Saturday, 3 December 2016

Extraordinary Strings and Horns Arrangers Pt.3

Phil Spector Recording sessions
Gene Page
Meanwhile, after the success of the Ronettes' seminal "Be My Baby", their producer Phil Spector was looking for another act and spotted Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. Renamed the Righteous Brothers, the original blue- eyed soul duo had already scored a minor hit with "Little Latin Lupe Lu". Spector commissioned the husband-and-wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who wrote "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' ".
In the summer of 1964, Phil Spector's first-choice arranger, Jack Nitzsche, was busy and so the producer decided to give Page a try on the studio date. His swelling, swirling string arrangements greatly enhanced the recording of this epic track which topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " is still named by many as the greatest single of all time and probably the definitive illustration of the Spector "Wall of Sound".
Page was on a roll; he worked with the Drifters and, in 1965, helped Dobie Gray to fashion "The In Crowd", the dancefloor filler and northern soul favourite. By the following year, the arranger had become part of the elite of Los Angeles session men which included the guitarist Glen Campbell, the drummer Hal Blaine and the engineer Bones Howe. Under the aegis of the producer Lou Adler, this team backed the Mamas and the Papas on "California Dreamin' " and "Monday, Monday", both million-sellers.

Motown and Barry White Recording Sessions
In the late Sixties, Page met the young singer Barry White, who was doing odd jobs to make ends meet between recording dates. To this day, the soul superstar remembers the arranger's generosity.  According to Barry White, during several Motown recording sessions on the West Coast at Motown Recording Studios, Page sneaked him into the studio where he was collaborating with the Tamla Motown songwriters and producers Holland-Dozier-Holland (Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland). They were cutting "Forever Came Today" for Diana Ross and the Supremes and White was transfixed. White would eventually get a chance to try and emulate his heroes. Page also arranged strings on Diana Ross’ solo album “Touch Me In The Morning,” “Baby It’s Me,” “Ross” and Michael Jackson’s solo album “Got To Be There”. He also conducted strings on Marvin Gaye’s live album “Marvin Gaye Live!”.
White owes Page more than the music. “In addition ..... he used to feed my family, pay my rent, give me gas money, food money for my children. I never had to pay him back. I tried many times . . . he'd never take it. When my ship came in, why would I use anyone else? When you say Barry White, Love Unlimited Orchestra, whatever else you say, always mention his name”.
In 1972, White called Page in to work on Love Unlimited's slinky, sensuous "Walking in the Rain with the One I Love". White couldn't read or write music and, at first, wouldn't even sing himself: he let his protegees the sisters Glodean and Linda James and Diane Taylor front the record, while his deep voice came in on the telephone line halfway through the track, which became a Top 15 single in Britain and the United States. Soon, Page became an indispensable right-hand man, listening intently to White's ideas and directions, writing out charts for the different instruments and helping him fashion his unique, symphonic soul sound.
Page recalled in interviews: “Barry would play with so much energy that the legs of the piano would buckle; his sweat would pour out into the keyboard. Barry White was the first to have five guitarists on one song, all playing different parts. The guitarists couldn't hear it. And sometimes I couldn't either. I'd question him. "Trust me" was his favourite line. And suddenly, magically, the parts and counterparts blended to perfection. Barry's ears went to harpsichords, French horns, flutes, mandolins”.
His ideas were never on paper but inside his head. Licks for tenor solos, accents for horns, complex patterns between drummers and bassists; Barry dictated, demonstrated, hummed out the parts. It was highly unorthodox, and it was also brilliant. Between 1973 and 1978, the brilliance of those pillow-talk recordings helped Barry White, as a solo artist and with his Love Unlimited and Love Unlimited Orchestra offshoots, sell over 100 million units and create what some sexologists still define as a "Barry boom". No night out was complete until you'd heard the rhapsodic strings and shuffling rhythms of such songs as "Never Never Gonna Give You Up", "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe", "You're the First the Last My Everything", "What Am I Gonna Do With You" and "Let The Music Play". He did all the string and horn arrangements for White’s million-selling albums and singles, creating a formidable lush polished sexy sound that was loved mainly by the female population. This enabled Barry White to generate 16 million dollars in revenue for the entertainment industry in a few short years.

Extraordinary Strings and Horns Arrangers Pt.2

Gene Page
“African American ‘Gene’ Page Jr., Is one of the most influential classically trained conductor, arranger and record producer in contemporary music”.
(Extract from the Independence Newspaper dated 20th September 1998)

The contribution of arrangers to popular music recordings is often ignored, George Martin and Quincy Jones being the exception to the rule. Gene Page, the American orchestrator and producer who died last month in Los Angeles, was "session call number one" for any artist needing lush strings to heighten the appeal of a ballad.

As the guitarist Ray Parker Jr. (of Ghostbusters fame) said in tribute to his long-time friend and colleague:
“Take any romantic record of the last 25-30 years, be it by the Righteous Brothers, Michael Jackson, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers or Whitney Houston, and you've heard Gene Page's work. He was a spectacular arranger; no one could put together cellos, French horns and violins like him”.
“When I was a kid, still in diapers, Gene was already happening. I was a big fan of his. He had the same effect on me as Stevie Wonder. When you have this level of talent around in the studio, you get a little more humble”.
Born in Los Angeles in 1940, Eugene Page Jnr was taught piano by his father. Something of a child prodigy, he won a scholarship to the Brooklyn Conservatory and seemed destined for a career as a concert pianist. However, to earn extra cash, he started to help he started to help various acts polish their demo tapes. In the early Sixties, his work caught the ear of Reprise Records who hired him as their in-house arranger.

During that period in the 1970s Page still found time to conduct string arrangements for Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, Deniece Williams, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Crystal Gayle, Julio Iglesias, Leo Sayer and even Elton John, an early Barry White convert, who used Page to great effect on the Philly-Sound-influenced single "Philadelphia Freedom" and the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975).
1980s Recording Sessions
Prior to his death Gene Page had conducted strings on many 1980s recordings that were just as successful as those of the previous decade, which included such recordings as "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, that actually peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending 15th August 1981 (9 weeks), followed by the duet "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, taken from the “Born To Love” album, gold-certified in America.
 "The Greatest Love of All" performed by Whitney Houston was another gold-certified hit single in America, with multi-platinum certification for Houston’s self-titled solo album. He went on to arrange strings for Atlantic Starr on their gold-certified album “All In The Name Of Love”, which featured the single "Always" that reached the number one position week-ending 13th June 1987 (1 week). Anita Baker benefited from Page’s brilliant arrangements on her second solo multi-platinum album “You’re the Best That I Got” that reached number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart week-ending 24th December 1988 (4 weeks). Many of these artists had number one albums on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart that featured a credit for Gene Page during a prolific decade that represents a crowning achievement for a great icon. In all, his name appeared on more than 200 gold and platinum records. He also conducted string arrangements on Teddy Pendergrass’ first post-accident studio album “Love Language”, that was certified platinum in 1984 for over one million copies sold in North America.
At Page’s funeral the Rev. William Minson Jnr. who officiated at the service remembers Page as "a man who always cared and shared with other people. More than his 35 year-career in popular music, I believe that this is Gene Page's biggest legacy."

Extraordinary Strings and Horns Arrangers Pt.1

Paul Riser
Paul riser is one of the most prolific classically-trained string and horn arrangers to emerge in America. Originally from the city of Detroit, he became a significant mastermind of and contributor to Motown Records definitive signature sound, known as “The Sound of Young America”.

Among Riser's biggest hits as an arranger are "My Girl" (The Temptations),
"Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" (The Temptations), for which he won a Grammy
Award, both versions of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Marvin
Gaye and Gladys Knight & The Pips), "My Cherie Amour," (Stevie Wonder),
both versions of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye &Tammy Terrell), "If I Were Your Woman" (Gladys Knight & The Pips) and "Tears of A Clown" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles). He is also the composer of "What Becomes of The Brokenhearted" (Jimmy Ruffin).

Away from Motown, from the 1970s Riser’s string and horn arrangements have graced recordings for The Carpenters, Carly Simon, Quincy Jones, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Jones, Natalie Cole, Pharoah Sanders, Kiki Dee, Johnny Mathis, Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker, Roberta Flack, Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin and a host of others. During the 1980s he conducted and arranged strings on hits which include "Never Too Much" (Luther Vandross), "Two Hearts" (Phil Collins) and "I Believe I Can Fly" (R. Kelly). Paul Riser's work in film and television include "Mad About You," "Car Wash," "Bamboozled," "Space Jam," "Standing In The Shadows Of Motown", " Four Brothers," "Which Way Is Up" and "Mother, Jugs and Speed."

In the 21st Century he went on arrange an R&B and Soul classic for Hip/Hop artist R.Kelly, his signature song “Step in the Name of Love”. The song was a dance "anthem" at social and corporate events in the UK and America. Taken from the 2003 album “Chocolate Factory”, the track was a multi-platinum single in America and gold-certified in the UK. “Step in the Name of Love” peaked at number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Singles Chart week-ending 6th December 2003 (1 week). The album “Chocolate Factory” was number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart week-ending 2nd March 2003 (1 week).

Paul Riser is one of the few former Motown arrangers who is still active as a musician, continuing his outstanding contribution to major hit recordings globally.

For his great work over the decades he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009.

Marvin Gaye’s Landmark Studio Album Pt.2

Van De Pitte conducted a
 recording session
Picture of Van De Pitte conducting a recording with the late Bob Babbitt playing guitar at the session.

He was an American music arranger and bass player. He was staff member of Motown Records  during the 1960s and early 1970s, and is best known for his work at Motown Records especially his tremendous contribution to the “What’s Going On” as the main arranger. During the 1970s, Van De Pitte also did arrangements for the number one on the Cash Box Pop Singles Chart week-ending 14th November 1970 (1 week) performed and produced by Dean Taylor which was called “Indiana Wants Me.” Another classic track was “If I Were Your Woman” performed by  Gladys Knight & the Pips that also made it to number one week-ending 23rd January 1971.


Marvin Gaye’s Landmark Studio Album Pt.1

A defining moment for Marvin Gaye and the Motown origination.
Marvin Gaye's landmark album
This was first time in the history of Motown that The Funk Brothers and the other musicians who were members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra were given full credit on the album notes, including the sound engineer. The album was a defining moment in Motown’s history, a landmark album, a Jazz-oriented recording project that allowed The Funk Brothers to shine as trained Jazz musicians, mixed with the best classically-trained musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Gordon Staples.
What's Going On was the first album on which Motown Records' main studio band, the group of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers, received an official credit.
The first Marvin Gaye album credited as being produced by the artist himself, “What's Going On” is a unified concept album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle; the album ends on a reprise of the album's opening theme. The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing only hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye's introspective lyrics discuss themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with criticizing global warming before the public outcry against it had become prominent. It (the studio album) has become masterpiece of tremendous impact and influence across generations and it content is still relevant today with the social and political situations occurring in America and around the world. The recording project pushed Marvin Gaye to icon status internationally and made him a house whole name in the same breath as the late Otis Redding and Jimmy Hendricks.
According to Van DePitte: “Marvin wanted somebody other than the normal drummers who worked at Motown. Chet was coming from a little different place. He was a white guy, and he had done a great deal of studying in the classical vein. He was also one of the best jazz drummers I ever worked with. When this guy locked into a groove, you couldn’t shift him.”
Golden World Studios in Detroit, Studio B, was used to record the strings and horns section, led by concert master Gordon Staples, whilst the rhythm section was recorded at Motown’s old Studio A on West Grand Boulevard. Marvin Gaye’s creative instincts were certainly validated by the middle of 1971 when “What’s Going On” was racing up the charts, becoming a best-seller for Motown.
Picture of Van De Pitte conducting a recording with the late Bob Babbitt playing guitar at the session.




Thursday, 3 November 2016

Diana Ross & The Supremes Pt.3

             “Record-breaking Success in the Guinness Book of Records”

Miss Ross has managed to achieve the number one position on the Official UK Pop Albums and Singles Charts from the 1960s into the 1990s for a duration of 18 weeks in total!
Both herself and the Supremes were inducted  into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988  and were recognized with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Blvd. As lead singer of the Supremes and as a solo artist, Ross has earned 18 number one singles (12 as lead singer of the Supremes and 6 as a solo artist) on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in America.

Gold selling album in America
produced by Ashford and Simpson.
In 1979 she collaborated once again with her long-time friends Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, whom she had worked with since her silver-certified studio album “Surrender” in the early 1970s. Ashford and Simpson co-wrote and co-produced “The Boss”, an RIAA gold-certified studio album, in 1979. The title single “The Boss” became a number one hit on the Billboard Dance Singles Chart, week-ending 25th August 1979 (2 weeks).

Gold certification in the UK
awarded by BPI
The legacy still lives on with another greatest hits package “40 Golden Motown Greats Diana Ross & The Supremes” receiving a gold disc in the UK from the BPI on the 22nd July 2013 for over 100,000 copies sold.


 The striking success of these compilations is an indication of the depth and variety of the songs recorded by Diana Ross and The Supremes over many years. The albums are part of many people’s record collections and continue to receive air-play to this day. It is not difficult to see why. The Soul Queen of Motown will always be part of pop music’s royalty.



Diana Ross & The Supremes Pt.2

             “Record-breaking Success in the Guinness Book of Records”

The group's final UK Pop number one album
and certified recording project.

The vocal group’s final compilation number one was the greatest hits album “Diana Ross
and the Supremes 20 Golden Greats”, at the top week-ending 17th September 1977 (7 weeks). The label received a gold disc from the BPI for over 100,000 copies sold in the UK.

They are also the recording act with the most number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in America (with 12) and on the Cash Box Pop Singles Chart (with 14)! The Supremes only managed to have 8 singles at number one on the Billboard Hot R&B and Soul Singles Chart from 1964 to 1970, with “Stoned Love” the last of these, week-ending 26th December 1970 (1 week).

Gold certified greatest hits compilation
in the UK
They are also the recording act with the most number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in America (with 12) and on the Cash Box Pop Singles Chart (with 14)! The Supremes only managed to have 8 singles at number one on the Billboard Hot R&B and Soul Singles Chart from 1964 to 1970, with “Stoned Love” the last of these, week-ending 26th December 1970 (1 week).
“Diana Ross’ Greatest Hits”, consisting of ten of Ross' greatest hits as a solo artist, became her second album in 1976 to hit the Top Five in the UK. It was certified gold in the UK for sales in excess of 100,000 copies on 1st January 1976.                  

Platinum certified album
 for over 300,000 copies in the UK
according BPI.

Miss Ross has managed to achieve the number one position on the Official UK Pop Albums and Singles Charts from the 1960s into the 1990s for a duration of 18 weeks in total!          


About Me

My photo
Old Harlow, Essex, United Kingdom
Kevin Tomlin has over 34 years of teaching experience in Jamaica, England and America, including 15 years teaching music history of black origin and visual art in South Florida, U.S.A., through Arts in Education. Tomlin created special training programmes and workshops for music teachers in South Florida schools, using music history as the foundation, to build exciting programmes of study and support materials for education professionals. Since 2000, he’s taught music history, geography, religious education, history, visual arts and performing arts at schools in Hertfordshire and Essex, at both primary and secondary levels. He conducts research and provides consultancy services for multi-media organisations, schools, recording artists, cultural and faith-based groups and entertainment professionals.

Blog Archive