CHANGE-REACH FOR THE SKY AN ANTHOLOGY.

CHANGE-REACH FOR THE SKY AN ANTHOLOGY.

Part of the soundtrack to the disco era was recorded by studio bands. They featured mostly anonymous session musicians and unknown vocalists. Many of these musicians and vocalists were just at the start of their careers, including Luther Vandross. 

The twenty-eight year old backing vocalist had worked with everyone from Judy Collins, David Bowie and Diana Ross, to Chaka Khan, Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer. However, Luther Vandross wanted to embark upon a solo career. With every year that passed, that began to look more and more like a pipe dream. So when Luther Vandross got the chance to join studio band Change as their lead singer in 1980, he grasped the opportunity with both hands. 

That proved to be a smart move for Luther Vandross. He played an important part in the success of Change’s 1981 debut album The Glow of Love. It was certified gold, and had provided the perfect showcase for Luther Vandross’ vocal prowess. He left Change in 1981, and embarked on a solo career where everything Luther Vandross touched, turned gold or platinum. His departure didn’t mark the end of the road for Change.

Far from it. Change released another four albums between 1981 and 1985. This included two number one singles in the US Dance charts. They’re just two of a string of successful singles released by Change over a five year period. These singles featured on Reach For The Sky-Anthology, which will be released on 4th December 2015 by Glasgow based label, Groove Line Records. They’ve put together a two disc, twenty-eight track extravaganza, Reach For The Sky-Anthology, the definitive Change compilation. It documents the life and times of Change, whose roots can be traced back to the late seventies.

Change was formed in 1980 by Guadeloupe-born businessman and executive producer Jacques Fred Petrus, and producer Mauro Malavsi. The pair had their own production company Goody Goody Productions. That’s how they met self-taught bassist David Romani in 1977. Since then, the three men had formed a successful partnership.

Over the last few years, Goody Goody Productions was on a roll. Hits rolled off their production line. This included Mahco’s I’m A Man, The Peter Jacques Band’s Fire Night Band and Revanche’s Music Man. This three man musical team complimented one another perfectly, and were about to mastermind Change’s rise and rise.

Jacques Fred Petrus was already a successful businessman before he founded Goody Goody Productions. Mauro Malavsi was only twenty-three in 1980, but already, was a talented songwriter, keyboardist, arranger and producer. Self-taught bassist David Romani was also a songwriter, arranger and producer. He would form a successful partnership with Mauro Malavsi, which was central to the success of Change. The final piece of the jigsaw was Jacques Fred Petrus’ business acumen. This combination of talents would result in five successful years for Change. It began in 1981 with The Glow of Love.

The Glow of Love.

Change were formed in 1979 and work began on their debut album straight away. Two members of Goody Goody Productions would play an important part in the album, Mauro Malavsi and David Romani.

Their first job was to write the material that would feature on what became The Glow Of Love. David Romani cowrote five of the album’s six songs. He worked with various songwriting partners, including Paolo Gianolo, Wayne Garfield and Mauro Malavsi. However, it was a song that David Romani, Wayne Garfield and Mauro Malavsi cowrote that stood out when recording began, The Glow Of Love. 

The recording process was a two part process. Just like all studio bands, Change didn’t have a fixed lineup. Instead, different musicians and vocalists played their part in Change’s Italo-American sound. This included the session musicians that recorded the backing tracks at Fontopront Studios in Bologna

during 1979 and 1980. Once the backing tracks were finished, they were delivered to Goody Music Productions’ New York offices. 

Then, vocalists including Luther Vandross, Jocelyn Brown, Robin Clark, Dennis Collins and Krystal Davis recorded their vocals at New York’s Media Sound studios. Luther Vandross was then an unknown backing singer. Jocelyn Brown however, had enjoyed a degree of success. Her vocals featured on Musique’s two number one dance singles,  and Inner Life’s hit single I’m Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair. This was nothing compared to the success that Change were about to enjoy.

Before the release of The Glow Of Love, most of the reviews were positive. Critics were won over by the post disco sound of Change. They seemed ready to pickup the baton from Chic, and become the leading purveyor of dance music. Especially with songs of the quality of A Lover’s Holiday, The Glow Of Love, Angel In My Pocket and Searching, which feature on Reach For The Sky-Anthology. However, unsurprisingly, Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed “Dean of American Rock Critics” disagreed with the majority of critics. How wrong he was. 

The Jacques Fred Petrus produced Glow Of Love was released on Warner Bros. on April 16th 1980. It reached number twenty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. This resulted in a gold disc for Change. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

Not by a long chalk. Three singles were released from Glow of Love. The lead single was A Lover’s Holiday, which reached number forty in the US Billboard 100, number five in the US R&B Charts and number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Eventually, A Lover’s Holiday sold a million copies, and was certified gold. Searching then reached twenty-three in the US R&B Charts, and number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Then The Glow of Love reached forty-nine in the US R&B Charts, and and number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Never before, had a studio band enjoyed three consecutive number one singles in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Change were making history.The Goody Goody production team were riding the crest of a post disco wave. However, could they repeat this success? 

Miracles.

After the commercial success of The Glow of Love, the three men behind Goody Goody Productions started thinking about recording Change’s sophomore album. Now everyone at Goody Goody Productions had to repeating the whole process.

Just like with The Glow Of Love, Mauro Malavasi and David Romani played an important part in the songwriting process. They played a part in each of the seven songs on Miracles, working with various song writing partners. This included Tanyayette Willoughby, who cowrote five songs. The backing tracks to the songs would be recorded by the session musicians  in Bologna. 

At Fonoprint Studios, Bologna, many of the same session musicians who played on The Glow Of Love were reunited. They were joined by some new names. Gradually, the rhythm track, horns and strings were recorded. Now Change’s vocalists could add their parts in New York. This included a mixture of old friends and new names

The new names included Chic vocalist Fonzi Thornton, Gordon Grody, Benny Diggs, Diva Gray, James “Crabbe” Robinson and Ullanda McCullough. They joined Jocelyn Brown, Luther Vandross, Dennis Collins and Krystal Davis. This new lineup of Change would provide the vocals on Miracles at Media Sound Studios, New York. Diva Gray unleashed two vocal masterclasses on Paradise and Hold Together. Not to be outdone, James Robinson comes close to stealing the show on Stop For Love. These three tracks which feature on Reach For The Sky-Anthology, would feature on Miracles, Change’s sophomore album, which was scheduled for release in March 1981

Before that, critics had their say on Miracles. The reviews of this fusion of funk, R&B, post disco and soul were mixed. Change had been here before with The Glow of Love. Again, Change’s fiercest critic was Robert Christgau. Last time, he proved to be their good luck charm. Would lightning strike twice? 

On Miracles’ release, it reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number nine in the US R&B Charts. Miracles didn’t sell in the same quantities as The Glow Of Love. Maybe the singles would prove more popular?

Change released five singles from Miracles. Paradise reached number eighty in the US Billboard 100, number seven in the US R&B Charts and number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Hold Tight then reached number eighty-nine in the US Billboard 100, number forty in the US R&B Charts and number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Then when Heaven Of My Life was released in 1981, it reached number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. This meant Change had enjoyed six consecutive number one singles in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Surely things couldn’t get any better?

It didn’t. Neither Stop for Love, nor Miracles charted. It seemed the good ship Change had run aground. Worse was to come.

After the release of Miracles, Luther Vandross announced he was leaving Change, to pursue a solo career. This had seemed inevitable, given his stellar performances on Change’s first two albums. Luckily, one of Changes’ new recruits was shaping up to be an able replacement for Luther Vandross. It was a case of step forward James “Crabbe” Robinson, Changes needs you.

Sharing Your Love.

Following the departure of Luther Vandross, many critics thought the end was neigh for Change. Replacing such a talented vocalist was going to be almost impossible. However, the three men who masterminded Goody Goody Productions were confident that the Change story was far from over.

This time around, Goody Goody Productions deviated from their successful formula. The first change was in the songwriting process.

While Mauro Malavasi and Davide Romani still played a part in the songwriting process, their role was reduced. They only penned five of the ten tracks. Fonzi Thornton and James “Crabbe” Robinson cowrote songs. So did the songwriting team of Leroy Burgess, Sonny Davenport and James Calloway. The next change came that Change’s third album Sharing Your Love, was recorded and mixed in New York.

Rather than rely on the Bologna based session players, it was decided to record Sharing Your Love in New York. Nearly fifty musicians, including a string section featured on Sharing Your Love. That’s not forgetting fifteen backing vocalists, including Chic’s Norma Jean Wright and Fonzi Thornton, Robin Clark, Debbie Cole, Jocelyn Brown, Gordon Grody, Michelle Cobbs and Leroy Burgess. They all made their way to Media Sound Studios, New York. So did vocalists James “Crabbe” Robinson, Roz Ryan and Deborah Cooper, This huge cast of musicians and vocalists, were responsible for Change’s third album Sharing Your Love. It was released in April 1982.

Before that, critics reviewed Sharing Your Love. Just like Change’s first two albums, Sharing Your Love received mixed reviews. Critics who were won over by Sharing Your Love, picked The Very Best In You, Hard Times (It’s Gonna Be Alright), Keep On It, Sharing Your Love and Promise Your Love as the album’s highlights. These tracks feature on Reach For The Sky-Anthology, including a previously unreleased versions of Keep On It. However, other critics weren’t as enamoured by Change.

Part of the problem was, that critics thought studio bands were manufactured, and lacked the authenticity and credibility of rock bands. However, Change’s fusion of R&&, soul, funk and post disco was popular among some record buyers.

Sharing Your Love reached number sixty-six in the US Billboard 200, and number fourteen in the US R&B charts. While Sharing Your Love wasn’t as popular as Change’s first two albums, Goody Goody Productions hoped that the singles would fare better. 

The Very Best in You was chosen as the lead single, and reached eight-four in the US Billboard 100, sixteen in the US R&B and thirty in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Hard Times (It’s Gonna Be Alright) stalled at a lowly seventy-one on the US R&B charts. Then in 1982, Sharing Your Love, Oh What A Night and Keep On It all failed to chart. This was hugely disappointing for Change, and especially the three men who masterminded Goody Goody Productions. Maybe Change’s fortunes would change with their fourth album This Is Your Time? 

This Is Your Time.

Although Change’s third album Sharing Your Love can’t be classified as a failure, it didn’t sell in the same quantities as the first two albums. Sales of the singles were disappointing. It seemed a long time ago when Change enjoyed six consecutive number one singles in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. So something had to change.

A decision was made to return to the way Change had recorded their first albums. This meant that the backing tracks were recorded in Italy, and the vocals added in New York. However, when work began on This Is Your Time, one man was missing, David Romani.

He had played an important part in the success of Change, writing many of their best songs. However, he played no part in This Is Your Time. Even Mauro Malavasi only cowrote four tracks. The other tracks were written by various songwriting partnerships. Jacques Fred Petrus even cowrote Stay N Fit, as work began on This Is Your Time.

With eight songs written, the backing tracks were recorded not in Bologna, but in Umbi Studios in Modena. Then the vocalists added their parts in New York.

This included a new name, Rick Brennan. The Philly born singer had replaced James “Crabbe” Robinson. When James “Crabbe” Robinson had decided to leave Change, he introduced Rick Brennan to Goody Goody Productions. The next thing anyone knew, he was making his Change debut, adding lead vocals and backing vocals with Deborah Cooper and Robin Clark. For Rick Brennan, it was a case of This Is Your Time.

It was a baptism of fire for Rick Brennan. When reviews of This Is Your Time were published, they ranged from poor to mixed. This Is Your Time was regarded as Change’s least cohesive album. However, there were some highlights, including This Is Your Time, Don’t Wait Another Night, You’ll Never Realise and Musical Night. Got To Get Up also drew praise from some critics. So it’s no surprise that these five tracks feature on Reach For The Sky-Anthology. However, back in March 1983, they featured on This Is Your Time, which could make or break Change.

When This Is Your Time was released in March 1983, it became the least successful album Change had released. It stalled at 161 in the US Billboard 200, and number thirty-four in the US R&B charts. Things didn’t improve with the singles released from This Is Your Time.

The lead single was This Is Your Time, which reached thirty-three on the US R&B charts, and number thirty-nine US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Magical Night then failed to chart, before Don’t Wait Another Night reached a lowly eighty-nine in the US R&B charts. When Got To Get Up was released as a single, it also failed to chart. For Change, 1983 had been their least successful year. Would 1984 see their fortunes improve?

Change Of Heart.

After the least successful album of Change’s four album career, Mauro Malavasi decided to part company with Goody Goody Productions. This presented a huge problem Jacques Fred Petrus. He needed someone to produce Change’s fifth album Change Of Heart.

Having asked the opinion of some of his closest lieutenants, Jacques Fred Petrus decided to bring onboard Minneapolis based Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Their Flyte Time Productions was responsible for  the success of Cherryl Lynn and the S.O.S. Band. Jacques Fred Petrus thought that they could rejuvenate Change’s fortunes. So they were chosen to produce Change Of Heart.  

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis headed back to Minneapolis, where the pair began work on Change Of Heart. They cowrote four tracks, while Timmy Allen wrote the other four tracks. These eight tracks became Change Of Heart.

Recording was split between Umbi Recording Studio, Modena and New York. Just like three of the previous four albums, the backing tracks were recorded in Italy. Again, Umbi Recording Studio was chosen. Then when the latest lead vocals were recorded, Rick Brennan, Deborah Cooper, Robin Clark  and Vincent Henry headed to Media Sound in New York. Other sessions took place at Creation Audio in New York. Then mastering took place at Atlantic Studios. Only then, was the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ produced Change Of Heart complete. Now Change were ready to make a comeback.

Most of the reviews of Change Of Heart were positive. Critics pointed towards Change Of Heart, It Burns Me Up, You Are My Melody, Warm and Say You Love Me Again as the highlights of Change’s fifth album. Unsurprisingly, these tracks feature on Reach For The Sky-Anthology. However, some critics, who were in the minority, weren’t won over by Change Of Heart. They felt Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ sound was formulaic. However, their formula had proved successful so far.

When Change Of Heart was released on April 23rd 1984, it reached 102 in the US Billboard 200, and fifteen in the US R&B charts. This was an improvement on This Is Your Time. Change Of Heart reached thirty-four in Britain, and twenty-four in Holland. Change’s fortunes looked as if they were improving.

Especially when Change of Heart reached number seven on the US R&B charts, and number seventeen on the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. It looked like Change were back. Then It Burns Me Up stalled at sixty-one on the US R&B charts. Things got worse for Change when neither You Are My Melody, nor Say You Love Me Again charted in America. Change’s comeback had been brief. 

Turn On Your Radio.

For Change, change was on the cards, yet again. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis didn’t return for Change’s sixth album. Timmy Allen  who wrote four tracks for Change Of Heart, and co-produced three tracks, returned. He was co-producer, with Jacques Fred Petrus producing what became Turn On Your Radio.

Timmy Allen played a major part on Turn On Your Radio. He wrote five of the eight tracks, and cowrote Oh What A Feeling. Jacques Fred Petrus cowrote the other two tracks. Then the backing tracks to these songs were recorded in Milan.

Morning Studios, Milan was where the session musicians that made up Change, laid down the eight backing tracks. Once they were complete, the vocals were recorded in New York.

Again, Atlantic Recording Studios, New York was where Rick Brennan, Robin Clark, Deborah Cooper and Vincent Henry recorded their vocals. Then Turn On Your Radio was scheduled for release in April 1985. Before that, critics had their say on Turn On Your Radio.

Critics were far from impressed by Turn On Your Radio. Many savaged the album, calling Change’s weakest offering. A few critics, found some positives, picking Let’s Go Together, Mutual Attraction and Oh What A Feeling as the album’s highlights. This trio of tracks makes its way onto Reach For The Sky-Anthology, and are the highlights of Turn On Your Radio, which proved to be Change’s swan-song.

Before the release of Turn On Your Radio, Let’s Go Together was released as a single, but stalled at fifty-six in the US R&B charts, and thirty-three on the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. This didn’t bode well for the release of Turn On Your Radio.

When Turn On Your Radio was released in April 1985, it didn’t even make it into the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment. So was reaching just sixty-four in the US R&B charts. A small crumb of comfort was Turn On Your Radio reaching thirty-nine in the British charts. After that, it was all downhill from there.

Change released three further singles Oh What A Feeling, Mutual Attraction and Examination. None of them troubled the American charts. This marked the end of the road for Change.

Just over a year after the commercial and critical failure of Turn On Your Radio, Jacques Fred Petrus died. That looked like it was the end of the road for Change. They had released six albums between 1981 and 1985, and enjoyed a degree of commercial success.

Change’s most successful album was their debut album, The Glow Of Love, which was certified gold. So was Their million selling single A Lover’s Holiday. Then there’s six consecutive number one singles in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. From The Glow Of Love to it had been a roller coaster ride. Change’s third album Sharing Your Love. However, nothing lasts forever.

From 1983s This Is Your Time, to 1985s Turn On Your Radio, Change didn’t enjoy the same commercial success. Despite trying different vocalists, producers and songwriters, commercial success was sporadic. Similarly, the quality of music on Change’s last three album ranged from great and good, to the bad and indifferent. That’s why the best way to discover Change’s music is via a compilation.

Reach For The Sky-Anthology, which was released on 4th December 2015 by Glasgow based label, Groove Line Records. They’ve compiled  Reach For The Sky-Anthology, the definitive Change compilation. It features singles, 12” mixes and even a trio of unreleased tracks. This includes Hold Tight featuring the vocal prowess of Diva Gray, plus Keep On It and It’s A Girl’s Affair, which feature vocal masterclasses from Jocelyn Brown. These tracks are three more reasons to buy Reach For The Sky-Anthology.

This lovingly compiled compilation, is a fitting reminder of Change, one of the most successful studio bands of the post disco era. Their music was soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly. Much of it, is also timeless, and sounds as good in 2015, as it did back in the early eighties. That becomes apparent as you enjoy the two disc, twenty-eight track extravaganza that is Reach For The Sky-Anthology,  the definitive Change compilation.

CHANGE-REACH FOR THE SKY AN ANTHOLOGY.

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