Friday, 28 May 2010

Norman Connors - Take It To The Limit / Mr. C - 1980, 1981 - Expansion

When cherished artists seem to lose their steam, lose their verve and fall into the stickiest of honey traps that is the cover version set, it's always nice to have a healthy and wealthy back-catalogue to rely on. For me, Norman Connors last set was not at all what i wanted to hear and it was one of those times where I shook my head with sadness and dug out an old album, wishing wistfully that he re-listen to these gems and like Austin Powers return to the past to get his mojo back. Expansion possibly had this in mind when cherry-picking these two wonderful Arista sets from 1980 and 1981 respectively. Norman Connors is, without any hesitation in my mind a true Master of his game. He was surely at the peak of his powers on Arista and anybody wishing to contest that should take one listen to "Melancholy Fire" and try to come up with a case against. On this song alone there is so much brilliance, creativity and design...a perfect fusion of soul meeting jazz. Glenn Jones has rarely sounded better and what a summertime anthem if ever I heard one. For this song alone I would unhesitatingly recommend a purchase of this two-fer.

Of course, it doesn't begin or end there. Miss Adriatha - a long-time collaborator with Mr. C - returns again prior to her making an appearance later in the decade on Motown as Ada Dyer. Also attending the party that is "Take It To The limit" is the legendary Al Johnson, another Connors protegee whom I have every bit of time and respect for. weren't the 80s a great time for our music? the title track is a great dancer and typical of that era, minus the trappings that was the death-throws of the Disco era! This Mtume styled dancer is a killer and deserves a fresh unleashing on radio and our quality dancefloors. Again, I can say the same for Al Johnson's "I Don't Need Nobody Else" - a superb Leon ware type groove that we already know and love from Lou Courtney's terrific 1974 LP! The second killer on here bar Glenn Jones' effort is Leon Ware's monster "Everywhere Inside Of Me". Leon Ware is one of my most cherished souls in this world, and one listen to this makes my heart sing. The Prince of seduction meets Norman Connors...please, God, let this musical pairing occur again!

1981 was a classic year and Mr. C certainly fits in with the wealth of quality that year. A more synthesised sound was making it's entrance then, and Norman was there along with Beau Williams creating the brilliant dancer, "She's Gone". I can't ever go any length of time without giving this track an airing, and nice to see it released here on CD other than on an expensive Japanese reissue! Glenn Jones, hot from his previous encounter with Mr. C appears again on the superb "Sing A Love Song"...for me Mr. Jones really fits into this groove. It would, in my opinion, benefit him greatly to return to these calmer waters. Jean Carn and Derrick Hughes burn down the house with the brilliant "Love's In Your Corner" and provide us with a great dancer in the style of an Al Mckay production. This is a top-drawer album and together with "Take It To The limit" Expansion have given us a mighty two-fer that is beyond essential. Go on, chuck away your crackly old vinyl and hear these brand new, fresh and clear!
Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe