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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Legendary Leon Ware

Songwriter, singer, and producer Leon Ware is one of the less-recognized products of the Motown Records music factory of the 1960s and '70s, primarily because he has tended to work behind the scenes despite recording a series of albums under his own name. His signature style is a highly romantic approach to soul music that has resulted in many hit records, notably "I Wanna Be Where You Are," recorded by Michael Jackson, and "I Want You," recorded by Marvin Gaye, both of which he co-wrote.

Growing up as an aspiring musical artist in Detroit, Ware naturally became part of Motown Records, which was founded in the city as he approached manhood. In the spring of 1967, the Isley Brothers' recording of "Got to Have You Back," which he wrote with Ivy Hunter and Steve Bowden, placed in both the R&B and pop singles charts after its release on the Motown imprint Tamla Records. But his first major hit as a writer came with the Four Tops' "Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)," co-written with Pam Sawyer and released as a single on Motown, which reached the Top Ten of the R&B charts and the Top 40 of the pop charts in early 1971. He was not working exclusively for Motown, either. During 1971, he collaborated with Ike & Tina Turner, co-writing six songs on their album 'Nuff Said, released that fall on United Artists Records. The album reached the Top 40 of the R&B charts and also appeared in the pop charts. Ware himself was contracted to United Artists, and his self-titled debut album appeared on the label in 1972.

Back at Motown, Ware began collaborating with Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, younger brother of Motown star Diana Ross, and they came up with "I Wanna Be Where You Are," which Michael Jackson recorded for Motown on his early-1972 album Got to Be There. Released as a single in the spring, it peaked at number two on the R&B charts and reached the Top 20 of the pop charts. Over time, it became one of Ware's most-covered songs, earning recordings by José Feliciano, Marvin Gaye, SWV, and others. In 1973, Ware had songwriting credits on albums by the Average White Band, Donny Hathaway, and the Jackson 5. "Give Me Just Another Day," which he wrote for the Miracles, was released as a single on Tamla that fall and reached the R&B charts. His next R&B singles chart entry came with "If You Were My Woman," an answer record to the Gladys Knight & the Pips hit "If You Were My Man," recorded by Latimore on Glades Records, in the spring of 1974. That same season saw the release of a more important project for him, Quincy Jones' LP Body Heat on A&M Records. Ware was both a writer and performer on the disc, which topped the R&B charts and reached the pop Top Ten, going gold. "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," which he wrote with Pam Sawyer and sang on the album with Minnie Riperton and Al Jarreau, was an R&B singles chart entry in September. Nearly a year later, it gained even greater renown when it was covered by the Average White Band on Atlantic for a single that reached the Top 40 of both the pop and R&B charts. It went on to become another major copyright for Ware, covered by such artists as Jonathan Butler, Sergio Mendes, and Nancy Wilson. Meanwhile, the title track from Body Heat, co-written by Ware, also became an R&B singles chart entry in the spring of 1975. "Rolling Down a Mountainside," which he wrote with Jacqueline Hilliard, also became an R&B hit, this one for the Main Ingredient on RCA Victor Records that spring, peaking in the Top Ten and also getting into the pop chart before serving as the title track on the group's next album. Ware collaborated with Minnie Riperton and Richard Rudolph on "Inside My Love," which was featured on her Epic Records album Adventures in Paradise, also released in the spring of 1975. Issued as a single that summer, the song became a Top 40 R&B hit and reached the pop charts.

Ware had two projects in progress at Motown during this period. He was producing songs for T-Boy Ross, and he was recording his own solo album. But when label president Berry Gordy heard one of the proposed Ross tracks, "I Want You," he decided that Marvin Gaye should cut it instead. And when Gaye heard the material Ware had done for his album, it was turned into a Gaye LP instead. Ware produced what now became Gaye's I Want You album, released on Tamla in March 1976, having co-written all the songs on it. The title tune (co-written with Ross) topped the R&B charts and made the Top 20 of the pop charts. It went on to become a standard, covered by Herb Alpert, Gato Barbieri, Madonna, and Michael McDonald among many others. Robert Palmer's medley of it with "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," another Gaye hit, reached the pop Top 20 in 1991. The I Want You album went to number one on the R&B charts and the Top Ten of the pop charts. It spun off a second single, "After the Dance," co-written by Ware, Ross, and Gaye, that made the R&B Top 20 and was a pop chart entry.

Having given away the material for his album, Ware began again on a solo effort for Motown and produced Musical Massage, released on Motown's Gordy Records subsidiary in September 1976. He has suggested that Motown wanted him to give this album's songs to Gaye, too, and that when he refused, the label released the LP but gave it no promotion, resulting in its commercial failure. So, he went back to being a songwriter for others. During the late '70s, he placed songs on albums by Minnie Riperton, Marlena Shaw, Melissa Manchester, and Bobby Womack. He issued his third solo album, Inside Is Love, on Fabulous Records in 1979. It reached the R&B charts in December, along with its single, "What's Your Name," establishing him as a recording artist for the first time. He was represented on Melissa Manchester's 1980 album For the Working Girl on Arista by "Lovers After All," which he and Manchester wrote and which Manchester sang with Peabo Bryson. Released as a single in early 1981, it reached the Top 40 of the R&B charts and was a pop chart entry as well. Meanwhile, Ware had signed with Elektra Records as a recording artist, and he released his fourth solo album, Rockin' You Eternally, which spawned two R&B singles chart entries, "Baby Don't Stop Me" and the title song, but did not itself reach the charts. Nevertheless, Elektra financed a follow-up, and Ware's second album to be called simply Leon Ware was released in 1982. But the label dropped him when the disc failed to sell.

Nevertheless, Ware still had his songwriting to fall back on, and in the early and mid-'80s he had cuts on albums by Jeffrey Osborne, Loose Ends, Teena Marie, and James Ingram. In 1987, he pacted with Slingshot Records and released his sixth solo album, Undercover. In the late '80s and 1990s, while he continued to work on various sessions as a musician, arranger, and producer, he placed fewer new songs with other artists, though he did have cuts on albums by the Isley Brothers, John Martyn, Fred Wesley, and Chico DeBarge, among others. The chief exception to this relative drought was "Independence," which was recorded by Lulu and became a hit in England in 1993, just missing the Top Ten. But Ware's career benefited in two respects in the 1990s. First, his work was discovered as the source of sampling by rappers and hip-hop artists. Montell Jordan's 1999 R&B chart entry "When You Get Home," for example, sampled "I Want You," as did tracks by EPMD ("It's Going Down"), Ice Cube ("What Can I Do"), and Prince ("Mr. Happy"), among others. A Tribe Called Quest's "Lyrics to Go" sampled "Inside My Love," as did 2Pac's "Me Against the World" and Aaliyah's "Heartbroken," and 2Pac also sampled "Body Heat" on the number one pop and R&B hit "How Do U Want It." Such success didn't increase Ware's exposure as an artist, but it did increase his publishing income substantially. At the same time, he was being discovered as a soul music progenitor, particularly in England, where the Expansion label began reissuing his solo albums. He helped his cause by putting out his seventh album, Taste the Love, on his own Kitchen Records label in 1995. In 2001, Candlelight, a jazz album he recorded with Don Grusin, came out on Kitchen in the U.S. and Expansion in the U.K. Love's Drippin', a more characteristic collection of soul music, followed in 2003.


1972 - Leon Ware
1976 - Musical Massage
1979 - Inside Is Love / lossless

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Legend: Otis Redding

Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American soul singer. Often called the "King of Soul", he is renowned for an ability to convey strong emotion through his voice. According to the website of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (where he was inducted in 1989), Redding's name is "synonymous with the term soul, music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm and blues into a form of funky, secular testifying." In addition, rock critic Jon Landau said in 1967, "Otis Redding is rock & roll".Redding died in a plane crash at the age of 26, one month before his biggest hit, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", was released. Redding was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgia. When he was five, his family moved to Macon, Georgia, where Redding sang in a church choir and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre for fifteen weeks in a row.His earliest influence was Little Richard (Richard Penniman), also a Macon resident.Redding said, "If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here. I entered the music business because of Richard – he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff, you know. Richard has soul, too. My present music has a lot of him in it." The sleeve notes accompanying the 1966 Atlantic album Otis Blue – Otis Redding Sings Soul, written by Bob Rolontz, describe Redding's early career: "Like all success stories, it was a long path for Otis Redding before he first hit on records. He entered and won a number of local amateur contests in his home town of Macon. Redding became the vocalist with Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, a group that had started to establish itself in Southern colleges and universities. An early record that Otis Redding made with the group, 'Love Twist' (which was released on Atlantic) created some regional action. A long time after that while Redding was still a member of the group, he recorded his own song 'These Arms Of Mine,' at the end of a Pinetoppers session. It became a solid hit, and Redding was on his way." In 1960, Redding began touring the South with Johnny Jenkins and The Pinetoppers. In addition to singing, Redding also served as Jenkins' driver (the bandleader did not possess a driver's license). That same year he made his first recordings, "Fat Gal" and "Shout Bamalama," with this group under the name "Otis Redding and The Pinetoppers," issued on the Orbit and Confederate record labels before being picked up by King. In 1962, Redding made his first real mark in the music business during a Johnny Jenkins session when, during studio time left over, he recorded "These Arms of Mine", a ballad that he had written. The song became a minor hit on Volt Records, a subsidiary of the renowned Southern soul label Stax, based in Memphis, Tennessee. His manager was a fellow Maconite, Phil Walden (who later co-founded Capricorn Records). Redding was also managed for a brief period by Walden's younger brother Alan Walden while Phil was overseas due to a military draft.Otis Redding continued to release for Stax/Volt, and built his fan base by extensively touring a live show with support from fellow Stax artists Sam & Dave. Further hits between 1964 and 1966 included "Mr. Pitiful", "I Can't Turn You Loose" (a sped-up instrumental version was to become The Blues Brothers entrance theme music), "Try a Little Tenderness" (a remake of the 1930s standard by Harry Woods, Jimmy Campbell, and Reg Connelly, later featured in John Hughes' film Pretty in Pink), "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones), and "Respect" (later a smash hit for Aretha Franklin). Redding wrote many of his own songs, which was unusual for the time, often with Steve Cropper (of the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s, who usually served as Otis's backing band in the studio). Soul singer Jerry Butler co-wrote another hit, "I've Been Loving You Too Long". One of Redding's few songs with a significant mainstream following was "Tramp", (1967) a duet with Carla Thomas. In 1967, Redding performed at the large and influential Monterey Pop Festival. His extraordinary musical gifts were then exposed to a wider audience and may have contributed to his subsequent success as a popular music recording artist. On December 9, 1967, Redding and his backup band, The Bar-Kays, made an appearance in Cleveland, Ohio on the local "Upbeat" television show. That night they performed at Leo's Casino, a small venue club in Cleveland. The next afternoon, Redding, his manager, the pilot, and four members of The Bar-Kays were killed when his Beechcraft 18 airplane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967. The two remaining Bar-Kays were Ben Cauley and James Alexander. Cauley was the only person aboard Redding's plane to survive the crash. Alexander was on another plane, since there were eight members in Redding's party and the plane could only hold seven, and it was Alexander's turn in the rotation to take a commercial flight. Ben Cauley reported that he had been asleep until seconds before impact, and recalled that upon waking he saw bandmate Phalon Jones look out a window and say, "Oh, no!" Cauley said the last thing he remembered before the crash was unbuckling his seatbelt. He then found himself in the frigid waters of the lake, grasping a seat cushion to keep afloat. Redding's body was recovered the next day when the lake bed was searched.He was entombed on his private ranch in Round Oak, Georgia, 23 miles (37 km) north of Macon. The cause of the crash was never precisely determined. Redding was survived by his wife Zelma, mother and father, his daughter Karla and his sons Dexter and Otis III.

Studio albums

  • Pain in My Heart (Atco Records_January 1, 1964)
  • The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (Volt Records_March,1965)
  • Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Volt Records_September 15, 1965)
  • The Soul Album (Volt Records_April 1,1966)
  • Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (Volt _1966)
  • King & Queen (with Carla Thomas) (Stax Records_March 16,1967)

Posthumous studio albums

  • The Dock of the Bay (Volt Records_February 23, 1968)
  • The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco Records_1968)
  • Love Man (Atco Records_1969)
  • Tell the Truth (Atco Records_1970)

Live albums
  • Otis Redding - Live in London and Paris 1967 [2008 Stax] 
  • Live in Europe(Atco,1967)
  • In Person at the Whisky a Go Go(Atco,1968)
  • Live On The Sunset Strip(Stax,2010(1966))

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