Wednesday, 26 April 2017

"The Warner Brothers Year: Hits, Remixes & Rarities" by ASHFORD & SIMPSON (February 2008 Rhino 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…Have You Ever Tried It…"


In truth - songwriting giants (Nicolas) ASHFORD and (Valerie) SIMPSON probably need - no deserve - a 3 or 4CD box set to document their extraordinary contributions to Soul, Funk and Disco - especially in that halcyon decade of the Seventies.

But in lieu of that – this superbly remastered 2008 2CD set on Rhino will have to do. Here are the details for those elusive but tasty Promo-Onlys…

US released February 2008 – "The Warner Brothers Year: Hits, Remixes & Rarities" by ASHFORD & SIMPSON on Rhino R2 347964 (Barcode 081227995065) is a 2CD set of Remasters and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (75:42 minutes):
1. Over And Over (12" Disco Mix) (May 1977 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO 648)
2. Everybody's Got To Give It Up (from the 1974 US LP "I Wanna Be Selfish" on Warner Brothers BS 2789)
3. On More Try (12" Disco Mix) (January 1976 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO 676)
4. Have You Ever Tried It (from the 1973 US LP "Gimme Something Real" on Warner Brothers BS 2739)
5. Tried, Tested And Found True (12" Disco Mix) (May 1977 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO 648)
6. Send It (from the September 1977 USA LP "Send It" on Warner Brothers BS 3088)
7. Top Of The Stairs (from the September 1977 USA LP "Send It" on Warner Brothers BS 3088)
8. Don't Cost You Nothing (12" Disco Mix) (December 1977 USA Promo-only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO 706)
9. It Seems To Hang On (12" Disco Mix) (July 1978 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO 748)
10. Found A Cure (12" Disco Mix) (June 1979 USA Promo-only 12" single on Warner Brothers DWBS 8874)
11. Nobody Knows (12" Disco Mix) (October 1979 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO-A-837)
12. Love Don't Make It Right (12" Disco Mix) (June 1980 USA Promo-Only 12" single on Warner Brothers PRO-A-884)
13. Stay Free (from the August 1979 US LP "Stay Free" on Warner Brothers 3357)
14. Bourgie Bourgie (from the September 1977 USA LP "Send It" on Warner Brothers BS 3088)

Disc 2 (All Remixes Done in 2008, 77:04 minutes):
1. Found A Cure (A Tom Moulton Mix, 10:34 minutes)
2. It Seems To Hang On (Tommy Musto Re-Touch, 8:28 minutes)
3. One More Try (Dimitri Re-Edit, 7:59 minutes)
4. Bourgie Bourgie (Joe Claussell's Classic Remix, 11:20 minutes)
5. Over And Over (Simphouse/M&M Mix, 9:01 minutes)
6. Stay Free (Dim’s The Missing Mix, 7:49 minutes)
7. Love Don't Make It Right (Joey Negro Mix)
8. Tried, Tested And Found True (Simphouse/M&M Soulful Mix, 7:38 minutes)
9. Stay Free (Dim's Club Mix, 7:44 minutes)

The 16-page booklet (inside a 3-way foldout hard card sleeve) has liners notes by DAVID NATHAN, a Producer’s Note about the 12" singles from JOHNNY "D" DeMARIO and PAUL SIMPSON, with further reminiscences in the final few pages from Ashford & Simpson themselves. 

RICK EESIG did the remasters in New York and the audio quality is fantastic – crowd-pleasers like "Have You Ever Tried It" sounding so fresh and alive. As you can also see from the track list on Disc 1 – lots of those elusive American Promo-only 12" Mixes make their debut on CD here. Take the piano-boogie of "Tried, Tested And Found True" – the Disco Mix runs to 5:28 minutes – and not say a pointless 9 or ten minutes. It has string and brass breaks throughout and a huge rhythm section that threatens at times to overtake the whole song – and yet the remaster allows the lot to shine.

The punch off the fabulous and technically brilliant instrumental "Bourgie Bourgie" is the same – it’s six minutes of sweetness feeling lush and sexy and properly funky in a way that only Seventies Soul seemed to be. Even by 1979 and “Stay Free” – they still seemed relevant and the title-track has a gorgeous Anthony Jackson bass line (listening to Chic a lot I dare say). Eric Gale's funky guitar flicks on "Found A Cure" (another winner from the "Stay Free" album) are very clear too as is that great string/brass backing. More hooky melodies kick in with the monster “Love Don’t Make It Right” – a tune that used to slay the dancers whenever I DJ'd it back in the nightclub day. And I love that effortless funk they got on "It Seems To Hang On" (easy to see why Rhino also issued this as a 4 x 12" single set – DJs wanting those grooves so bad).

Of the remixes I went straight for the huge eleven minutes of "Bourgie Bourgie" and although it mostly works – it kind of overstays its welcome a tad no matter how much I love it (a clever update from Claussell nonetheless). The same applies to "Over And Over" – the mix dominating instead of the melody – drum machine sounds etc. Joey Negro's take on "Love Don't Make It Right" ups the pace and features a faster funky backing track - but again you can't help feel that the original got it just right. The most successful one here for me is Dimitri's re-working of "One More Try" – still funky with Elliott Randall and Eric Gale's guitar work peaking through all the time to great effect (Elliott Randall did the stunning guitar work on Steely Dan's "Reeling In The Years" back in 1972). 

As I said earlier - someone needs to get a proper Box Set together for ASHFORD and SIMPSON – more tracks from 1980's "A Musical Affair" – the Side 4 studio stuff from the 1981's "Performance" double live and more. 

But in the meantime there is this to savour – even if it has started to accumulate a rather nasty price tag since deletion. Despite the fact that you probably won’t play much of Disc 2 – Disc 1 is worth every funky remixed cent. Recommended...

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