SUN-WANNA MAKE LOVE (COME FLICK MY BIC)/SUN-POWER AND SUNBURN.

SUN-WANNA MAKE LOVE (COME FLICK MY BIC)/SUN-POWER AND SUNBURN.  

During the seventies, Dayton, Ohio was the funk capital of America. The region produced some of the greatest and most successful funk bands of the era. This included Funkadelic, Parliament, The Gap Band, The Ohio Players, Lakeside, Zapp, Slave and Platypus. However, they weren’t alone. Sun were another of Ohio’s most successful and prolific funk bands.

Between 1976 and 1984, Sun released eight albums. Sun’s most successful albums, were their first three albums; 1976s Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic), 1977s Sun-Power and 1978s Sunburn. These three albums were recently rereleased on BGO Records on two discs. This is the perfect introduction to Sun, who in 1976, whose story began at Roosevelt High School in Dayton in the mid-sixties.

That’s when Byron Byrd who would go on to found Sun, started playing alto saxophone. Having mastered the alto-saxophone, Byron Byrd had founded his first group The Ohio Majestics. Soon though, The Ohio Majestics became the Overnight Low Band. 

Quickly, the Overnight Low Band gained the reputation as one of Ohio’s top live bands. This lead to the Overnight Low Band recording singles for James Brown’s King label and Chicago’s Chess Records. 

Having been encouraged to record a session for King by label vice-president Henry Glover, The Witch Doctor was released on the Deluxe label in 1972, but didn’t chart. The following year 1973, Chess released Get To Your Soul, but like The Witch Doctor, failed to chart. Having learned from the experience, the following year Byron Byrd and the rest of the Overnight Low Band’s luck changed.

1974 saw the Overnight Low Band embark on a national tour, playing mostly colleges and universities. This was the Overnight Low Band’s chance to join Ohio’s funk elite. However, even then, there was a disappointment in store, when three members decided to jump ship and join an early lineup of The Ohio Players. However, the Overnight Low Band was about to change.

The Overnight Low Band had been booked to open for Mandrill, in the Ohio Theatre Columbus. That night, producer Beau Ray Fleming was backstage. He had produced Mandrill and Jon Lucien’s 1970 album I Am Now. However, Beau Ray Fleming had decided to stay backstage, rather than watch the opening act. That was until he heard the reception the the Overnight Low Band received.

Beau Ray Fleming decided to see what the fuss was about. The audience were in raptures, and the Overnight Low Band hadn’t played a note. This wasn’t the usual reception a support band received. So as the Overnight Low Band started their set, Beau rushed from Mandrill’s dressing room into theatre and watched their show. By the time he took his seat, the Overnight Low Band had won the audience over with their uber funky music. Straight away Beau Ray Fleming was hooked. Instantly, he realised that they were a talented band. He knew had to speak to them later opn.

At a party after the show, Beau introduced himself and the following year 1975, signed the Overnight Low Band to a production deal. Before that, Beau and the Overnight Low Band began looking at an alternative name for the group.

By late 1975, the Overnight Low Band’s search for a new name was still ongoing. Then, totally out of the blue, someone suggested Celestial Sun. Beau liked part of the name, so when trumpeter and trombone player John Wagner suggested dropping the Celestial part, Sun was born, and the Overnight Low Band became a footnote in Ohio funk history. With a new name, Beau started looking for a record deal for the newly named Sun. Then Beau met one of his music industry contacts Larkin Arnold, who had a new job at Capitol Records.

Larkin Arnold was something of a music industry veteran, who had just been installed as head of Capitol Records newly formed music department. Together, Beau, Larkin and Sun concluded a deal which saw Sun at last, signed to a major label. With their luck changing, another DJ and Drayton native Shad O’Shea entered their lives, offering Sun a deal which meant they could record their debut album on a budget.

Shad O’Shea, or to use his real name Howard Lovdal had formed his Counterpart record label in 1963 and since then, Ohio bands had recorded there. So, rather than record at a bigger studio, the decision was made to record their debut album at Counterpart Creative Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio. The seven piece Sun, comprising Byron Byrd, John Wagner, bassist Hollis Melson, drummer Kym Yancey, guitarist Shawn Sandridge, percussionist Chris Jones, and Dean Hummons on keyboards set about recording their debut album in early 1976. Nine songs were recorded and they would become their debut album Live On, Dream On. However, there would be further changes to the album after its release.

For their debut single, the title-track Live On, Dream On was chosen as Sun’s debut single from Live On, Dream On. When the single was released it failed to chart and the album their debut album Live On, Dream On wasn’t making much of an impact. Things changed, and so would the album title, after the release of the second single. 

Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic) was chosen as the second single from Live On, Dream On. The single started climbing the US charts, reaching number seventy-six in the US Billboard 100, number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts and number fifteen in the US Dance Charts. This successful run was helped along by a promotional campaign by the makers of Bic pens. With Live On, Dream On also climbing the US charts, Capitol decided to reissue the album as Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic). 

Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic).

This and the unorthodox promotional campaign gave the album the boost it needed. After this, Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic) climbed all the way to number fifty-four in the US R&B Charts. This wasn’t surprising.

Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic) oozed quality, and was a really polished and accomplished album. This wasn’t surprising, as Sun were a tight, talented and experienced band. No wonder. They had spent several years serving their musical apprenticeship. Now it was about to pay off.

Sun were also a versatile band. There were two sides to their music, one funky and the other soulful. Sun demonstrate their funky side as Wanna Make Love opens. The album almost explodes into life with the funk drenched Live On, Dream On. Given its title, this is apt. It could just as easily by Sun’s theme song. The tempo might drop on Tell the People, but it’s another course in this nine course veritable funky feast. They’re Calling For Me sees Sun’s rhythm and horn sections driving the track along while Byron pleas for fans to “buy your ticket, get your seat.” Once listeners are sitting comfortably, Sun show another side to their music.

My Women is  is a slow, soulful and very beautiful ballad. It shows another side to Sun, and is a paean to the many roles women fill in life. It’s one of the best tracks Byron Byrd wrote on Wanna Make Love.  However, the best known songs on Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic) was anthemic title-track. It’s now regarded as a funk classic, and one of Sun’s finest hour. Having said that, there’s much more to Sun than one track .

Love Is Never Sure is another slow ballad, which has a gloriously dramatic introduction and one of the most heartfelt vocals on Wanna Make Love. It’s accompanied by horns that rasp gently add to the emotive, beautiful sound. The Show Is Over has a similar sound and feel to Love Is Never Sure. Byron’s weary vocal is accompanied by tender harmonies, keyboards and subtly, braying horns. They provide a gorgeous accompaniment to Byron’s vocal and play their part in what is one of the most emotive, soulful songs on Sun’s debut album. Similarly soulful It’s Killing Me, where Sun seem to have been inspired by Stevie Wonder. Even the chord progressions are similar to some of those on Stevie Wonder’s early seventies album.  After this, the show is nearly over.

Give Your Love To Me closes Wanna Make Love and is and is a slower, but still funky track. A piano and Sun’s horn section play important parts in the arrangement. Byron’s vocal is punchy, with tight sweeping harmonies accompanying him as Sun close their debut album Wanna Make Love on an uber-funky high. 

It’s somewhat ironic that it took what was almost a guerilla marketing campaign changed Sun’s fortunes. Sun had talent, and shouldn’t have had to rely in gimmicks. Sadly, talent alone, it seemed, wasn’t enough for a band to make a commercial breakthrough in 1977. However, thanks to the guerilla marketing campaign, Sun’s career was off and running.

Without it, Sun could’ve easily resulted joining the ranks of bands who release just one album.  However,  Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic), which was a game-changer.

Somewhat belatedly,  record buyers discovered Sun’s debut album , Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic). It was an accomplished debut from Sun, where a tight, talented and experienced band, showcase the two sides to their music. One side was the good time funk sound, the other deeply soulful.  This proved popular among record buyers. So Capitol Records believing that their Sun would shine bright, got Sun to begin work on their second album Sun-Power. 

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Sun-Powder.

After the success of Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic), Sun were keen to record their sophomore album Sun-Power. By the time, eight new songs had been written, Sun’s lineup had changed.

For Sun’s sophomore album Sun-Power, an expanded lineup of the band entered the recording studio. Sun’s number had swelled from seven to ten. The new recruits included trumpeter, saxophonist and percussionist Ernie Kinsley; percussionist and trombonist Gary King percussionist; and guitarist Bruce Hastell. These new recruits joined Sun in time for the group to enter Counterpart Recording Studios with producer Beau Ray Fleming. 

For their second album Sun-Power, Sun recorded eight songs. Beau Ray Fleming and Byron Byrd produced Sun-Power, which featured the new, expanded lineup of Sun. Once Sun-Power was completed, Capitol Records gave the album priority, believing Sun were a group who had a big future.

Prior to the release of Sun-Power in 1977, the album was well received by critics. Many critics were forecasting that Sun were about to join the ranks of Dayton funk royalty. They certainly had the talent. However, could they sell enough albums?

When Sun-Power was released, it fared better than Wanna Make Love, reaching number thirty-nine in the US R&B Charts. The lead single Boogie Bopper was the only single to chart, reaching number fifty in the US R&B Charts. We’re So Hot and Just A Minute of Your Time both failed to chart. At least, Sun were making progress, in their journey to joining Ohio’s funk elite. However, was Sun-Power a similar combination of funk and soul as Sun’s debut album Wanna Make Love?

Opening Sun-Power is the playful Light Me Up, with Sun’s expanded horn section punctuating this mid-tempo funky track. There’s a different sound to Wanna Make Love, with Sun sounding even tighter and more polished. The horns are punchier, the rhythm section funkier and the harmonies that accompany Byron’s vocal sweeter. Boogie Bopper sees Sun at their funkiest best, with the rhythm and blazing horns driving this slice of good time funk along. If you were to cross elements of Kool and The Gang with Earth, Wind and Fire this is what you’d get. There’s a change on We’re So Hot, with Sun delivering their very first instrumental. With the guitars and rhythm section driving the arrangement along, ferocious stabs of growling horns join the mix, and a driving, slab of funk unfolds at breakneck speed. Sometimes, the track heads in the direction of jazz-funk, but mostly, this track has made in Ohio stamped all over it. Conscience sees the funk of the previous tracks continue, but some delicious harmonies added to the equation. This is reminiscent of several tracks from Wanna Make Love and is an opportunity for Sun to showcase their harmonic skills. After four funky tracks, Sun decide to change things around, returning to their more soulful side on the next two tracks.

Time Is Passing is a slower dramatic track where Sun revisit their soulful side. The track features some of the best lyrics on Sun-Power. It offers another, alternative perspective on the subject of time and absence in relationships. Rather than absence making the heart grow fonder, Byron Byrd wonders whether absence can make the heart restless? Here, Sun get another opportunity to deliver some stunning harmonies, while Byron delivers a vocal full of confusion, guilt and regret. Strings add to the emotion, while the harmonies add to the song’s beauty. The result is one of the highlights of Sun-Power. Just A Minute of Your Time has a Philly Soul sound from the initial bursts of growling, rasping horns. Byron’s vocal and the sweeping harmonies add the Philly Sound. Add in the Hammond organ and the rhythm section, complete with its dramatic, crashing cymbals and you begin to wonder if this is a hidden Philly Soul gem? 

After two soulful tracks, Sun return to the funky side of their music, with Organ Grinder is a mid-tempo funk-laden track that’s also laden with double entendres, and introduces a tougher, edgier side to Sun’s music Closing Sun-Power is another “relationship song,” sung from the point of view of a man whose partner took his love for granted. Byron’s vocal is full of anger, bitterness and resentment, as his relationship lies in tatters. Reinforcing his emotions are growling, angry horns, stabs of Hammond organ and soaring harmonies that accompany Byron’s embittered vocal. Given that this track fuses the two sides of Sun’s music and is one of the best tracks on Sun-Power, it’s the perfect way to close Sun-Power.

By Sun-Power, Sun were evolving as a group. Although Sun-Power was just the second album in Sun’s eight album musical adventure, Sun had already joined Ohio’s funk elite. They were ready to rub shoulders with the great and good of Ohio funk. Sun were no one hit wonder.

Not only did Sun pickup where they left off on Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic), they surpassed its quality on Sun-Power. The newly expanded lineup of Sun was a masterstroke, and filled out the band’s already impressive sound as they switched between funk and soul. The future was looking bright for Sun as their thoughts turned to their third album, Sunburn.

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Sunburn.

After two successful albums, Capitol Records must have been happy with the progress of Sun. Everything seemed to be going to plan. That was until 1978.

By then, there was dissent within Sun’s ranks. Some of the members of Sun began expressing their displeasure about the future of the group. It became increasingly likely that there was going to be a casualty. Or six. 

Sun it seems wasn’t a democracy. Producer Beau Ray Fleming, not founder Byron Byrd. promptly dismissed six members of the band. This included Chris Jones, John Hampton Wagner, Dean Hummons, Shawn Sandbridge and Hollis Melson. However, two of those who left Sun decided to form a new band.

Chris Jones and Shaun Sandbridge went on to form Dayton, a rival funk band. While it didn’t scale the heights as some of Dayton funk bands, Dayton enjoyed a degree of success. Sun however, were about to begin a new era.

There was no way Sun would limp on as a quartet. Instead, new names joined the band. This included guitarist and vocalist Keith Cheatham; bassist, saxophonist and vocalist Curtis Hooks and keyboardist Sonnie Talbert. Joining the horn section were Robert Arnold and Nigel Boulton. With the new lineup in place, Sun began work on their third album Sunburn.

This time around, Sun headed to Cyberteknics Recording Studio, Dayton. This was another change. Sun’s first two albums had been recorded at Counterpart Creative Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio. Not this time though.

It was if it was out with the old, and in with the new for Sunburn. Eight songs were recorded, and produced by Beau Ray Fleming and Byron Byrd. Sunburn showcased Sun’s new slick, polished sound. This new sound, it seemed, marked the start of a new era for Sun.

The new era started with the most successful album of Sun’s career. Sunburn reached twenty-one in the US R&B chart, and became Sun’s first album to enter the US Billboard 200. It reached number sixty-nine, and in the process, sold over 500,000 copies. This meant Sunburn was certified gold. For the six former members of Sun sacked by producer Beau Ray Fleming, it must have been a bittersweet moment.

Especially, when Sun enjoyed two hit singles from Sunburn. The first was Dance (Do What You Wanna Do), which stalled at number ninety-two in the US R&B chart. While Dance (Do What You Wanna Do) was a minor hit single; Sun Is Here reached eighteen in the US R&B chart. Meanwhile, the new lineup of Sun were enjoying the fruits of the most successful album of their career.

Sunburn began with a cover of You Are My Sunshine, before Sun launched into the single Sun Is Here. It was followed by another single, Dance (Do What You Wanna Do) a deliciously smooth fusion of soul and funk. Harmonies and horns augment the pulsating rhythm section as some of the best vocals on Sunburn add the finishing touch. Then Sun change things around.

When You Put Your Hand In Mine finds Sun at their soulful best on this beautiful ballad. It features one of Byron Byrd’s best vocals on Sunburn. The quality continues on the Byron Byrd penned You’re The One. Aided and abetted by a sultry saxophone and pulsating backdrop, a truly irresistible paean unfolds. From there, Sun change tack.

Genre-melting describes Long Drawn Out Thang. It finds Sun fusing elements of soul, funk and even a hint of disco. The result is a track that’s funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly, and reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire. The quality continues on You Don’t Have To Hurry. It’s another ballad, and features Sun at their best. Elements of funk and jazz play their part in a song that’s smooth and soulful. So is I Had A Choice a wistful ballad full of sadness and regret. Byron Byrd delivers the lyrics as he’s lived them. Soon, though, Sun prepare to take their leave.

Sun Of A Gun closes Sunburn. It’s another song that showcases Sun Mk III. They shine brightly on Sun Of A Gun. Funky and soulful, Sun’s music is much more polished. Any remaining rough edges have been smoothed away, as they showcase their soulful side. At the heart of the song’s success are the tight, soulful harmonies and an intricate arrangement that heads in the direction of funk. By then, Sun aren’t sparing the hooks. They’re determined to leave listeners wanting more, and succeed in doing so. 

By 1978, Sun were on a roll. Every album surpassed the qualiyut of the previous one. While Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic) was an accomplished and polished debut, Sun came back even stronger on Sun-Power. This showcased Sun Mk. II.

Sun lineup had expanded from seven to ten. This filled out their already impressive sound, and resulted in the best album of their career, Sun-Power. That was until Sunburn. 

Incredibly, Sun rebuilt after produced Beau Ray Fleming sacked six members of the band. Despite this, Sun came back stronger, and recorded a career defining album, Sunburn. Not only was it Sun’s most successful album selling over 500,000 copies in America alone; but was Sun’s best album. 

Sunburn showcases the two sides of Sun. They were equally comfortable switching between soul and funk. While Sun were happy to kick loose on a funky workout; they were equally at home on a ballad. Indeed, some of the finest songs on Sunburn are ballads like You Put Your Hand In Mine, You’re The One and You Don’t Need To Hurry. Given Sun’s versatility, it was no surprise that they proved such a popular band. They appealed to both soul and funk fans. That had been the case since Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic). However, by Sunburn things had changed.

Any remaining rough edges had been smoothed away on Sunburn. Slick, smooth and polished described Sunburn. They were now one of the biggest funk bands from Dayton. Surely, their star was in the ascendancy now?

That seemed to be the case when Sun released Destination Sun in 1970. It reached number eighty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number seventeen in the US R&B charts. While Destination Sun became Sun’s most successful album, after that the sun went down on their career.

Although Sun released another four albums, they didn’t enjoy the same commercial success. What probably didn’t help, was the constant changes in lineup. By the time Sun released their final album Eclipse in 1984, Byron Byrd was the last man standing. The other original members of Sun had moved on. Even Beau Ray Fleming had left after Sun’s penultimate album Let There Be Sun. It was a far cry from Sun’s first three albums.

Sun’s most successful albums, were their first three albums; 1976s Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic), 1977s Sun-Power and 1978s Sunburn. These three albums were recently rereleased on BGO Records on two discs. This trio of albums are  the perfect introduction to Sun, and feature the best, and most successful albums of their eight year and eight album career.

SUN-WANNA MAKE LOVE (COME FLICK MY BIC)/SUN-POWER AND SUNBURN.

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