HOUSE HUNTING #68 – BLACK IVORY

A boogie legacy.

HOUSE HUNTING #68 – BLACK IVORY

A boogie legacy.

Yo, so slack on the lyrics front again as since the last lacquer love letter just had the small matter of sortin’ out a load of record fairs including the Ransom Note record fair roster for 2017 – like a full-time operation now hustlin’ at three fairs this month alone! However, this week the big’un as Ransom Note re-enter the realm of record dealing kickin’ off our spring/summer R$N record fair roster on Sunday 14th May so come join us for some rack raiding recreation! We’re getting outta the R$N office for this one and headin’ east to hip Hackney haunt Moth Club for a deluxe dose of diggers delight…

As well as the R$N record fair regulars we welcome more handpicked prime-purveyors including BBE, Black Booby, Cyclo, I Love Acid, Lanquidity, Lobster Theremin, Rye Wax, ultraDisko and Vinyl Underground – heavyweight hustlers! I’ll also be hawkin’ with my choice crates and Ransom Note will be reppin’ with recent releases plus tees, totes and any random R$N ephemera lying about in the office… The More Downstairs massive will also be streaming the event live so if you ain’t digging you can see what you’re missing! Doors open 12pm-7pm with FREE entry complete with some serious selectors soundtrackin’ the daytime dig plus the bar is open to keep you refreshed on your rack raid. There’ll be turntables and portables provided too so you can give your potential purchases and wantlist wax a whirl… Event details HERE.  

So jet down for a crate cruise and Sunday social! Here’s a lil’ snapshot of the last one for some R$N vinyl vibes…

So naturally been stockpiling stashes whether hustlin’ hauls through house calls, local digs or Gumtree grabs complete with my import inventory housing South African and stateside scores. I’ll keep most of my wax wares under wraps but some choice cuts I’ve copped for myself on recent crate crusades include GQ’s Stadium score ‘You Are The One For Me’ (a killer Keith Sweat slice with The Hump on the mix) and Royalle Delite’s ‘(I’ll Be A) Freak For You’ boss b-boy boogie business still got a couple of these in the crates too! On a house tip scored some Alleviated pressure with Robert Owen’s ‘I’m Strong’ which for the hardcore housespotters was the seldom seen yellow label pressing – see you next week at house anoraks anonymous…

Anyway, all this wax wheelin’n’dealin’ means I ain’t been to many shops of late however a couple of weeks back I was in Dalston so was in the diggin’ diaspora of Hackney’s vinyl emporia – as was waltzin’ past Eldica Records I had to do a quick U-turn and deviate to this Dalston diggers den standard… Eldica is run by Andy Westbury with his Aladdin’s cave a proper treasure trove with a wealth of wax jewels waiting to be unearthed… It’s one of London’s more under the radar record shops where the more discernible diggers seek out for some second-hand solace with a choice collection of soul, jazz, funk, disco, boogie, hip-hop, dub and reggae complete with a cache of calypso and Caribbean cuts – not to mention vintage hi-fi and retro homeware! Despite Dalston’s rapid gentrification, Eldica’s old-school styling is a throwback to the soul and spirit of the area where you won’t feel outta place whether a long-time local or wayfaring wax-packer. As I’m pressed for time my advice check out our Ransom Note word wizard Jack Paradise who composed a far more eloquent eulogy on Eldica and it’s roots over on Vinyl Factory.

Bringin’ it back to the crate cruising and before entering Eldica I checked out the bargain bins housed at the front of the shop as can never resist rummaging for a bargain bin belter! Though slim pickings I did pull out some Pow Wow pressure in the form ‘Rhythm Of Love’ By Danceteria don Johnny Dynell complete with the main man Mark Kamins at the controls – proper Downtown NYC necessity! Though the superior Larry Levan ‘Garage’ Dub ain’t housed on this one still worth a punt for a pound as the original versions still have that bubblin’ bass and squelchy synths prevalent that if you listen carefully are taken straight outta ‘Hot Wax’ by Van Twist aka Italo hero and synth supremo Dan Lacksman of Telex fame. Anyway, with that in hand I popped in for a pit-stop perusal had to be quick as was already late hookin’ up with a mate so time for a rapid rack raid! I headed for the new arrivals racks for some fresh flava –scoped some boogie bombs and disco diamonds on the usual suspects like Becket, Prelude and West End. However, on flicking further I clocked a certain company cover and on inspecting further yeah it was the Buddah bomb ‘Mainline’ by disco dons Black Ivory fronted by boogie bossman Leroy Burgess. It was £15 but a decent deal considering near mint complete with clean labels and shrink-wrapped sleeve so hit the House Hunting quota!

So as no house haul at Eldica time to deviate into disco and boogie territory… Before Black Ivory in the summer of ’67 Leroy Burgess was invited to join his friend Larry’s group The Mellow Souls after hearing Leroy breakin’ into song whilst shootin’ some hoops. However, before the group could really take shape Larry and fellow member Vito Ramirez pulled outta the project. Undeterred, Leroy drafted in Stuart Bascombe and Russell Patterson and Black Ivory was born… At the time Larry’s sister Gail was dating prolific production powerhouse Patrick Adams who heard Leroy’s falsetto’s over the phone and he was hooked. Patrick sorted the group out with talent shows and managed to get them in with Kool And The Gang’s Manager who gave them a support slot for his band. Not content with just being a support act, Black Ivory also released a record after Patrick secured them some studio time down in Philly at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios where they laid down ‘Don’t Turn Around’ and ‘Keep Asking You Questions’. Patrick hit up Perception and he managed to secure a deal with them (later securing an A&R role and even becoming their executive vice-president) so the record was released on the stable and its soul subsidiary Today. After the single they recorded an albums worth of material back in New York launching their debut LP soon after in ‘72 also titled ‘Don’t Turn Around’. The LP proved an instant hit resulting in the group goin’ on tour and as their success soared an inevitable second album was on the cards. However, whilst they were away Patrick enlisted songwriter David Jordan who both had the next LP ‘Baby, Won’t You Change Your Mind’ mapped out so as contractually obliged the group handed over creative control and lost the initial spark and chemistry which Leroy thrived on in the recording process of their debut LP.

They parted ways with Patrick after the release of their second LP and after a couple of false starts, found a new home on Buddah Records. Though they had more creative freedom and Buddah’s in-house songwriters were more on their wavelength, Leroy was still not satisfied despite releasing a couple more of LP’s – ‘Feel It’ in ’75 and a year later their eponymous effort. Disillusioned with the formulaic formula the group was falling into, when their contract was up for renewal in ’77 Leroy decided this was the catalyst for change so left the group to go solo. His first effort was ‘Weekend’ which was picked up by his former production partner Patrick Adams who used it for his Phreek project and went on to be the subsequent single – this was the precursor to Class Action’s reinterpretation on Arthur Russell’s legendary label Sleeping Bag. As well as producing for Phreek and Prelude’s Musique, Patrick also hooked up with Russell and Stuart to recreate the magic of the early Black Ivory records on their third LP for Buddah. They needed some tracks so their manager Leonard Adams approached their Black Ivory alumni Leroy who incidentally had a demo of a joint titled ‘Mainline’ he was shopping around. So he agreed to cut it with them and got involved on the background vox and keys with Patrick sorting the strings and horn arrangements so was like the old-school sessions back in the day. The track turned out to be Black Ivory’s biggest chart hit – a proper anthemic soul stomper saturated with strings and horns that evolves from a disco diamond into a rawer rhythm with the drum break at the 4-min mark taking it into house terrain. A proper prime Paradise Garage platter, listen to this week’s House Hunting hot pick here…

After the success of ‘Mainline’, Leroy’s next project was collaborating with proto-house pioneer Greg Carmichael with their Convertion concept to compose a song for Sam Weiss’ seminal stable Sam Records. Leroy and his song-writing/production partners James Calloway and Sonny Davenport (Leroy’s cousin) were already in the studio with Greg to play on one of his productions and as they finished sooner than they planned Greg let them use the additional studio time. Whilst James and Sonny went out to grab a bite to eat Leroy laid down some keys and composed the chorus and verse what was to become the serious Sam slice ‘Let’s Do It’. Upon returning James and Sonny were floored in what they were hearing so left their bacon cheeseburgers and fries to jam with Leroy. Greg came in halfway through the session and excitedly got on the controls to lay the track down. The final ingredients were James and Sonny laying down the lyrics and Leroy getting on the phone to his sister Renee and friend Dorothy Terrell for the backing vox. A few hours later and the rest of history...

The track was a hit so the quintet proposed they record an album for the label but Sam didn’t have the budget and to add further insult to injury turns out they copyrighted the Convertion group name. Undeterred, Greg approached the Cayre brothers at Salsoul who were more than happy to finance the project under their new alias Logg – to this day Leroy still doesn’t know how or why Greg came up with that name! Anyway, the quartet brought in Renee and Dorothy again plus Fred McFarlane on keys, Sonny DeGraffenreid on guitar, Trevor Gale on drums and another member of Leroy’s musical family his cousin Willis Long on percussion. The supergroup’s first recording was at Soundworks Studios which resulted in a serious session for nine hours straight! Though an exhausting exertion into the early hours the fruits of their labour paid dividend as Salsoul loved ‘I Know You Will’ and got Paradise Garage prophet Larry Levan on the mix. Salsoul released the record two weeks later and was an instant hit so Ken Cayre commissioned them to record an album which after an intense week of recording they managed to finish how’s that for a quick turnover! For me their eponymous LP is Leroy at the peak of his production powers with my choice cut being the soaring synths and percussive boogie bliss of ‘(You’ve Got) That Something’ – this joint involved all group members on percussion using whatever they could find in the studio including beer bottles and boxes of salt and oats showcasing Leroy’s improv ingenuity. The LP dropped in ’81 and as well as being a Larry Levan fave it was a hit in Europe resulting in Rams Horn licensing it – I’ve still got the Rams Horn pressing of this lethal Logg lacquer in the House Hunting crates hit me up! Anyway, during the recording of the LP Greg wasn’t happy with Salsoul so took the master tape of ‘Barely Breaking Even’ which was supposed to feature on the Logg LP and sold it to Moonglow who released it the following year in ’82. This jam is a fierce boogie bomb that was cut in one day after a serious 16-hour session in the studio – you can definitely feel the sweat in this session with the track being a source of inspiration for reissue kings BBE. Listen to that legendary Logg lacquer here…

Not content with the Convertion and Logg projects, Leroy also hooked up with twin brothers Taharqa Aleem and Tunde Ra Aleem aka The Fantastic Aleems or sometimes more simply Aleem. They started out as the Ghetto Brothers covering Jimi Hendrix tracks who incidentally was their flatmate at the time! In ’79 they launched their Nia label and brought in Leroy to arrange and play on keys for ‘Hooked On Your Love’. However, Taharqa wasn’t pleased with his vocal delivery so they handed over to Leroy complete Luther Vandross on backing vox legendary… The track received major airplay and encouraged Aleem to enlist Leroy again for another record. Their next record ‘Get Down Friday Nite’ ditched the orchestral flourishes as they opted for a more stripped-back affair with Leroy and Tunde-Ra on keys giving a more synthetic spin and Taharqa on guitar complete with Leroy’s solo vox taking centre stage and a precursor to the sound that Aleem are synonymous for… A year later Aleem approached Leroy again but this time their production prowess went up a gear as with the emergent electronics they utilized more electro elements for ‘Release Yourself’ which for me is Aleem’s choice cut as it blurs the boundaries between boogie, electro, garage and house effortlessly complete with Leroy’s fierce flow elevating it to another level. Next up was ‘Get Loose’ which as it contains many of the core components of it’s predecessor could be classed as a semi-sequel that some may say is superior with it’s more funk-fuelled flow and stop-start syncopation. Another choice collaboration was on ‘Confusion’ which with it’s b-boy styling and slower shift in tempo is definitely one for the breakers. Arm yourself with that Aleem ammunition here…

Away from Aleem he released on some Vanguard vinyl too. These include Greg Carmichael getting the old gang back together again to revive their Convertion project on ‘Sweet Thing’ which though reminiscent of their previous record the swirling synths and electronic undercurrent give it a fresher flow. Around the same time in ’82 studio supremo Bob Blank invited Leroy down to his Blank Tapes base so with James and Sonny in tow they cut a few demos including ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’ which Vanguard were feeling and recommended recruiting Fonda Rae (of Wish ‘Touch Me’ fame) for vocal duties complete with the Ray “Pinky” Velasquez on the mix. Again, more boss boogie business with this one – if you had to pick to pick up a joint to capture what boogie is all about this sums it up perfectly. Additionally a couple of years after his Logg LP for Salsoul, Ken Cayre approached Leroy to see if he’d be up for some projects under his own name. They went for synth score ‘Heartbreaker’ which features Jocelyn Brown on background vox plus Salsoul’s in-house mixmaster Shep Pettibone in the mix. Again all these records showcase Leroy’s full recording repertoire whether it’s being a singer/songwriter, producer, conductor or arranger – ultimately laying down the foundations of house and garage not to mention being instrumental in bringing a new genre to the fore which we now coin as ‘boogie’. His former Black Ivory bandmates didn’t fall into complete obscurity either – a House Hunting hint seek out Russell Patterson’s Culture Shock cut ‘I Surrender’ a seldom seen sweet soul slice (I did have the red-label repress but sold at last record fair I repped at so keep your eye out). If you ain’t got any Leroy lacquer in your racks or not enough then score the recent Salsoul reissue of ‘(You’ve Got) That Something’ that’s in good record shops now or hit me up at the R$N record fair as I’ve got both of his hard to find anthologies on Soul Brother that are the perfect introduction to his boogie legacy which I’ll leave a lil’ more here big love to the boogie bossman legendary an understatement…


 

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