THE DETROIT EMERALDS-I THINK OF YOU: THE BEST OF THE WESTBOUND SINGLES 1969-1975.
The Detroit Emeralds-I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975.
Label: Westbound Records.
From the late sixties right through to the mid seventies, there was a resurgence in popularity in soul music on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the most popular groups and artists were from cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, New York and Philly. These cities were America’s soul capitals, and were home to some of the most successful independent record labels. This included Westbound Records which was founded by Armen Boladian in Detroit, in 1968.
A year later, in 1969, Armen Boladian signed The Detroit Emeralds who would spend the next nine years signed to Westbound Records. During the nine years they were signed to Westbound Records, The Detroit Emeralds released five albums between 1971 and 1978. However, the most successful period of The Detroit Emeralds’ career was between 1969 and 1974.
During that five-year period, The Detroit Emeralds enjoyed commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. In America and Britain, The Detroit Emeralds’ enjoyed hit singles between 1969 and 1974. Even when the hit singles dried up, The Detroit Emeralds continued to be a popular live draw on both sides of the Atlantic. That would be the case right up until they released their final album Let’s Get Together in 1978. Shortly after the album was released, The Detroit Emeralds ended their nine years stay at Westbound Records. It was the end of era.
The first five years of The Detroit Emeralds’ stay at Westbound Records was the most popular. It’s celebrated on I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975, which was recently released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It features the eleven singles and B-Sides The Detroit Emeralds released between 1969 and 1975. However, by the time The Detroit Emeralds signed to Westbound Records, they were already an experienced group whose story began in Little Rock, Arkansas.
That was home to the four Tilmon brothers, Ivory, Abrim, Raymond and Cleophus who decided to form a vocal harmony group in the early sixties. This group the brothers called The Emeralds. They spent the first few years playing in venues near their home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eventually, though, two of The Emeralds decided the time had come for the group to spread their wings and move to Detroit.
Two of the brothers, Raymond and Cleophus, decided they didn’t want to relocate to Detroit. This presented a problem for Ivory and Abrim Tilmon. Fortunately, their friend James Mitchell agreed to join The Emeralds and the trio made the move to Detroit.
Now based in Detroit, The Emeralds decided to change the group’s name to The Detroit Emeralds. This just happened to coincide with their first hit single.
Show Time was released in 1968, on the Ric Tic label and reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. This was the first of a trio of singles The Detroit Emeralds released for Ric Tic. Soon, Shades Down and (I’m An Ordinary Man) Take Me The Way I Am followed and these three singles marked the start of a ten-year musical journey for The Detroit Emeralds.Two years later, The Detroit Emeralds’ career began in earnest. Before that, their career stalled.
Having released three singles for Ric Tic, suddenly, the label was taken over by Motown. For The Detroit Emeralds, that was a disaster. Like so many other Ric Tic artists, The Detroit Emeralds were lost in the Motown machine. Soon, The Detroit Emerald realised that they had no future at Motown
After buying Ric Tac, Motown began a cull of artists and groups on their new acquisition’s roster. Every group apart from The Fantastic Four were released from their contract. For most of these artists and groups, this a disaster. Fortunately, a new label was waiting in the wings to sign The Detroit Emeralds, and they were keen to join a label that wanted to sign them.
This new label was Westbound Records, which signed The Detroit Emeralds in 1969. They were one of two groups who joined the label. The other was Funkadelic and these two labels would play an important part in the future of Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records.
For their Westbound Records’ debut, The Detroit Emeralds recorded Holding On which was penned by Norma Toney and Herman Weems. It’s a classy slice of mid-tempo soul that has made in Detroit written all over it. It’s a hint of what The Detroit Emeralds were capable of. On the B-Side was Things Are Looking Up an Abrim Tilmon composition. This was the start of his career as The Detroit Emeralds’ songwriter-in-chief.
When Holding On Was released, in late 1969, it failed to find the audience it deserved. This was a disappointment for The Detroit Emeralds, who would record their next single in another of America’s soul capitals…Memphis.
By the time The Detroit Emeralds came to record their sophomore single, Armen Boladian had come to an agreement with Memphis’ based Willie Mitchell. The great producer would produce some of Westbound Records’ artists, including The Detroit Emeralds.
When The Detroit Emeralds embarked upon a tour in 1970, the tour swung through Memphis. This was the perfect opportunity for The Detroit Emeralds record some songs with Willie Mitchell. The Detroit Emeralds added their vocals to rhythm tracks which were then sweetened with the addition of strings, and a variety of other instruments back in Detroit. This approach worked, and resulted in The Detroit Emeralds’ first hit single on Westbound Records.
The songs that were chosen for The Detroit Emeralds next single were I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You) and If I Lose Your Love. Both were penned by Abrim Tilmon and James Mitchell, who would occasionally write songs together. Mostly, though, Abrim Tilmon wrote by himself. Meanwhile, producer Willie Mitchell to work his magic, and sprinkle some his trademark Hi Records’ sound to If I Lose Your Love.
Both of the sides that The Detroit Emeralds recorded in Memphis were strong contenders to release as a single. Eventually, the uptempo I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You) was released as a single by Westbound Records in December 1969. Although Westbound Records were promoting I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You), DJs and retailers started contacting the label to say that it was the heart-wrenching ballad If I Lose Your Love which was attracting the attention of listeners and record buyers.
This prompted Westbound Records to repress the single and If I Lose Your Love was released as a single. When If I Lose Your Love was released as a single in January 1970, it reached number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts. This was The Detroit Emeralds first single for Westbound Records. Soon, one became two.
In May 1970, The Detroit Emeralds released the William Garrett composition I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You as a single. Again, the understated arrangement had a similar Memphis sound that is not unlike those on Al Green’s early albums. Tucked away on the B-Side was Just Now And Then, a beautiful ballad penned by Abrim Tilmon, who was coming of age as a songwriter.
When I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You was released as a single, it reached number forty-one in the US R&B Charts during the summer of 1970. The Detroit Emeralds were two for three when it came to singles. However, this was nothing compared to what would follow in 1971.
For their first single of 1971, The Detroit Emeralds released Do Me Right. It was penned by Abrim Tilmon and produced by Willie Mitchell and features the Hi Rhythm Section, horns and strings. They play their in a truly irresistible, hook-laden single that was a hit-in-waiting. Hidden away on the B-Side was the Abrim Tilmon penned ballad Just Now And The. It’s punctuated by subtle horns and strings, as The Detroit Emeralds do what they do best…balladry. Alas, it was consigned to the B-Side of Do Me Right.
When Do Me Right was released in January 1971 it reached forty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number seven in the US R&B Charts. This was by far The Detroit Emeralds’ biggest single, and the first to crossover into the US Billboard 100. The Detroit Emeralds’ career was starting to take off.
Buoyed by the success of Do Me Right, The Detroit Emeralds returned in June 1971 with Wear This Ring (With Love), a gorgeous soul-baring ballad written by Abrim Tilmon and James Mitchell, who successfully deploys Hi Rhythm Section, horns and strings. On the B-Side, was I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You). When Wear This Ring (With Love) was released, it reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100 and number eighteen in the US R&B Charts. This wasn’t the end of the success The Detroit Emerald enjoyed during 1971.
Later in 1971, The Detroit Emeralds released their debut album Do Me Right. It reached number 151 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. The Detroit Emeralds had enjoyed the most successful year of their career.
1972 saw The Detroit Emeralds picking up where they left off in 1972. Abrim Tilmon wrote You Want It, You Got It, which was essentially inspired by Do Me Right. With a memorable riff and a higher tempo, everything was in place for a hit single. Hidden away on the B-Side was Till You Decide To Come Home, another Abrim Tilmon composition. Horns and strings accompany a rueful, hurt-filled vocal on another song that was almost too good to be a B-Side.
When You Want It, You Got It was released in 1972, the Abrim Tilmon production reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. Hot on then heels of their most successful single was The Detroit Emeralds release their sophomore album You Want It, You Got It. It surpassed the success of their debut album Do Me Right, and reached seventy-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-seven in the US R&B Charts. It seemed that The Detroit Emeralds could do no wrong.
May 1972 saw The Detroit Emeralds return with a new single, Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms). It was penned and produced by Abrim Tilmon and arranged by Johnny Allen. On the B-Side was another Abrim Tilmon composition I’ll Never Sail The Sea Again. When Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms) was released in 1972, it reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US R&B Charts. This was the biggest hit of The Detroit Emeralds’ career.
Their final single of 1972s was the Feel The Need In Me, which was written and produced by Abrim Tilmon. The arrangement of the pop soul of Feel The Need In Me hinted at the songs they recorded in Memphis with producer Willie Mitchell. On the B-Side was the ballad There’s A Love For Me Somewhere which was written and produced by Abrim Tilmon. However, when it was released late in October 1972, Feel The Need In Me stalled at 110 in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. Little did The Detroit Emeralds realise, that they had just enjoyed the most successful year of their career.
After enjoying a year where they had released their most successful album and three hit singles, The Detroit Emeralds failed to replicate that success during 1973. Things started well when You’re Gettin’ A Little Too Smart was released in May 1973 and reached number ten in the US R&B Charts. However, The Detroit Emeralds’ third album I’m In Love, failed to replicate the success of its predecessors. It stalled at number 181 in the US Billboard 200, but reached number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts in 1973. This was a disappointment for The Detroit Emeralds.
So was the reissue of You Want It, You Got and then I Think Of You failing to chart. Things didn’t improve when the Sam Beatty and Tom Graczyk composition Lee stalled at a lowly seventy-nine in the US R&B Charts. This uptempo track featured the Abrim Tilmon penned ballad What’cha Gonna Wear Tomorrow on the B-Side. By then, all wasn’t well within The Detroit Emeralds, and they almost split-up later in 1973.
Things started to go wrong for The Detroit Emeralds during late 1973. By then, The Detroit Emeralds were touring Britain, and would do so again in 1974. Not long after the 1974 tour, The Detroit Emeralds split up.
When Abrim Tilmon left The Detroit Emeralds to pursue a solo career. He billed himself as AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds. There was only problem, James Mitchell had sung the lead vocal on The Detroit Emeralds’ biggest hits. Fortunately, Abrim Tilmon’s vocal wasn’t unlike James Mitchell’s and he sounded similar to his former bandmate.
The first AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds released was the uptempo Set It Out, which he wrote with Belda Baine and Louis Crane. On the B-Side was Abrim Tilmon’s composition I’m Qualified. However, Set It Out failed to find an audience and AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds’ debut single sunk without trace.
In 1975, AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds returned with their sophomore single Rosetta Stone. This was a song from Barry Blue’s 1973 debut album Hot Shots which he had written with Dave Jordan. Two years after it featured on Hot Shots, it became AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds second single. On the B-Side was Yes, I Know I’m In Love, which was penned by Belda Baine, Louis Crane, Ronald Lawrence and Abrim Tilmon. However, Rosetta Stone didn’t replicate the success of The Detroit Emeralds’ earlier single, and Abrim Tilmon’s career was at a crossroads. He wasn’t alone.
Meanwhile Ivory Tilmon and James Mitchell decided to form a new group, and added Carl Johnson of Chapter Eight. Straight away there was a problem, as they couldn’t use The Detroit Emeralds’ name. It had been copyrighted by Westbound Records, who now owned the name. So, when Ivory, James and Carl signed to Fee Records, they were called Now. However, neither Abrim Tilmon’ nor Now were enjoying much in the way of success.
As 1975 gave way to 1976, The Detroit Emeralds had enjoyed the most successful part of their career. They released nine singles and three albums for Westbound Records between late 1969 and 1974. During that period, Abrim Tilmon was The Detroit Emeralds’ songwriter-in-chief and James Mitchell took charge of lead vocal on the majority of their biggest hits. With the rest of The Detroit Emeralds adding harmonies, this was a successful combination and one that brought success their way.
Sadly, this commercial success lasted just five years before The Detroit Emeralds split-up. Ironically, neither AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds nor Now replicated the success they had previously enjoyed. The three members of The Detroit Emeralds could’ve enjoyed further success if they had stayed together in 1974. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
At least The Detroit Emeralds enjoyed nine US R&B hits and four hits in the US Billboard 100. These hits feature on I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975. They’re joined by AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds’ two singles, and a UK Edit of I Think Of You. This closes I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 which was recently released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s the first time all of The Detroit Emeralds’ Westbound singles and B-Sides released between 1969-1975 have featured on one compilation.
I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 is a welcome released and a reminder of one of the soul groups who enjoyed hits on both sides of the Atlantic between the late-sixties and mid-seventies. During the period that I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 covers, The Detroit Emeralds released what’s without doubt, the best music of their long career.
The Detroit Emeralds-I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975.