House Hunting #53 – Sharon Redd

"So what choice Prelude production had I scored? This one is the classic ‘Beat The Street’ by disco diva Sharon Redd and produced by proto-house pioneers Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne...Sharon in her full fierce glory"

House Hunting #53 – Sharon Redd

"So what choice Prelude production had I scored? This one is the classic ‘Beat The Street’ by disco diva Sharon Redd and produced by proto-house pioneers Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne...Sharon in her full fierce glory"

As I had to contend with the Black Friday masses at work last week my days off coincided when the Mrs was at work. So instead of the usual wallowin’ in the crate cave being waited on hand and foot by her, being on my own for the day meant I could go out on a vinyl venture and not worry about Tonya havin’ to play wax widow. So after some diggin’ deliberation I decided on jettin’ on a crate crusade in the outta limits of Zone 6 – yeah this ain’t the crate comfort zone of Soho or Hackney but the last stop eastbound on the District Line in the deepest depths of Essex Jesus... Upminster ain’t probably the first place you think of when embarking on a rack raid but take a waltz down the main road and amongst the usual high street chains you’ll find choice Essex emporium Crazy Beat Records.

Now Crazy Beat is my kinda record gaff... As featured in my Sweet D special earlier this year, the racks are overflowin’ with house records all over the shop with choice joints from the house hometowns of Chicago, New York and New Jersey – have a gander on their website and Discogs page but my advice jet over there as online ordering will never beat a dose of deep diggin... In gettin’ my fingers dusty there were the usual suspects on Nu Groove and Trax (clocked three copies of Ron Hardy’s remix of Streetlife’s ‘Tearin Down The Walls’ alone) plus other House Hunting faves such as ‘Dance In A Daze’ by The Outerlimit on Underworld plus the seldom seen Easy Street joint ‘Love Of Life’ by Yohan Square. Though with my flickin’ fervour I was pulling out loads of house heat it was a whole lotta gots and not a lotta house needs so with nothing shoutin’ out at me my attention turned towards the other side of the shop where I deviated to the disco racks – you what disco digging I thought this was all about house hunting yo?!

Anyway, it was worth a gander as this section was a 2000-strong vinyl arsenal of soul, disco and boogie so some potential proto-house styling may be hiding out... On the display shelves there were some disco jewels such as a mint copy of the Arthur Baker-produced and Tee Scott-mixed ‘Jazzy Rhythm’ by Michelle Wallace  – as was mint complete with Emergency company jacket in shrink for £8 had to be swiped... Gettin’ down to the racks as ever I began methodically diggin’ in alphabetical order of the racks and within the first few records of section ‘A’ I unearthed the Pow Wow weapon ‘Pick Me Up (Rock Me Non-Stop)’ by Affinity aka Garage guru Warren Doris so on the rack flickin’ forecast lookin’ good. On to the next section and I pulled out a mint copy of Jump Street’s debut joint ‘Gotta Find A Way’ by Russ Brown complete in company jacket nice one! As I dug deeper it was like a set by Paradise Garage prophet Larry Levan as I unearthed boogie bombs and disco delights such as Barbara Norris’ ‘Heavy Hitter’, the Paul Simpson-produced ‘Sucker For Candy’ by Rozlyn Sorrell and Larry’s very own garage anthem ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ with his Peech Boys ensemble – all original pressings standard housed in shrink sleeves HELP. ME. NOW. Have a butchers to some of these choice cuts here...

Add to all this a Prelude joint in perfect nick and to cop all this for £50 that’s not a bad deal – you ain’t gonna see those prices in London Town! Though not strictly house you could argue some of these records laid down the foundations... So what choice Prelude production had I scored? This one is the classic ‘Beat The Street’ by disco diva Sharon Redd and produced by proto-house pioneers Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne. Funnily enough, I had a House Hunting request last week to do an Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne edition so Dave Knights this one for you boss! Now with its roots in Disco, Prelude probably ain’t the first label that comes to mind when thinking ‘house’ as a lot of heads will associate the imprint with classic cuts from the likes of D-Train and The Nick Straker Band but some of the post-disco Prelude platters circa ‘82/’83 are with my ears definite house precursors. Think the bubblin’ electronics and synth flourishes  of ‘On A Journey (I Sing The Funk Electric)’ by Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne under their Electrik Funk alias, Francois K’s mix of ‘The Key’ by Wuf Ticket aka James Mason and of course ‘The Music Got Me’ by Visual aka the dream team of WBLS wizard Timmy Regisford and unsung house hero Boyd Jarvis which laid the blueprint for their future productions – all about the heavy instrumental complete with The Hump on the mix! These joints all blur the boundaries between soul, funk, disco and boogie, with the emergent electronics and dub versions laying down the roots of the yet to form house and garage sound. Have a listen for yourself – you agree or am I talkin’ s**t?

Anyway, let’s bring it back to Sharon Redd. With her Dad Gene chief A&R at the legendary King Records, her brother Gene Jr. the manager and producer for Kool & The Gang and her sister Penny Ford being former alumni of Jesse’s Gang and Soul II Soul (though she is probably best known as the voice of ‘The Power’ by Snap!), naturally she was destined to have a music career. She launched her recording career in ’68 and her debut came via the United Artists label where she was a muse for record producer Bobby Susser. Their first few singles together were a hit on R&B radio however Sharon wanted to pursue a career in acting and had a brief stint in Australia after securing a role in the rock musical Hair. Throughout the seventies she had various acting roles including starring in hit American sitcom Rhoda. However, music was never far away and with her singing ability Bette Midler recruited her as one of her trio of backing singers aka The Harlettes (whose alumni also includes Jocelyn Brown) who were a hit in 70s NYC at the Continental Baths which was also home to DJ deities Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles where they got their breaks. As well as becoming one of Bette’s Harlettes, she provided backing vocals for Carol Douglas’ ‘Burnin’ and ‘Night Fever’ plus Norman Connors’ ‘You Are My Starship’, and upon leaving The Harlettes she joined forces with former members Charlotte Crossley and Ula Hedwig who in ’77 released the ‘Formerly Of The Harlettes’ LP. It was a couple of years later where she got her big break though singing on Front Page’s disco hit ‘Love Insurance’ on RCA subsidiary Panorama Records – don’t know how she went uncredited on the 12” when she’s the star of the video with that seventies sweater...

With the success of ‘Love Insurance’ disco stable Prelude came calling and signed her up, wasting no time in producing and releasing her eponymous debut LP for them. Though well received, the LP followed the usual disco formula but come ’82 she hooked up with Prelude production powerhouses Eric Matthew and Darryl Payne. I’ll elaborate more on this unheralded duo in a minute, but with them embracing the emergent technology of drum machines and synthesizers, their funk-fuelled boogie bombs complete with an electronic undercurrent were the perfect foil for Sharon’s diva dynamism and flamboyant flow. As well as this week’s choice House Hunting find ‘Beat The Street’, further collaborations included ‘Never Give You Up’ and ‘Love How You Feel’, with all these releases on the Prelude production line being hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts. These all feature on her ’82 Prelude LP ‘Redd Hott’ so worth coppin’ if trackin’ down all the Prelude platters too much hard work. Let’s get into Sharon’s Prelude hits here...

However, all the singles are worth being on your wax wantlist for those dope dubs and instrumental versions that really showcase Eric and Darryl’s production prowess. Why these two don’t get more props I don’t know so let’s do a lil’ tribute and delve a bit deeper in their choice cuts... Eric Matthew (who some may know under his real name of Joe Tucci) is probably best known for his group Gary’s Gang who with their fusion of funk, soul and disco produced a series of hits including their ’78 debut ‘Keep On Dancin’ on Sam Weiss’ legendary label Sam Records. He was a prolific producer with releases on institutions such as Profile, RFC and West End though for me he really hit his stride in ’82 with the boogie styling of his post-disco productions.  That year he founded his disco stable Radar Records and produced funk-fuelled jams such as Toney Lee’s ‘Reach Up’ and ‘Love So Deep’, Status IV’s ‘You Ain’t Really Down’ (which had a revival via Jazzanova’s remix a decade back), Barbara Fowler’s ‘Come And Get My Lovin’ and my personal fave, the Gino Soccio flow of ‘Makin’ Music’ back with his disco posse Gary’s Gang. As well as all the Radar releases he paired up with Darryl Payne again for the Becket bomb ‘Thanks To You’ by Sinnamon complete with Shep Pettibone on the mix –proto-house personified. If like me you like a jam-hot jive in the club (the only time I ain’t a trainspotter honest!) these are serious joints that ain’t gonna fail in moving you – time to get down...

Eric’s production partner Darryl Payne had a bit of a later start but was no less influential. His debut disco joints include Eazy’s ‘Project Funk’ plus Carol Williams’ classic cuts ‘No One Can Do It (Like You)’ and ‘Can’t Get Away (From Your Love)’ on seminal stable Vanguard Disco. Like Eric, he also released on Sam Records with Kreamcicle’s ‘Hold On’ and Komiko’s ‘Feel Alright’ – all about those synth squelches on the instrumental version. Away from recording with Eric, I think Darryl’s year was ’83 with some fierce releases that perfectly capture his production flow fusing electro, funk, soul, disco and boogie – transcending usual genre-boundaries and making the perfect transition from disco to the emergent electronic sound. Examples of these include hookin’ up with Kreamcicle again for ‘No News Is News’ on Starlite, Jive joint ‘You’re The One’ (You’re My Number One)’ by Katie Kissoon and collaborating with fellow proto-house hero Craig Peyton (of ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ fame which incidentally is mixed by Eric Matthew) complete with that mix maestro again Shep Pettibone on the driving Italo-styling of ‘It’s Alright’ as NV which was another Larry Levan fave – would have sounded serious at the Garage...

Though you can’t argue the strength of their solo efforts, for me with Sharon, Eric and Darryl forming their post-disco Prelude triptych they recorded the definitive proto-house rhythm – building the foundations for what we know as house. Sharon made her transition far too soon as with many of her generation she passed in ’92 due to complications from contracting AIDS – all the more poignant as only a few days ago it was World AIDS Day. I’ll leave you with this live performance of ‘Beat The Street’ which showcases Sharon in her full fierce glory – REST IN POWER SHARON REDD



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