By 1976, disco was providing the soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. Originally, however, disco was an American phenomenon. Gradually, though, the rest of the world succumbed to the disco sound. Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. However, disco’s popularity came at a cost.

The rise and rise of disco meant soul’s star was no longer in the ascendancy. Far from it. Soul music was no longer as popular as it had been. Even successful soul singers like Al Green and Bobby Womack career suffered. Indeed, things got so bad for Bobby Womack during the disco era, that he was dropped by his record company. Other artists tried to make the most of the disco era.

While some artists were wary of embracing disco fully, it was a case of needs must. If they didn’t climb onboard the disco bandwagon, then their career could be over. They couldn’t take that risk. So, they climbed onboard the disco bandwagon and released a string of disco singles. Some artists were reluctant disco stars. Others however, embraced disco fully. It gave them the opportunity to rejuvenate their careers. In other cases, disco launched the career of many an aspiring artist. A case in point is Ruth Davis, who in 1975, was signed to Claridge Records.

In 1975, Ruth Jean Davis was already signed to Claridge Records, but had yet to release a record for the label. Ruth however, was no newcomer to music. 

Before signing to Claridge been in various girl groups, including The Sequins, who released the Northern Soul classics A Case Of Love and He’s A Flirt. Later, Ruth become a member of The Ikettes, whose lineup seemed to be in a constant state of flux. Although good for Ruth’s C.V, it wasn’t a successful time for The Ikettes. Sadly, neither was Ruth’s debut solo single.

It was in 1971, that Ruth released her debut solo single I Need Money. This Jimmy Lewis composition, which was released on Kent, but failed commercially. For Ruth, this was a huge disappointment. Ruth returned to singing in local clubs, until she signed to Claridge Records. That’s where she met Bo Kirkland. They would release an album Bo and Ruth on Claridge in 1976. Bo and Ruth features on You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings, which was released on Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records recently.

Mike “Bo” Kirkland had been involved in music since 1965, when he was nineteen. His family moved from his hometown of Yazoo, Mississippi when he was ten. It was a case of needs must. Bo’s brother had been the subject of a racially motivated attack. So, the family headed to California. Not long after that, the Kirkland family formed a gospel group.

This was Bo’s introduction to music. Soon, he was a member of his school choir. As he grew up, music dominated Bo’s life. Especially, since Sam Cooke crossed over. That was a turning point in Bo’s life. He started listening to jazz, R&B and soul. Music became Bo’s life. So much so, that he turned down an offer to play for the New York Yankees. By then, he’d formed Mike and The Censations.

By the time Mike and The Censations released their debut single Victim Of Circumstances, they were no longer a family group. Bo and Bob, who wrote Victim Of Circumstances, brought onboard Armand Postell. The new lineup of Mike and The Censations’ debut single was well received. It was played on local radio. This resulted in Mike and The Censations being signed to Highland Records.

Mike and The Censations released four more singles on Highland Records. However, commercial success eluded Mike and The Censations. Although they were popular locally, they never enjoyed widespread commercial success. As a result, Mike and The Censations released their final single for Highland Records in 1969 and signed to Decca subsidiary Uni.

Despite Uni being part of a much larger label, Decca, Mike and The Censations continued to be a successful local group. They released four more singles on Uni’s Revue imprint. None of the singles were more than local hits. This wasn’t what Decca needed. They needed Mike and The Censations to make a breakthrough nationwide. So, when Mike and The Censations deal expired in 1970, it wasn’t renewed. That’s when Bo and Bob decided to form their own label.

Bo and Bob were determined to make a living out of music. So, they decided to form their own label. Originally, it was called Yazoo, after Bo and Bob’s hometown. There was a problem though. Yazoo was the name of a reissue label. After a rethink, Bo and Bob decided to call their new label Bryan Records. It would release Mike James Kirkland’s two solo albums.

In 1971, when Bo released his debut solo single Together, on Bryan Records, he was still calling himself Mike James Kirkland. Bo Kirkland would come later. Before that, Mike James Kirkland had two albums and there more singles to release.

A year later, in 1972, he released his debut album Hang On In There, on Bryan Records. That year, Bo released two singles, Where Is The Soul Of Man and Love Is (Nothing But A Feeling). Just like his debut album, they weren’t a commercial success. Neither was the 1973 single Love Insurance. It was a case of what might have been.

Both of Mike James Kirkland’s albums and his single could’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. The problem was, they were released on a small label, without the budget to promote his music. That’s why between 1971 and 1975, Mike James Kirkland was one of music’s best kept secrets. Maybe the disco boom would result in a change in his luck?

In 1975, the Kirklands caught a break. They had come to the attention of music veteran Frank Slay, who ran the Claridge label. He founded the label and in the sixties, but put the business on hold until 1974. Now, Frank was looking for new artists. That’s where Mike came in.

Frank decided that Mike James Kirkland wasn’t the right name. So, Frank and Mike put their heads together, and came up with the name Bo. That’s the name that featured on Bo’s Claridge debut, Grandfather Clock, which was penned by the Kirkland brothers with Frank Slay.

Grandfather Clock was released in September 1975. It sold well on the West Coast. So much so, that it reached number eighty in the US R&B charts. While this was a good start to Bo’s career at Claridge, Ruth Davis’ career looked as if it had stalled.

The problem was, finding the right song. Frank wanted Ruth to cover Freddie Hart’s Easy Loving. This, however, was a country song. Ruth wasn’t sure. Eventually, Frank persuaded Ruth to record the track. When Ruth heard the finished track, she knew it wasn’t right. So, Frank decided that Ruth should record Easy Loving as a duet with Bo Kirkland.

This was a masterstroke. Frank was known to have the Midas touch. It was said his ears never failed him. That was the case here. Easy Loving reached number thirty-eight on the US R&B chart, where it spent eighteen weeks. Six of these weeks came after the single was flipped over, and We Got The Recipe caught the attention of DJs and record buyers. Bo and Ruth, as they were billed, Frank decided, seemed like a successful pairing. 

Frank decided that Bo and Ruth should put their solo careers on hold, and record a solo album. This wasn’t going to be difficult. They had already recorded Easy Loving and We Got The Recipe. Bo’s version of Grandfather Clock and Sure Got A Thing For You were included. All that was needed were six more songs.

For Bo and Ruth, the Kirkland brothers cowrote nine tracks. They cowrote I Feel Love In This Room Tonight and Can You Feel It with Charles Gentry and Hense Powell. The Kirkland brothers penned Train Of Desire, Sure Got A Thing For You and Stay Out Of My Kitchen with Hense. The trio also cowrote We Got The Recipe and You’re Gonna Get Next to Me with Ruth Davis. Charles Gentry, Mike and Bo cowrote You’re Gonna Get Next to Me and To Make You Love Me. Frank Slay only cowrote one track, Grandfather Clock which he penned with the Kirkland brothers. Easy Loving was the only cover version on Ruth and Bo, which was released in 1976.

With six new songs written, recording of Bo and Ruth got underway. Hense Powell was drafted in as arranger, while Bo produced Bo and Ruth. Once the six new songs were recorded, it was released in America in 1976 and Britain in 1977.

The lead single for Bo and Ruth was the album opener, I Feel Love In This Room Tonight. It was a ballad, with a funky twist. Given disco was at the height of its success, I Feel Love In This Room Tonight was a strange choice for lead single. As a result, I Feel Love In This Room Tonight stalled at number seventy-seven on the US R&B charts. The followup single was You’re Gonna Get Next To Me. 

Straight away, Bo and Ruth realised they had struck disco gold. DJs worldwide were spinning You’re Gonna Get Next To Me. The single narrowly missed out on the US Billboard 100. It did reach number sixty-six n the US R&B charts. Considering its popularity with DJs and dancers, this must have been a disappointment. Then You’re Gonna Get Next To Me was released in Britain.

Across the Atlantic, You’re Gonna Get Next To Me surpassed the success the single had in America. It reached number twelve in Britain. Since then, You’re Gonna Get Next To Me is remembered as a club classic, and favourite of DJs and dancers. Despite the success of the singles taken from Bo and Ruth, the album was a different matter.

Bo and Ruth wasn’t a commercial success, and failed to chart. This wasn’t a reflection on the music. No. It’s a reflection on disco. Disco was very much a singles oriented genre. Successful disco artists didn’t necessary make successful albums. Obviously, artists like Gloria Gaynor and to some extent, The Salsoul Orchestra are the exception. Mostly, though, disco was about singles, Bo and Ruth, was an example of this.

I Feel Love In This Room Tonight opens Bo and Ruth, and You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings. It sees Bo and Ruth head to the soulful side of disco. The rhythm section, piano and swirling strings set the scene for Ruth’s heartfelt and hopeful vocal on this ballad. Horns bray and blaze, punctuating the arrangement. Then when Bo’s vocal enters, it’s equally heartfelt and needy.  Bo and Ruth became yin and yang. Meanwhile, lush strings sweep and swirl, horns sound and the rhythm section create a sultry heartbeat. Later, a lovestruck Bo and Ruth vamp their way through what’s a soulful slice of dance-floor friendly music. 

Strings dance and the rhythm section add a funky backdrop on To Make You Love Me. There’s even a Latin twist to the arrangement. As a slap bass punctuates the arrangement, Bo unleashes a soul-baring vocal. It’s a mixture of power and passion. So is Ruth’s vocal. She matches Bo every step of the way. Meanwhile, the band  combine elements of disco, funk and Latin. This proves the perfect backdrop to the soulful strains of Bo and Ruth.

Train Of Desire is another ballad. Swathes of the lushest strings cascade, horns bray and flamboyant flourishes of harpsichord sit atop the rhythm section and washes of Hammond organ. They create a slow, dramatic backdrop for Bo and Ruth’s slow, soulful, sultry and needy vocals. When they drop out horns growl and strings sweep. They then sweep Bo and Ruth away as they climb onboard the Train Of Desire. 

You’re Gonna Get Next to Me was the sophomore single from Bo and Ruth. This was their biggest single. It’s now regarded as a club classic. Bo and Ruth’s vocals are swept in atop a bassy arrangement. They’re the perfect foil for each other. As Bo vamps, Ruth dawns the role of disco diva. It’s a role that suits her. Especially, when accompanied by an arrangement that’s classic disco. As the rhythm section and chiming guitars combine to create a funky, dance-floor friendly backdrop keyboards join blazing horns and disco strings. Later, when Bo get’s the chance to play a starring role, he relishes the opportunity. He plays a part in a track that’s funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly.

As We Got the Recipe unfolds, strings dance and horns blaze. Just like the previous track, there’s plenty of low end courtesy of the rhythm section. Bo and Ruth are swept along by swathes of lush strings. They quiver and shiver, while horns bray and growl, sometimes adding a wistful sound. Always though, We Got The Recipe is a hook-laden dance track.

Easy Loving was Bo and Ruth debut single. The track is reinvented and suits being delivered as a duet. Partly, that’s because Bo and Ruth’s vocals sit well together. Their vocals are tender, heartfelt and hopeful. The vocals are part of the story. There’s the slow, romantic arrangement. This means slow, sweeping strings adn  bursts of rasping horns. They’re joined by the funky guitars and a rhythm section that creates a slow, sultry heartbeat. When all this is combined, the result is a quite beautiful track.

Sure Got A Thing For You is one of two tracks from Bo Kirkland on Bo and Ruth. It’s a mid-tempo ballad that’s funky and soulful. Against a pulsating rhythm section, keyboards, braying horns and soaring, soulful harmonies Bo delivers a vocal heartfelt and needy. There’s even a nod to Stevie Wonder, as Bo showcases his considerable talent on the funky, soulful Sure Got A Thing For You.

Deliberate piano chords are picked out, a guitar chimes and a Hammond organ wails. Horns bray and strings sweep as Can You Feel It begins to reveal its secrets and beauty. The scene is set for Bo and Ruth’s needy, sultry and seductive vocals. Behind them, instruments are dropped in at the right time. A sultry saxophone sets the scene for the return of Bo and Ruth’s vocals. It grows in power and passion. Needy and hopeful, it’s one of Bo and Ruth’s finest hours.

Grandfather Clock is the other Bo Kirkland single. As a clock chimes, vibes replicate a clock and the rhythm section get funky. Just like other tracks, there’s no shortage of low end. The bass powers the arrangement along. It’s aided and abetted by stabs of growling horns. Accompanied by harmonies, Bo struts his way through the track, delivering an assured vocal on this funky, soulful track.

Stay Out Of My Kitchen closed Bo and Ruth, but not You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings. It’s an uptempo dance track, where elements of disco, funk and soul unite. Bursts of grizzled horns join the pounding, pulsating and funky rhythm section. They’re joined by washes of Hammond organ, harmonies and Bo’s swaggering vocal. When Ruth enters, she delivers a strutting diva-esque vocal. It’s as if she’s been inspired by Bo. The result is a joyous, slice of good time music.

That’s not the end of Kent Soul’s recently released Bo and Ruth compilation You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings. No. There’s six other tracks. 

Four feature Bo and Ruth. The first is Bo and Ruth’s strings drenched, soulful cover of Thomas Jans’ Loving Arms. This is the only cover version. The three other tracks were either written or co-written by Bo.

Bo seemed to write a lot of ballads. This includes That’s the Way The Wind Blows. It was penned by Sky Keegan and Bo. Slow, tender and full of melancholia and beauty, describes That’s the Way The Wind Blows. That’s A Bet is another soulful dramatic ballad. It features a needy, hopeful vocal from Bo. It’s accompanied by swathes of strings and bursts of blazing horns. The final track from Bo and Ruth is Stay By My Side, a hook-laden dance track. That track is the last we hear from Bo and Ruth.

The two other tracks on You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings, come courtesy of Ruth Davis.  Heartbreaker is a truly irresistible dance track. Lost In A Love Zone also sees Ruth embrace the role of disco diva. She delivers a sassy, strutting vocal. This shows a very different side to Ruth Davis. This is far removed from the balladry on Bo and Ruth, You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings. 

For much of Bo and Ruth, balladry was the order of the day. There were a few dance-floor friendly tracks. However, mostly, Bo and Ruth delivered a series of heartfelt ballads. 

These ballads proved uber soulful. That’s not all. Bo and Ruth’s vocals on the ballads were beautiful, heartfelt, hopeful melancholy, needy, tender and wistful. Easy Loving, Bo and Ruth’s debut single, showed what they were capable of. It gave them a minor hit single. Frank Slay, the owner of the Claridge label, decided  Bo and Ruth to record their debut album. However, there was a problem. Disco was ruled the musical roost.

Pounding, pulsating dance tracks were flavour or the month in 1976. Granted, Bo and Ruth made a few concessions to disco on their debut album. This resulted in another minor hit single, and club classic, You’re Gonna Get Next to Me. Sadly, this was the end of Bo and Ruth’s success.

When Bo and Ruth was released, it failed commercially. It failed to chart. Soul was no longer as popular as it had been. As for disco, it was mostly a singles genre. Very few classic disco albums were ever released. Indeed, many disco artists concentrated on singles, rather than albums. Bo and Ruth however, wasn’t really a disco album.

Bo and Ruth was essentially a soul album. There were a a few dance tracks. The problem was, soul albums weren’t selling well. Far from it. They were, to some extent, yesterday’s sound. Disco was perceived as the future. Ironically, that proved not to be the case. Two years after the release of Bo and Ruth, disco’s popularity plunged.

Disco went from hero to zero in less of a year. Suddenly, disco sucked. Disco’s downfall started on Christmas Eve 1978, That’s when Steve Dahl was fired by Chicago radio station WDAI. It had previously been a rock station, but switched to disco. Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He’d an inkling that disco wasn’t long for this world. 

Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with cohost Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.

From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.

Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped by major labels, disco labels folded and very few disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. 

Only after the disco boom was over, did people start discovering soul albums they may have missed during the disco era. Many a hidden gem was discovered. This included Bo and Ruth, which was part of You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings, which was recently released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records. You’re Gonna Get Next To Me-The Complete Claridge Recordings, shows that there’s much more to Bo and Ruth, than their dance-floor classic You’re Gonna Get Next to Me.







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