. Apart from that Jerry’s arrangement works well. As fort Major Harris shows he breathes life and meaning into this paean. 

The first time I heard Night Mood I was struck by how similar the melody was to Marvin Gate’s What’s Going On. If you can imagine What’s Going On speeded up, you’ll realise where I’m coming from. I’d describe it as a mid-tempo fusion of disco, funk, jazz, Latin and soul. With a light and airy arrangement, the track breezes along, taking on a summery sound. Major Harris is accompanied by the rhythm section, percussion and swathes of strings. later rasping horns and sultry harmonies join, as we hear a very different side to Major Harris. 

Just drums, piano and moody bass set the scene for Major Harris’ sultry, half-spoken vamp on You’re So Good You’re Bad. He’s joined by sassy harmonies before the song unfolds. Soon, Major Harris’ is mixing power and passion against a pulsating arrangement. Swathes of strings, piano and cooing harmonies join rasping horns. They’re the perfect foil for Major Harris as he unleashes a needy vocals. The result is a track that’s not just funky and soulful, but sassy and sultry.

Just a lone piano opens You’re Sweet Song, before it bursts into life and heads in the direction of disco. Major Harris holds on for his life. Thunderous drums, funky bass, sweeping swirling strings and braying horns join forces. They provide the backdrop for Major Harris. However, the arrangement dominates his vocal. He’s accompanied by soaring harmonies. Just like the vocal, they’re dwarfed by the rest of the arrangement. That’s a pity, because everything was place for a good track.

This Is Forever sees another change in style. Major Harris return to the ballads he delivers so well. Accompanied by crystalline guitars, lush strings and a deliberate rhythm section Major Harris delivers a vocal masterclass. It’s seductive, soulful and sincere. He throws himself into the song, making the lyrics come alive. Drums pound and horns blaze adding to the drama, while swathes of strings add to seductive backdrop. The result is one of the highlights of How Do You Take Your Love.

Closing How Do You Take Your Love is Let Me Take You There. Just like so many of the tracks on the album, it has a Philly Soul influence. It’s another mid-tempo track. Swathes of strings sweep, swirl and dance, while cooing harmonies and answer Major Harris’ call as the track heads in the direction of disco. A lone horn and rock-tinged guitar play their part in a fusion of Philly Soul, funk and disco.

How Do You Take Your Love,  Major Harris showed how quickly an artist’s fortunes could change. The album sank without trace. It was the least successful album in Major Harris’ career so far. It had all been so different in 1975. 

That’s when Major Harris enjoyed a number one US R&B single with Love Won’t Let Me Wait. It was taken from his 1975 debut solo album My Way, which reached number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. Its success  vindicated Major Harris’ decision to leave The Delfonics. A year later, in 1976, Major Harris’ sophomore album Jealousy failed to replicate the success of My Way, reaching number 153 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. That wasn’t good enough for Atlantic Records. They dropped Major Harris. Without a record company Major Harris’ career was at a crossroads. However, RCA rode to the rescue.

The way RCA went about rejuvenating Major Harris’ career surprised many people. They didn’t record what became How Do You Take Your Love in Philly. Neither did they involve any of the arrangers, producers, songwriters, musicians and backing vocalists who Major Harris had worked with. This included Norman Harris, Major Harris’ cousin. He’d established a reputation as one of Philly’s top producers. Getting Norman Harris onboard meant getting access to the arrangers, producers, songwriters, musicians and backing vocalists who worked with him. RCA decided that wasn’t the way to go. That’s ironic, given they recorded what’s essentially a Philly Soul album in New York.

Jerry Ragavoy was chosen to produce How Do You Take Your Love. He wrote four tracks and cowrote two other tracks. Along with three other tracks, this became How Do You Take Your Love. For the recording session in New York, producer Jerry Ragavoy put together a band consisting of session musicians and backing vocalists. Good as they were, they weren’t as good as the musicians who played on Major Harris first two albums. No wonder. They were the original version of M.F.S.B, who were now The Salsoul Orchestra. M.F.S.B. had been one of the architects of  Philly Soul. The musicians who played on How Do You Take Your Love were talented session players, but had their own sound. Asking the to recreate Philly Soul seems strange. Why not make it a whole lot easier and hire the real thing? Having said all that, there are a few memorable moments on How Do You Take Your Love.

I Wanna Dance With You  and Lucky Day are essentially Philly Soul tracks. Pretty Red Lips (Kiss My Blues Away is a disappointing track. I’d describe it as Philly Soul lite. Things brighten up on the title-track, a ballad where Major Harris can showcase his inconsiderable skills. Indeed, it’s the ballads on How Do You Take Your Love. when Major Harris is at his best. Poof of this is You’re So Good You’re Bad and This Is Forever. Night Mood is a breezy track with a summery sound. You’re Sweet Song sees things go slightly awry, when the arrangement dwarfs the vocal. Then on closing track Let Me Take You There sees Philly Soul and disco combine. That’s quite appropriate.

After all, disco had replaced Philly Soul as the most popular musical genre. Soul singers like Major Harris were struggling. So he was encouraged to jump onboard the disco bandwagon. This gamble didn’t pay off. How Do You Take Your Love with its fusion of Philly Soul and disco wasn’t a commercial success. Since then, it’s never been rereleased. That’s until now.

Funkytown Grooves rereleased How Do You Take Your Love on 21st January 2014. Slow jams and dance tracks sit side-by-side on this fusion of  Philly Soul and Philly Disco. How Do You Take Your Love sees Major Harris take you on a musical roller coaster journey. He’s capable of provoking a whole range of emotions, from sadness to joy, and everything in between. One minute Major Harris tugs at your heartstrings, the next, he comes up with a hook-laden tracks. That’s why for anyone who enjoys Philly Soul will welcome the rerelease of  How Do You Take Your Love. 

MAJOR HARRIS-HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR LOVE.

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