Craft Recordings releases a vinyl upgrade of an under-appreciated 70’s funk album.
Pleasure – Joyous – Fantasy Records (1976)/Craft Recordings CR00563 (2022) Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series 180-gram stereo vinyl, 41:12 ****1/2:
(Marlon “The Magician” McClain -= guitar, vocals; Donald Hepburn – keyboards, vocals; Dan Brewster – trombone; Dennis Springer – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Nathaniel Phillips – bass, vocals; Bruce Carter – drums; Bruce Smith – percussion; Sherman Davis – lead vocals; Steve Madaio – trumpet; Dennis Christianson – trumpet; Mayo Tiano – trombones Herman Riley – alto saxophone; tenor saxophone, flute; Robert Carr – baritone saxophone)
One of the great cult bands of the 1970’s hailed from Portland, Oregon. Pleasure intermingled elements of funk, soul and jazz, helping to define the underground party music genre. They were initially produced by The Crusaders’ Wayne Henderson and were signed to Fantasy Records and in 1975 released their debut, Dust Yourself Off. The sophomore album, Accept No Substitutes came out the following year. Then in 1977, the album Joyous earned more critical acclaim. While the commercial success of the band was good, their cultural influence was greater, prominently featured in the Kid And Play film, House Party, and more recently Uncle Drew. The original band continued until 1982, but the group (with some original members) still performs.
Craft Recordings (as part of the Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series) has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of Joyous. This album features Marlon McClain (guitar), Donald and Michael Hepburn (keyboards), Dan Brewster (trombone), Dennis Springer (saxophones), Nathan Phillips (bass), Bruce Carter (drums), Bruce Smith (percussion) and Sherman Davis (lead vocals). Side 1 opens with the title track. Against a pure funk tempo, Springer’s tenor saxophone is explosive and freewheeling. As the bass and drums/percussion lay down a groove, the keyboards build a textured wall of smoothness. Sherman Davis’ upper register vocals are as evocative as Earth Wind & Fire. The punctuated tempo is infectious. With a thumping bass line, “Let Me Be The One” is an urgent plea for being a real friend, lover and mate. The horns and synth lines are hypnotic and the falsetto-laced vocals are exemplary. Funk music in this era embraced social and political themes. “Only You” makes a positive, earnest case for choosing love over hate. Of course, it is social messaging with a captivating dance beat. On “Can’t Turn You Loose’, studio effects like wah-wah guitar and vocal repeat phrasing simply bring down the house. There are interesting synthesizer accents and some jazzy chord changes from the brass section.
Side Two kicks off on a mellower vibe. “Sassafras Girl” (the first instrumental) feels like contemporary jazz as strings, trumpet and electric piano add a velvet touch. Springer’s tenor saxophone is backed by a tight Latin-infused arrangement. Dan Brewster’s trombone solo is colorful and has a gentle sway. This number showcases the versatility of the band. Picking up the pace, “Tune In” is unbridled energy with a sax lead (including tonal stretching) and horn support. A thick bass line, keyboards and jagged electric guitar licks elevate this one. Perhaps inspired by Sly Stone, “Dance To The Music” is a straight up call to “get up and get down”. There is relentless enthusiasm, and features large-scale electronic instrumentation and soulful vocals. A key change leads into a clavinet run. The finale (instrumental), “Selim” is yet another musical personality with atmospheric, polyrhythmic fusion treatment, highlighted by a propulsive bass and soprano saxophone.
This Craft Recordings vinyl re-mastering of Joyous is vibrant with a bold sound mix that accentuates the layered instrumentation. It will be appreciated by vinyl aficionados and soul/funk devotees.
Pleasure – Joyous
Side 1: Joyous; Let Me Be The One; Only You; Can’t Turn You Loose
Side 2: Sassafras Girl; Tune In; Dance To The Music; Selim
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