The Delfonics – The Delfonics (1970)

Bell Records SBLL 137

Soul music is a big part of my record collection, and lately when visiting vinyl fares I’ve picked up quite a few classic singles and albums including many purchases just based on a name or record label. Bell Records in the early 1970’s housed some of the best exponents of soul vocal harmony groups, many from the USA who did made a breakthrough into the UK.

This album typifies what I mean.

I bought this in 2016 for £4 at a vinyl fare at Wolverhampton based on it had a classic hit single, I knew the name of the group, and it was on Bell Records. Although it didn’t chart in the UK (US #61 Hot 100, #4 R&B Chart) it was recorded late 1969 early 1970 and this eponymous named album was released in the UK whilst they were signed to Philly Groove label in the USA.

Formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1965 and originally known as the Four Gents, the Delfonics classic lineup featured:  William Hart (born January 17, 1945, Washington, D.C.), Wilbert Hart (born October 19, 1947, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Randy Cain (born Herbert Randal Cain III May 2, 1945, Philadelphia; died April 9, 2009, Maple Shade Township, New Jersey).

Side 1

Side 1 starts with the classic single release “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), a UK #22 and US #10 hit, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. Produced by Thom Bell it has a familiar sound like other contemporary groups such as The Chi-Lites, Drifters, Stylistics and Detroit Spinners. “Funny Feeling” is a more funky feeling almost Motown/Northern Soul sound with high lead falsetto vocals and harmonies. “When You Get Right Down To It” slows the tempo down and could be mistaken for a Sytlistics track, there is the full orchestra of strings and brass. Written by Barry Mann who was a part of the successful songwriting partnership with his wife, Cynthia Weil. Some of his classics include “You’ve lost That loving Feeling” and also “Saturday Night At The Movies” for the Drifters. “Baby I Love You” takes us back to the style of “Didn’t I” but each line of the verses delivered in a staccato style. Side 1 finishes with a fantastic mainly Instrumental track called “Delfonics Theme (How Could You)”. On first listen you could feel its crying out for lyrics, but actually this has everything, Drums, Strings, Brass, Organ, and the orchestra takes you on a journey and right at the end the Delfonics suddenly add a small vocal to fade out.

Side 2

Side 2 starts with “Trying To Make A Fool Of Me” Very uptempo and has a more soul/pop feel but still has the classic falsetto vocals, and lead seems to switch between all group members. “Down Is Up, Up is Down”, is a classic Northern Soul sound and I can see everyone up on the dance floor for this one. “Over and Over” is an attempt at a ballad and well executed. “Think About Me” has a more pop sound. “I Gave To You” finishes the album. Almost 6 minutes of pure vocal gymnastics. A last dance song. The album as a whole is worth my risk of choosing on the basis of one track.

Back of sleeve

 

 

The writing credits are mainly Thom Bell and vocalist William Hart, who on two tracks is the sole writer and of course the one Barry Mann track.

The Delfonics line up began to change as of 1971 when Randy Cain left and set up the group Blue Magic much in the same vain as the Stylistics. By 1975 because of various changes including Thom Bell moving to produce other artists the hits seemed to dry up and there were two versions of the Delfonics at the same time.

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Doctor! Doctor! (12″ Extended Version)- The Thompson Twins (1984)

This is the first 12″ single that I’m featuring in my blog. Re-mixes or extended versions were often produced and played in nightclubs. I sometimes favoured the long versions of singles over the standard radio 7″ single. ” 

Arista Records TWINS 123

Doctor! Doctor! is a synth pop song performed by the band called the Thompson Twins. The name was taken from the names of the detectives Thomson and Thompson in the comic strip “The adventures of Tintin”. There were several incarnations of the band with a variety of members, but the most successful and best known were from 1982 to 1986 – Tom Bailey – guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals (1977–1993) , Alannah Currie – drums, percussion, vocals (1981–1993) and Joe Leeway – congas, percussion, keyboards, vocals (1981–1986)

Front of 12″ Single Sleeve (UK)

The 7″ single version was the 4th of five top ten hits which reached #3 in a 12 week run on the UK charts, with combined sales of over 250,000 copies earned the band silver disc status. The track was taken from their album “Into The Gap” which sold over 5 million copies worldwide. At the time they had already had three #1 tracks on the US Billboard Dance chart. This reached #18 on the US dance chart but just missed out on the top ten Billboard pop chart (hot 100) peaking at #11. It also peaked at #11 in Germany and Switzerland.

Reverse of sleeve. Art Direction by Alannah

The 12″ version has a prominent synthesizer solo intro of 2 minutes before the vocals actually kick in with rendition of the chorus, then the first verse and follows the pattern of the 7″ version, until a synth drum and percussion instrumental break at 5mins that lasts for 50 secs, then it mixes into 7″ single’s instrumental bridge, followed by another chorus and verse repeat to fade. 

The 12″ version has a prominent synthesizer solo intro of 2 minutes before the vocals actually kick in with rendition of the chorus, then the first verse and follows the pattern of the 7″ version, until a synth drum and percussion instrumental break at 5mins that lasts for 50 secs, then it mixes into 7″ single’s instrumental bridge, followed by another chorus and verse repeat to fade. 

B-Side is an alternate instrumental version of Doctor! Doctor!

The B-side is called Nurse Shark, it lasts 4:05 and is probably the most unusual way of filling a B-side. It’s actually the instrumental backing track of the A-side but a slower/slowed down version, almost an experimental way of trying out the sounds in a different way. The Bass guitar is a clearly featured instrument as well as the synth drum, cymbals, keyboards and various percussion sounds.

Well worth a listen in its own right.

 

Manchild – Neneh Cherry (1989)

CIRCA Records YR 30

Neneh Cherry was born Neneh Mariann Karlsson in Stockholm, Sweden, moved to the USA and later moved to London, England when aged 14. Reading her biography her background indicates she is from a very artistic/musical family and her own musical diversity includes such genres as Punk, Rock, Dub, Alternative dance, Pop, Rap, Jazz, Electronic and Hip Hop. She has collaborated with several artists and contributed too many bands. The track was co-written by Neneh and her husband Cameron McVey and Robert Del Naja. Although a big hit single it did not chart in the US where it was released via Virgin Records. In the UK it peaked at #5 in week 3 of its 10 week run on the top 75. It reached the top ten in at least 6 other European territories and New Zealand, plus a minor hit in Australia.   

Front cover of the sleeve for Manchild

Neneh considers herself a singer who does a bit of rapping. This has some good vocal moments but she gives a fine rapping performance. The track was featured on her top ten album (UK #2) “Raw like sushi”. The photograph for that album cover was taken by renowned photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who’s name appears in very small lettering on the back of the sleeve of the single in the bottom left hand corner. Neneh says he has been a very big influence on her. 

Neneh is still recording and colloborating in projects both in music and arts & design.

Airport – The Motors (1978)

Virgin Records VS 219

Back in the day this single was always being played. One of my go to tracks that has me both singing (very badly) and wanting to hit the dance floor. A commercial pop song from what was a new group with band members more associated with new wave/rock. This managed to get a Silver disc in the UK for its sales which in the summer of 1978 were more than 250,000 copies. It raced up the charts taking 4 weeks to reach the top ten, finally peaking at #4 in a 13 week run.

The single also charted in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and in Sweden where it also reached #4 in an 18 week run. At the time Sweden produced their chart fortnightly.

The Motors were active from 1977 until 1982. They performed for John Peel on his National Radio One nighttime show “The John Peel Sessions” in March 1977. He was well known for giving many bands their big break, mainly those that wouldn’t normally get played on the radio. They signed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Record label and did another session for John Peel in September 1977 and released a single called “Dancing The Night Away”. It was a modest beginning peaking at #42 in the UK chart.

Original plain white paper sleeve was replaced with a cardboard one.

At the time of this recording the band members were: Nick Garvey (b. 1951 Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England) – Vocals/Guitar. Andy McMaster  (b.1947 Glasgow, Scotland)  Bass/Vocals/Keyboards.
Ricky Slaughter (real name Richard Wernham) – Drums. Bram Tchaikovsky (b. 1950 Lincolnshire, England real name Peter Bramell – Guitar and vocals.

Cold love the B-side is a live recording lasting 5mins and 5 secs. 

B-Side live recording of Cold Love


A track driven by various guitar sounds which is rough around the edges and different from the polished pop of the A- side, and probably more of a sense of what sort of band they were. It was recorded at The Marquee Club a famous live jazz and rock venue in London in the 60’s and 70’s.

The single is in good condition and in the top ten of most played on my iPod.

Four From Toyah (An Alternative Play Record) – Toyah (1981)

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Safari Records TOY 1

Toyah Willcox could never be described as boring. Born in 1958, and a native of my home city Birmingham she is a TV presenter, Film and TV Actress, Author, but mainly known as a producer, writer and performer of music. Her acting career was carved out locally in the mid 1970’s as the punk revolution was taking place. Her dyed hair as a young teenager made her a focus of attention. In 1984 she started with the late Sir Lawrence Olivier in a TV Film “The Ebony Tower”

Toyah wanted to add another string to her bow with her acting career in full flow. Having moved to London towards the later 1970’s she began asking around if anyone needed a singer and eventually was introduced to Joel Bogan, other musicians were auditioned and the band were collectively named Toyah.

In 1979 they began recording what they described as an alternative play otherwise known as a 6 track EP called Sheep Farming In Barnet. After releasing studio albums, live recordings, and EP’s this Alternative Play with 4 tracks started to climb the UK chart, and appearances on Top of the Pops catapulted Toyah into the top ten for the first time reaching #4 in a 14 week run. Unusually this single plays at 33 ⅓ rather than 45 rpm.

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Front Cover – Four From Toyah photo’s credited to Geoff Howes and acknowleged on the B -side of the record label

The main track played on radio was “It’s A Mystery”. The delivery in parts highlighted a slight lisp, however this doesn’t detract from this excellent recording of punk/new wave/gothic rock.

This was so different from earlier single releases and written by a friend Keith Hale and Toyah didn’t feel the song was right for her or her growing army of fans but the record company asked to record it.

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Back Cover showing the titles of all the tracks

Its success may have come down to being more commercial as the other tracks featured on this AP are more non mainstream avant-garde “Revelations”, “War Boys” and “Angels and Demons”.

It’s A Mystery is included on Toyah’s most successful album “Anthem” which made #2 in the UK.

The line up at the time was Toyah Willcox – vocals, Joel Bogen – guitar, Phil Spalding – bass, Nigel Glockler – drums, and Adrian Lee – keyboards. Another two top ten hits came in quick succession. This was followed by “Four More From Toyah” the title track being “Good Morning Universe” reaching #14

Toyah Willcox is still active today recording albums and colaborating with other artists. She has been married for 30 years to Robert Fripp who is a musician, writer and guitarist. His Rock background has had him collaborate with dozens of well-known artists and was a member of the band King Crimson.

 

You Can Do Magic – Limmie & Family Cookin’ (1972)

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AVCO Records 6105 019

This classic UK single was picked up for 50p in 2015 at a pop-up event at a Craft Beer Pub in the centre of Birmingham, combining my two favourite things, music and beer. The event although a one-off was bought to my attention by a friend. Lots of singles and albums to choose from, and the dozen or so purchases I made, all of them were in very good condition.

You Can Do Magic was recorded in 1972 by Limmie Snell and his twin sisters Jimmie and Martha Snell. Born in Alabama the family moved to Canton, Ohio. When he was eleven he began recording solo material for various record company’s. Having signed to AVCO Embassy Records the family recorded together and had 3 UK hits two of them reaching the top ten. It took until the summer of 1973 for this record to peak at #3 in a 13 week run on the UK chart. It was their only US hit reaching the dizzy heights of #84 on the Billboard Pop Chart. In the pre-disco era this has a Motown – Northern Soul quality to it which isn’t surprising as it was written by Sandy Linzer known for Breakin Down The Walls Of Heartbreak and writing for the soul group Odyssey in late 1970’s early 1980’s. 

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B-Side “Spider”

The following year their second top ten hit “A Walkin’ Miracle” reached #6 with a 10 week run on the chart.

The group parted ways in the mid 1970’s but Limmie carried on recording and writing, and settled for a time in the UK, however he passed away aged 41 in 1986 of renal failure and is buried in Ohio. His Son Limmie Jr records music today in Europe. The unusual named track “Spider” is the B-side a fast piece of funk / pop.

Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe – Barry White (1974)

In 2015, during a trip to London, a rack of vinyl outside a store called Flashback caught my eye. Inside it was a haven for any lover of old records. I came away with several singles.

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PYE International Records 7N 25661

I don’t see myself as a collector as such, but the odd occasion over the last 3 years I’ve picked up a few bargains, mainly based on finding songs that have stood the test of time and I’d wished I’d been able to purchase at the time of release.

Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe was a 1974 release, right at the beginning of me being able buy my own records with pocket-money I had saved up. When you are 12/13 years old and from a poorer background than most, being able to purchase even one or two records a month was a dream. So finding this record made my day.

Barry White was born in 1944, Galveston, Texas, USA. Mr Soul, Mr Smooth however you want to describe him, had a career based around a distinctive bass-baritone voice and romantic image. Although he was releasing music from the early 1960’s, his break through year was 1973.

This was Barry’s third UK chart success and the first of five top ten hits reaching #8, however it became a huge hit in the US hitting the top spot on the Billboard hot 100 pop chart and R&B chart. The follow-up single You’re the First, the Last, My Everythingbecame his only UK #1.

This track has so many elements, spoken introduction, orchestral backing overlayed with a dance rhythm and a smooth soul delivery. The B-side Just Not Enough is primarily an instrumental version of the A side which highlights the percussion and strings.

A total of 7 singles and 7 albums reached #1 on the US R&B charts. He was also a 3 time Grammy award winner.

Sadly due to ill-health often due to being overweight and having high blood pressure, whilst waiting for a kidney transplant in 2003 Barry passed away due to a stroke in Los Angeles, USA. His rich voice lives on through his recordings.

I was out with friends recently and in the background this song was played, a reminder of the quality of Mr White’s work.