mercredi 13 janvier 2010

B.B & Q BAND - 1981/82/83/85 CD

B. B. & Q. band

Wow, what a fantastic band this is! Right from the start in 81 B. B. & Q. band showed what real music is about. With a smooth and irresistible pop funk sound with highly addective and catchy melodies they were a perfect blend of European producing skills and American vocalists that made this band to a classic!

The background

Jacques Fred Petrus, the man behind Change and Peter Jacques band and others, was also the force behind B. B. & Q. band. Being the tycoon of Milan (Italy) based Goody Music Productions (GMP) since the second half of the 70s together with his co-founder, song writer, arranger and producer wizard Mauro Malavasi, he had plans ready for a hot new project. After a certain amount of success with his first productions in the late 70s Petrus wanted more of the US market. Change became a real breakthrough in 1980, but Petrus didn't stop there.

In 1980 Petrus went to the studios in Bologna in Italy with his Italian musicians Mauro Malavasi (piano and synthesizer), Davide Romani (bass guitar), Paolo Gianolio (guitar) and Rudy Trevisi (saxophone). The basic melodies that was written by the first three and Marco Tansini were later on to be found on the albums of Change and B. B. & Q. band in 1981. When these instrumental melodies were finished Petrus flew in a couple of American musicians to create a small rhythm section including Terry Silverlight (drums), Doc Powell (guitar) and Onage Allen Gumbs (Synthesizer). Gumbs was fired and sent home after a few sessions probably because Malavasi could play those repetitive parts himself and didn't need anyone else's input as far as creating them and by that save Fred the money at the same time. Even though the melodies already existed they were kept away from the Americans at this stage. Drummer Silverlight recalls that he never heard the melodies while recording, just himself, bass guitar and a pre-existing synthesizer part on tape.

About six months later back in NYC a vocal auditions was being held at Media Sound Studios where every great singer in New York and elsewhere were showing up. Petrus finally hired singers like Ike Floyd, Gordon Grody, Fonzi Thornton and Diva Gray to name a few. All more or less renowed but all great singers.

The debut album (#72 spot on Billboards black albums chart and #109 spot on Billboards pop albums chart) on Capitol that was released in September 81 was produced by Petrus and Malavasi. In reality the music was fully Malavasi's piece of art. Petrus partly took the credits of the productions more than he should, something he did when it came to the other projects he was running as well. All songs except Tansini's ballad "Don't say goodbye" were composed, arranged and conducted by the mastermind Malavasi (see picture beneath). He was riding on the waves of the magical flow of never ending success at this time and the album made him reach the highest wave! Once again, as so many times during the late 70s, Italy and Bologna was the playground for the recording of the music of this self titled album. And as before Petrus split up the recordings by letting the vocal parts take place in New York instead of Bologna. Why he didn't let all of the recording take place at one single spot is both due to economical and chauvinistic reasons. To completely leave Europe and the beloved Italy for US was simply out of the question and to do the whole thing in Bologna was simply to expensive.
The next album was released on Capitol once again in 1982 titled "All night long" (#32 spot on Billboards black albums chart). With a view of their beloved New York shining up at night they continued to point out their origin. The front cover showed the two twin towers of World trade center. The first album was a studio project with Paris Ford and his cats giving it a face on the fron cover. In 1982 all of them plus the rest of the bands touring staff was gone except Kevin Nance and Kevin Robinson that Petrus appointed as band leader. Consequently B. B. & Q band in 1982 featured Kevin Nance on keyboards, Kevin Robinson, that not only played guitar but also became the lead singer after Ike Floyd, Chieli Minucci (a first generation Italian-American) on guitar and Tony Bridges on bass guitar. Kinky foxx contributed with just another former member, the later successful solo artist Johnny Kemp as background singer.

B. B. & Q. band was still on top in 82-83, so what to do? Well, why not produce a bad album, with less glow and enthusiasm. That was exactly what happened in 1983 when "Six million times" was released on Capitol records for the last time. Although the foxy lady on the front cover looked all right the inside was not as seductive and interesting as the outside and the band had lost the sparkle from the two earlier albums. In addition the skills of the main song writer Malavasi were used on the albums of High fashion and Change instead, something that had great impact on the final musical result of "Six million times". As a significant result of that both Change and High fashion launched albums considerably stronger including several great tracks penned by Malavasi like "Tell my way" by Change and "Stay" by High fashion.

A crucial explanation to why Petrus' decided to not use Malavasi on B. B . & Q. band's third album except for one mediocre track might also be explained by his grooving financial problems that affected the relationship with the golden calf's of Malavasi and Romani. That also made Petrus invite new hungry America songwriters at the expense of the old Italians and B. B. & Q. band got most affected by these changes. One of these Americans that stepped forward from the album in 82 and received that writing freedom was Kevin Robinson. He wrote almost all tracks on "Six million times". Robinson was, and is, absolutely a good musician and a rather competent singer but not as near as good songwriter. He simply couldn't compete with the master Malavasi. This move of Petrus was the main reason to the dramatic drop in quality and commercial success of B. B. & Q. band in 1983.In 85 it was time to release "Genie". Petrus had now left Capitol and released the set on Elekta instead, probably because of the bad selling figures that their last album stood for. When you're down, you can lie down or rise, B. B. & Q. band did the latter after their poor release in 83. I better say it right away, this was a great comeback! The sound was new, modern and tough and the beautiful and funky cover corresponded perfectly with the music! A critical mind might say the release included way too much programmed drummachines without the warm feeling of instrumental joy. To a certain degree that might be the case especially on tracks like "On the shelf" and "Main attraction" but they did not exclude a nice melody and the warmth was to be found there as well like the splendid "Won't you be with me tonight" clearly shows. The latter could more easily be found on the rest of the album that is more soft and dreamlike. All songs, whether hard or soft, were performed with a masters touch by the wonder kid Curtis Hairston's sensitive voice that really helped to create a perfect feeling drawn to the very limit of pleasure. To use the old man Kay Williams and letting him do all the work was brilliant as well. The lovely long version of the title track is a great laid back, smooth soul piece that makes you sing along.

The two most prominent tracks were "Genie" (no 40 on Billboards top 40 in 85) and "Dreamer" (no 35 on Billboards top 40 in 86) that got some great values with a smoth and spell bounded dreamy sound! Two similar harder tracks are also representative in the sing-a-long "Main attraction" and the electro-funk like "On the shelf" (#72 spot on Billboards Hot R&B/Hip-hop singles & tracks chart) that included a blues/rock break of the highest musical standard, although nothing sensational, well worth a closer attention nonetheless. Also the good ballad descent "Minutes away" and the fast and scratchy "Riccochet" were included. All together, although not a classical album, this is a good example of mid 80 Jam/Lewis influenced music well worth buying.

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