BREAKAWAY-BREAKAWAY AND STRAIGHT TO THE TOP.

BREAKAWAY-BREAKAWAY AND STRAIGHT TO THE TOP.

BBE Music’s latest release sees two of the rarest albums make their CD debut. For years, both of Breakaway’s two albums have been prized assets among record collectors. Copies have exchanged hands for ever increasing sums of money. Despite this, no record company decided to take the plunge and release the two albums Breakaway released in the late-seventies. Their 1977 debut was Breakaway, with Straight To The Top following in 1978. Two years later, Breakaway split-up. The two albums they’d released represented their entire discography and will be rereleased on one album by BBE Music on 27th January 2014. Now another generation have the opportunity to discover Breakaway.

For some people, the name Breakaway will ring a bell. There’s a reason for this. Breakaway featured on the two compilations of blue eyed soul BBE Music have released. Americana-Rock Your Soul was released back in 2011, with Americana 2 released in 2013. Both compilations featured a whole host or rarities and hidden gems. Previously, many of these tracks, including the two from Breakaway would’ve passed most people by. Not any more.

Partly, that’s to do with the internet. Nowadays, due the the advent of the internet, a whole generation of music lovers are discovering long-lost albums. As a result, a whole industry has grown up reissuing music. Now albums that never found an audience the first time round, are being released. Belatedly, these albums are receiving the attention and plaudits they deserved. Sometimes, careers have been relaunched and artists rescued from the 9-5 grind. For other artists and groups, they’re content to be vindicated that the music they released thirty or forty years ago was variously innovative, influential, ahead of its time or timeless. Is that the case with the two albums Breakaway released?

The story behind Breakaway began back in the early seventies in The Turquoise Lounge, Portland, Oregon. That’s where David L. Taylor David L. Taylor and Bill Montgomery met Dale Sweetland. Having heard Dale play, David and Bill decided to draft him into their band. This wasn’t easy. It took a year of phone calls before Dale joined the band in 1972. However, this lead to the trio forming a new band in late 1972.

There was a reason for this. Their new manager wanted them to form a Las Vegas Show band and play on the lucrative club circuit. Now a seven-piece band, they rehearsed in Las Vegas, before heading out on the road. The lineup included David L. Taylor, Bill Montgomery, Dale Sweetland, and Terry McCoy from South Carolina. This lineup lasted a year. Then they returned to Vegas and formed a new band with Terry Richards.

Terry had been a member of Chase, a band from Cleveland, Ohio, who’d enjoyed some commercial success. The tragedy struck. Chase were involved in a plane crash and the only survivor was Terry. For the next year Terry was a member of the band. That’s until he was replaced by Corky Blake, a native of St. Louis. Now the group was a six piece. However, this would’t be the final change in the lineup.

No. Kathy Newbry-Taylor a native of Las Vegas was recommended by to the band by their manager Joe Zito. This was the lineup that lasted right through until 1976. Then there was another change. Manager Joe Zito was replaced and the band became a quartet who called themselves Breakaway. It had taken over four years, but at last, Breakaway was born.

Having settled on the name Breakaway, the nascent band moved to St Louis. That’s  where Breakaway met Art Risavy. He owned a record shop in Collinsville, Illinois. Art  assured them that he could provide them with enough work in the Midwest for Breakaway to base themselves in Collinsville. Now they begin work on their debut album. However, they didn’t have a record contract. So, they had to play live to pay for the recording sessions for what became their debut album Breakaway.

BREAKAWAY.

Most of Breakaway was written by David L. Taylor. He wrote four tracks and cowrote Understudy DJ and Love My Eyes with Kathy Newbry-Taylor. She also penned There’s A New Group In Town. These seven tracks became Breakaway. It was recorded at Technosonic Studios, St. Louis by a lineup featuring David L. Taylor, Bill Montgomery, Dale Sweetland and Kathy Newbry-Taylor.  Producing Breakaway was Bill Schulenberg and Breakaway. Once Breakaway was recorded, it was released later in 1977.

Breakaway was released in 1977, on the band’s own label Breakaway Records. However, they didn’t have a sufficient promotional budget, and Breakaway wasn’t a commercial success. Sadly, despite the undoubted quality of the music, Breakaway didn’t even trouble the charts. A genre-melting mixture blue eyed soul, disco, funk, soul and even rock, Breakaway deserved a better fate. You’ll realise that when I tell you about the highlights of Breakaway.

Understudy DJ, which opens Breakaway is one of Breakaway’s best known tracks. It’s an underground anthem. A funky, dance-floor friendly arrangement grabs your attention, The rhythm section are at the heart of the action before Kathy struts centre-stage. Urgent, punchy and powerful, her sassy vocal is enveloped by a funk masterclass from Breakaway’s rhythm section

Love My Eyes sees a very different side to Breakaway. They drop the tempo on this slow, beautiful ballad. Kathy’s vocal is accompanied by keyboards, strings and a subtle rhythm section. Her vocal is tender and heartfelt. Meanwhile, a jazz guitar and strings provide the backdrop to her soul-baring vocal on this beautiful paean.

Who Was It This Time begins slowly, and gradually reveals its secrets. Breakaway combine musical genres. Elements of blue eyed soul, disco, funk and jazz shine through. The rhythm section keep things funky, while disco strings and a jazzy guitar combine. Kathy’s vocal is a mixture of power and passion. It’s drops out an is replaced by a jazz-tinged keyboard solo. This demonstrates Breakaway’s versatility before Kathy returns and picks up where she left off, playing a starring role.

Everybody Loves The Singer sees another change in direction. It’s a fusion of country, funk, rock and soul.  The arrangement is driven along by the rhythm section and guitars. Kathy delivers one of her best vocals. It soars above the arrangement, a mixture of power and soulfulness. She’s accompanied by cooing harmonies. They’re the perfect accompaniment to her vocal powerhouse, as Breakaway demonstrate their versatility.

Funky, soulful and rock-tinged describes Everything’s Been Said About You. The rhythm section provide the funk, while rocky guitars and a soulful, vocal powerhouse from Kathy combine. She uses her full vocal range. Searing, chiming guitars and harmonies accompany her, as we hear another side of Breakaway.  

My Symphony is another ballad. It has an understated, piano lead arrangement. This allows Kathy’s vocal to take centre-stage. Gradually, the arrangement builds and grows, enveloping Kathy’s emotive vocal. She’s accompanied by sweeping harmonies. They compliment Kathy’s heartfelt, impassioned vocal, which is one of the highlights of Breakaway.

There’s A New Group In Town closes Breakaway. It’s one of Breakaway’s best known tracks and reminds me somewhat of Sister Sledge. It’s dramatic and urgent. A pounding, funky and rocky rhythm section give way to soaring harmonies. Then Kathy delivers a strutting, diva-esque vocal. She combines drama, sass and power. Handclaps, rocky guitars, washes of synths and the funky rhythm section unite, ensuring Breakaway ends on a high.

Breakaway is best described as a journey through musical genres. You never know what direction the album is heading. Everything from blue eyed soul, country, disco, funk, R&B, rock and soul is combined. Listeners are kept on their toes. Quickly, you learn to expect the unexpected. Ballads and dance tracks side-by-side. One minute Kathy’s laying bare her soul, the next she’s a strutting diva. The rest of Breakaway take this in their stride. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of music they’re asked to play, they carry it of. You want funk, soul or country, Breakaway can play it. Maybe this is a remnant to their days as a showband?

With music that was variously, funky, dance-floor friendly, hook-laden, slick and soulful, Breakaway should’ve been a commercial success. Sadly, it wasn’t. That’s not a surprise. Breakaway was independently released. Without a decent budget, the album never even dented the Billboard Charts. This meant a return to playing live. That’s until they had enough money to record their sophomore album Straight To The Top.

STRAIGHT TO THE TOP.

After the disappointment of Breakaway, the band returned to playing live. Art had guaranteed that he could provide them enough live work. This meant that it would be worth their while basing themselves in Collinsville. He was as good as his word. Breakaway continued to be busy with live work. This allowed them to finance the recording of their sophomore album Straight To The Top.

Again, Breakaway wrote the eight tracks on that became Straight To The Top. Producing Breakaway was Bill Schulenberg and Breakaway. Once Straight To The Top was recorded, it was released later in 1978 on their own label Breakaway Records. 

Just like their debut album Breakaway, Straight To The Top wasn’t a commercial success. Another similarity was that Straight To The Top was a fusion of musical genres. There was everything from blue eyed soul, disco, funk, rock and soul on the seven tracks. Soulful, funky, dance-floor friendly and not short of hooks, Straight To The Top didn’t head Straight To The Top. Maybe if it had been released on a bigger label, it might have been commercial success. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Straight To The Top was Breakaway’s swan-song, which I’ll tell you about.

Straight To The Top opens with the title-track. Lone drums give way to a disco-tinged arrangement. Bubbling synths, funky rhythm section and Kathy’s seductive vocal combine. Searing guitars and buzzing synths join in as disco, Euro Disco and rock combine. It’s a potent and heady brew, with genres and hooks becoming one.

Empty Love is another disco track. Driven along by percussion, rhythm section and keyboards, the arrangement is a fusion of disco, drama and jazz. Kathy’s tender, needy vocal is soulful and jazz-tinged. Harmonies accompany her as she delivers an emotive and dramatic vocal.

It seems Straight To The Top was Breakaway’s disco album. Back ’N’ Forth sees the disco influence continue. It’s a fusion of disco, Euro Disco and funk. Squeaky, synths play an important part in the arrangement, while hypnotic, pounding drums provide the backdrop for Kathy’s coquettish vocal. It delivers the simple, but infectiously catchy lyrics. 

You Are Love sees the tempo drop. It’s the first ballad on the album. Just like other tracks, synths play an important part in the arrangement. What plays the most important part, is Kathy’s vocal. Tender, heartfelt and ethereal, it’s captivating. You’re truly spellbound by its emotion and beauty.

Straight away, you realise Breakaway is one of the highlights of Straight To The Top. That’s because of Kathy’s powerhouse of a vocal. It’s a mixture of power, passion and emotion. She’s accompanied by blistering, rocky guitars, keyboards and percussion. Providing the heartbeat is the rhythm section. They play their part in this track’s dramatic sound.

Oh Darlin’ Oh Baby sees Breakway return to the ballads they do so well. With an understated, thoughtful late-seventies arrangement, Kathy delivers a vocal that veers between tender and powerful. It’s thoughtful, emotive and needy. Meanwhile, keyboards, percussion and a meandering rhythm section provide the backdrop to what’s easily the highlight of Straight To The Top.

Work With The Music bursts into life, a fusion of rock and funk. Driving the arrangement along is the rhythm section, while bubbling, searing synths and sneering guitars join forces. Kathy’s vocal is urgent, rocky and powerful. Later, the track takes on an experimental, sci-fi sound. After that, it’s funky, rock-tinged, urgent and dance-floor friendly.

Closing Straight To The Top is A New Tree In The Forest. The understated arrangement meanders into being. Just washes of synths, pensive drums and piano combine as Kathy’s tender, beautiful vocal slowly delivers the vocal. Gradually, the arrangement reveals its secrets and subtleties. It grows in power. So does Kathy’s vocal. She demonstrates how versatile a vocalist she is. She has the ability to make lyrics come to life, breathing meaning and emotion into them. That’s what she does here, closing the album on a beautiful high.

Straight To The Top, Breakaway’s sophomore album is both different and similar to their eponymous debut album. The main difference is that there’s more disco tracks on Straight To The Top. Breakaway seem to have decided make the album even more dance-floor friendly. Four of the tracks see Breakaway fuse disco and sometimes, Euro Disco. There’s also a funky influence in these tracks. This was the case on their debut album. It’s more apparent on Straight To The Top. That’s not surprising, given disco was at the height of its popularity. Maybe Breakaway felt this would lead to the commercial breakthrough their music deserved. Straight To The Top, like Breakaway, was another eclectic album.

Apart from the four dance tracks, Breakaway included three ballads and Work With The Music, a fusion of funk and rock. However, on Breakaway, there was everything from blue eyed soul, country, disco, funk, R&B, rock and soul. It was a real fusion of influences and genres. Straight To The Top was essentially, an album where blue eyed soul, disco, funk, rock and soul combined. Breakaway were at their best on the dance tracks and ballads. Indeed, Kathy comes alive during the ballads. Good as she is on the other tracks, she’s transformed during the ballads. She’s very much Breakaway’s secret weapon. 

While the rest of Breakaway provided the backdrop for her vocals on Breakaway and then Straight To The Top, Kathy veered between diva to soul-baring balladeer. They were a perfect match. If only Breakaway had been signed to a major label. instead, the financed their own albums and released them on Breakaway Records. This meant they were always behind the black ball. Breakaway Records didn’t have the budget needed to promote either Breakaway or Straight To The Top. As a result, both album failed commercially. This wasn’t because of the music. No. It was all down to economics.

Two years after the release of Straight To The Top, Breakaway split up. Straight To The Top was their final album. In the post-disco musical landscape gigs were hard to come by in St. Louis. Especially, when the economy was going through a downturn. Breakaway went their separate ways. David and Kathy, however, spent fifteen years as a duo and enjoyed a successful career touring and writing. In the following thirty-six years, Breakaway’s two albums were fondly remembered by discerning record collectors.

Both Breakaway and Straight To The Top became collectors items. They began changing hands for ever increasing sums of money. Despite this, neither Breakaway nor Straight To The Top found their way on to CD. Tracks did find their way onto the occasional compilation, including BBE Music’s Americana-Rock Your Soul which was released back in 2011, and Americana 2 released in 2013. Then just a few weeks ago, BBE Music announced they would release both Breakaway and Straight To The Top on 27th January 2014. For the first time, these two collector’s albums will be available on CD. Now these two hidden gems, Breakaway and Straight To The Top are within the budget of record buyers everywhere. No longer will you need a second mortgage to buy a copy of Breakaway or Straight To The Top. No. These hidden gems are at last, affordable and will allow everyone to hear a band who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed a successful career, Breakaway.

BREAKAWAY-BREAKAWAY AND STRAIGHT TO THE TOP.

2 Comments

  1. Rachel Taylor

    My father David L. Taylor wrote a large portion of those songs with detail to arrangements, for each member and I find the blog not fully acknowledging my father being the center force of the band. He deserved more credit than received over the span of decades for his work. My father is an amazing guitarist/musician, with a broad span of creative talents and still working in the industry in Audio and Visual treatments along with producing other musicians work from his studio. I believe that should be noted in your blog as my father did “Breakaway” from the norm in his diverse skills and interests.. He is the reason those albums happened.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m sorry if you feel that I didn’t acknowledge the contribution your father made towards Breakaway. I had hoped I portrayed everyone fairly. Looking back at the review, I feel that David and Kathy are portrayed as at the heart of the Breakaway story.

      What I will say, is that when I was writing the review, there wasn’t much information about the band. I was supplied with a brief press release. The rest was down to me. Unfortunately, information was scarce. If I had more details about the band members, then I would’ve included it. Ideally, I’d have liked to interview a couple of the band members. There were a couple of things I wanted to find out, but wasn’t able to do so. Maybe now I’ll have that opportunity? If however, you would like me to write about his career with Breakaway, and post-Breakawy, I’d be pleased to hook up with him.

      Finally, I agree that your father was the reason why Breakaway’s two albums happened. He was Breakaway’s creative force. With Kathy’s vocal prowess, they could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights. Sadly, they released the two albums on indie labels. Who knows what heights Breakaway may have reached if they’d been signed to a major? Please feel free to get in contact about a followup article.

      Regards,
      Derek.

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