On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 - “Winelight”, the tenth album by Grover Washington, Jr. is released. Produced by Grover Washington, Jr. and Ralph MacDonald, it is recorded at Rosebud Recording Studio from June - July 1980. After recording “Paradise”, his first album for Elektra Records in early 1979, Grover Washington, Jr. sets about working on his second album the label in mid 1980, after recording “Skylarkin’”, the final album he owes former label Motown released in early 1980. The saxophonist will utilize many of the same musicians who played on “Skylarkin’” including Eric Gale (guitar), Richard Tee, Ed Walsh (keyboards) and Marcus Miller (bass), along with other top studio veterans including Steve Gadd (drums), Paul Griffin, Raymond Chew and Bill Eaton (keyboards). Grover also collaborates again with his old friend percussionist Ralph MacDonald who also co-produces the project. MacDonald along with longtime songwriting partner William Salter, both of whom had penned Washington’s classic “Mr. Magic” get together to write songs for the new album. The pair write “In The Name Of Love” and another called “Just The Two Of Us”. Looking for a vocalist to sing the song, MacDonald calls musician Bill Withers. Long an admirer of Grover Washington, Jr., Withers agrees to do the song also since Washington had been the first artist to cover one of his songs, having recorded “Ain’t No Sunshine” on the “Inner City Blues” album in late 1971. Before Withers adds his vocals to the track, he asks MacDonald and Salter if he can re-write some of the lyrics, to which they agree. Once the album is completed and released, no one is prepared for how it will be received by the public. “Just The Two Of Us” (#2 R&B and Pop, #3 AC) becomes a break out across the board smash, racing into the top five on the Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary singles charts by the Spring of 1981.“Winelight” becomes the biggest selling album of Washington’s career, spending an astounding six consecutive months at the top of Billboard’s Jazz album chart, returning to the top for two more non-consecutive weeks in July and August of 1981. The album wins two Grammy Awards including Best R&B Song (for “Just The Two Of Us”) and Best Jazz Fusion Performance (for the entire album) in 1982, receiving two further nominations for “Two Of Us” for Record Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (for Withers). “Winelight” spends twenty nine weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, also peaking at number two on the R&B album chart, number five on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
Whenever a new NVDES tune crops up, I prepare myself for a chromatic jolting, whimsically titillating joyride. The Los Angeles based sonic visionary never fails to entertain and enrapture with his gritty dance punk and experimental funk pop. 8am, a new taste from NVDES’ debut EP, Life With Lobsters, is imbued with far more frenetic energy than I normally harbor at such a time of day. The wild and bombastic song spins and chirps, skids and punches, an untamed conflagration whose constitution consists of a medley of genres, including but not limited to R&B, pop, acid house, and hip hop. It’s like a turbulent mixture of Death From Above 1979, LCD Soundsystem, and Azealia Banks, as odd as that combination might sound. 8am darts about rambunctiously, inflated on helium and coursing with adrenaline. NVDES’ debut EP will be out November 18th on B3SCI. Pre-order. here.
Canadian producer UNBLOOM’s music tends to contradict his chosen pseudonym. We know from past experience that UNBLOOM’s sleek intoxicating electronica more than blooms, it explodes. New song They carries us away on that bursting tidal wave, surrounding us with pounding drums, lush synthesizers, and hearty bass in a way akin to fellow producers like Mura Masa and POMO. Joining UNBLOOM on lyric writing and lending her elegantly sensuous vocals is up and coming singer Layla Mora. Nu-funk, future bass, and soulful R&B wed seamlessly on this crisp oscillating, luxuriantly springing beauty.
When it’s all said and done, 2016 may go down as the year the Knowles sisters transcended pop and became legend. Thursday, just before midnight, Solange Knowles released her third studio LP, A Seat At the Table, her first full-length in eight years — and it’s an instant masterpiece. But we’ll let you listen and be the judge.