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DEEP # 7/2013 (November)

  As many of you may remember, the co-lead of the Spinners, Bobbie Smith, passed away on March 16, 2013.  His smooth and sweet tenor voice was an integral part of many hits for the group, starting from That’s What Girls Are Made For in 1961.  Finally after six months the fifth member was introduced to the public, and I interviewed this newcomer, as well as the only surviving original member of the group, Henry Fambrough

  At the end of the column there are still reviews of three retrospect compilations by Candi Staton and Tommy Hunt.

Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Henry Fambrough of the Spinners
Ronnie Moss of the Spinners

CD reissue & compilation reviews:
Candi Staton: Candi / Young Hearts Run Free
Candi Staton: Music Speaks Louder than Words/House of Love
Tommy Hunt: A Sign of the Times/The Spark Recordings 1975-1976


HENRY FAMBROUGH

  Lorraine Smith, Bobbie’s wife, wrote me on March 17 this year: “Bobbie had the NIHI virus and fought as long and as much as he could.  He succumbed at 1:55 PM yesterday.  I will make plans to take him to Detroit for funeral.  He will be missed so much.”

  Henry is and has been for a long period the only existing original member of the Spinners, and he admits that Bobbie’s passing was a big blow and loss for the group.  Henry:  “Bobbie was the last one to come in to make up the original group, to come in as the fifth man.  He came in about 1956 – 57.”  This year since March for about six months the group performed as a four-man unit only.  “Marvin Taylor sang Bobbie’s parts, and, in fact, he’s still the one that’s singing Bobbie’s parts.  He did a real good job, so I let him keep that.”

  “It was Marvin, who recommended Ronnie Moss, so I gave Ronnie a call.  He came in, did the interview, did audition and everything.  I worked with him for a couple of days and everything worked out good, so he’s still here.  I auditioned about 20-25 singers.  When you pick up a person to join an organization like the Spinners, you don’t listen to the voice only.  You got to look at the personality, the person himself and try to see the future in him.  Ronnie’s got a hell of a personality.  He’s very easy to get along with.  He doesn’t drink or smoke, none of that stuff, no dope.  If you’re using the stuff that’s bad for you, it causes you to have a bad name out there and can destroy your organization.”

  Henry Fambrough was born in 1938, which means that the other four guys are actually 19 – 30 years younger than he is.  Does that cause any problems?  Henry: “No, because they are very good.  They listen and they’re eager to learn.  All the personalities fit together, and we finally got the fifth man.  We recently finished a photo session, and everything is going smoothly.  We’re looking forward to the future.  We’re still doing about 50-60-70 concerts a year.”

  With Bobbie there was talk about a possible new CD.  “When Bobbie was still around, we were working on compiling songs.  One of the guys in the group, Charles Washington, is a writer.  Now when Bobbie passed, we’ve put the thing on hold, but again right now we’re compiling material and taking our time to put it together.  It’ll come out probably sometime next year.”


INTRODUCING... RONNIE “RAHEEM” MOSS

  Ronnie Moss was born in 1957, September 12th.  Ronnie: “I use Raheem a lot, because there are so many Ronnie Mosses across the country, and I’ve always used it as a music name.”  Ronnie was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia, about 130 kilometres south of Macon, in a town with a population close to 10,000 today.  Now he resides in Loganville, Georgia, almost fifty kilometres east of Atlanta, again in a town with a population a bit over 10,000.

  “I was raised as a young boy in Buffalo, New York.  Actually I was raised there from birth, because my mom was only visiting down in Georgia, when I was born.  I was probably twelve, when my dad moved to Michigan for work.  I’ve lived most of my high school years in Flint, Michigan, and I stayed in Michigan till I was 38 and moved back to Georgia.”

  “My grandfather and dad sang, but they weren’t professionals.  They just sang around in church in Georgia.  I had several uncles that were musicians.  My biggest early influence was Sam Cooke.  I also loved Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, and I was heavily influenced by jazz.  Of today’s artists I like Phil Perry, and, believe it or not, I love Al Jarreau.”

  “I sang a little in a church choir as a young boy.  Then I left that and started doing high school choirs.  I did that for three years in Michigan.  I also did some musicals in high school and high school competitions.”

THE VELVETONES

  In music world there have been numerous groups under the name of the Velvetones.  Perhaps the best renowned was a New Jersey doo-wop group, which recorded in the 40s (One Day, Sweet Lorraine), and one Jimi Hendrix was a member of another Velvetones in 1958.  Two groups have Detroit connections.  Walter Jackson recorded with the Velvetones in 1959 for Deb Records (Who Took My Girl/Stars of Wonder), and one single (Dream Girl/Havin’ a Party Tonight) was released again by another group by the same name on Velvet 001.  We still have many Velvetoneses that recorded for Aladdin, Ascot, Verve and Peachtree... all different outfits.

  Ronnie joined a latter-day Velvetones, a singing group out of Flint, Michigan, in the 70s.  “I started getting more serious about music, when I joined the Velvetones.  I started singing with them in the 7th grade.  We sang locally around Michigan, but we didn’t make any recordings as a group.  We sang all the way through high school up until about five years after I graduated from high school.  I joined them in the early 70s and left right around 1981.”

  In Ronnie’s life the music became a dominating factor and overtook all other interests, including further studies in the University of Michigan.  “I didn’t finish there.  I went there right out of high school for one semester.”

  “After the Velvetones I kind of stepped up and started branching out, started writing music and doing studio work for several artists, background vocals for up-and-coming artists.  I worked out of a studio called “A” in Dearborn, Michigan.”

  “Along with my vocal, I became a percussionist.  I started playing percussion right around the 9th grade.  I taught myself.  When I was heavily influenced by jazz, I got into playing percussion by listening to Yellowjackets and similar groups.  I played around with different groups, and then I got more serious after high school.  I got together with a guy, who was one of my best teachers.  His name was Larry Fratangelo.  He’s a famous percussionist and a drummer from Detroit.  He has played with Aretha Franklin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince and many others.” (www.brotherangel.com).

ORANGE LAKE DRIVE

  In the 80s in concerts Ronnie opened up for many artists.  First it was as a member of the Velvetones for such luminaries as the Dramatics and Enchantment, later as a solo act for many others.

  His first twelve-inch solo single, By Appointment Only, was released in 1985 on Shining Star.  “It did fairly well.  It was an R&B feel song.  I cut that single in Dearborn, at studio A.  I wrote and produced it.  The other artist on the track is a very popular guitarist, who went by the name of Sparky.  His real name was Brian Lawson, and he also did a great deal of work with the Dramatics.  There are also a great keyboardist and a great friend, Curtis Boone, and a great female vocalist and a friend, Gwen Pennyman.”  The late Brian Lawson was also a member of ADC Band.

  “I started playing with a jazz group called Masterpiece in 1991.  We were pretty popular in the Flint area.  I did the vocals as well as the percussion. I was a member of them until 1994, and later that year I started playing with Orange Lake Drive from the Pontiac Detroit area.  I played with those guys until 1996.”  This jazz-rock fusion band was formed in Detroit in 1978, and between 1982 and 2011 they’ve released six albums on Shu-Bu Records - Transcend, The Cat, Fast Eddie, Fresh Squeezed, Drive and Pulp Fusion.  “I didn’t play on their albums.  I just played live with those guys.  Larry Fratangelo played with them and when he left and went on the road that’s when I joined their group.”

  In the flush of music, Ronnie, however, didn’t forget about education either.  “In 1993 I went to a music engineering school in a place called Chillicothe, Ohio.  It’s right outside of Columbus, Ohio.  I picked up a lot of recording things from that workshop.”

I WANT TO THANK YOU

  “At the same time I was with Orange Lake Drive, I was recording my first CD, I Want to Thank You.  I started the recording in 1994, and it was cut in Detroit.  On that project the musician were Marlin Jenkins on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tim Tinker on guitar, Gilbert Benman on bass, Darryl “Dwake” Wakefield on sax and Fred Swanson on keys, and that’s me on percussions on Raheem’s Groove.  It was pretty much a full band and I think only the drums were programmed.  I produced the set and wrote most of the songs.”  I Want to Thank You was released in 1995.

  There are many smooth ballads on the CD - such as Reasons, I Want to Thank You and I Do like Your Style – but among the eight tracks you can also listen to more contemporary mid-tempo urban groove (Got to Find Her, Let’s Work it out).  “When I released that, I was trying to stay more in what I was doing, but at the same time I was trying to stay up-to-date, so the sound is a little mixed.  The CD did quite well.  I don’t remember how many units it sold.  It didn’t go further, because I just didn’t have the backing at the time.”


SOL FACTOR

  “I moved to Atlanta in 1996 to get into the local music business, just to see how things would work for me here.  I got into a group here in Atlanta with Bryan Anderson.  I started playing with Bryan in 1998, after I took like two years off to work with my two kids.”  Bryan is not only a bassist out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but also a producer and songwriter, and he has six albums under his belt (www.bryanandersonmusic.com).  “We were a jazz group and I was the percussionist.  I stayed with him from 1998 to 2000.”  

  “In 2000 I met Will Culbreath (http://jazzmatic.net) through Bryan.  I started working with him, and we did coffee shops and small spots around Atlanta for a little over a year.  Then I met a gentleman by the name of Phil Muckle, who was the leader of the band Sol Factor (www.solfactorband.com).  They took me in as a percussionist and vocalist and I was with those guys for seven years.  We were the most popular band in Atlanta, and we opened up for so many artists, like Brick, Cherrelle, Sunshine Anderson, Rashaad Patterson, and we recorded a CD called Blue Couch in 2004, a kind of hip-hop & jazz thing.  We even played with Stevie Wonder once.  After the band went with Tyler Perry to play at the marriage counsellor plays across the country and they didn’t need percussion, I started working for a well-known music store called Guitar Center.  That led me back to playing with other small jazz groups, after which I travelled back and forth to Michigan and started singing with a few local singing groups.”  One more essential detail: in 2010 Ronnie sang the national anthem for the WNBA Atlanta Dream vs. New York on August 13th.

SPICEWATER and FOOL’S PARADISE

  Going back a few years, Spicewater was the title of Ronnie’s second solo album, which was released in July 2000 on the Najah label.  “That’s my daughter’s name.  I was trying to do an independent thing.  It was hard to get some financial backing at that time, but I picked quite a few fans across the country and out of the country.  It did pretty fair.  There was a lot of programming, but a lot of live stuff, too.  I had actually four musicians – guitar, keyboards, drums and bass on some tracks.  That was cut in Atlanta in my home studio.  I just used my knowledge and did it myself.”  This 18-tracker with four interludes is a mixture of romantic ballads, some funk, Latin groove and most of all jazz, and especially the instrumental tracks evolve into heavy improvisation.

  The third CD, Fools Paradise, was released in May 2004 on a label called 3rd Eye, and it was collaboration with Ronnie’s son, Yukima LaSane-Moss, in production and writing.  “We came up with that name, 3rd Eye.  At that particular time my son was nineteen.  I didn’t know he was into music like he was, but we just kind of collaborated and we came up with that project.  It sold out.  That one did very well.”

  Among sixteen tracks on display – including one intro, one interlude and one outro – there are five romantic slow songs (Testify, Why Me, Sway, Fools Paradise and Rewind the Days), and the rest of the repertoire consists of jazzy instrumentals, funky and uptempo cuts and some with hip-hop elements to them.


THE LUMINOUS INSPIRATION PROJECT

  Ronnie’s fourth and last solo set so far, The Luminous Inspiration Project, was released in 2010, but he had started working on it already five years earlier and again with his son Yukima, now called “Disciple.”  “He wanted to get involved in that, so I said ‘let’s go ahead and try it’.  It did pretty good also.”

  The album with 16 tracks is roughly divided into two parts, romantic ballads with some experimental things here and there (Without Your Love, Warm, It’s been a Long Time, Don’t Stop etc.) and jazzy & rocky instrumentals (The Score, I-85 Hybrid, Heem’s Antidote...).  “I’m a ballad guy.  I love singing ballads, but I happen to be a jazz percussionist as well, so with my both hands I just like to grab what I can.  My son suggested that we do one jazz part and one heavy vocal part, and people seemed to like it.  That was programmed, except on all jazz tracks that was me on percussion.”  The album was recorded at Ronnie’s home studios named Masterminds Sound Lab.  Masterminds means Raheem and Disciple together.

  In recent years Ronnie’s talent as a percussionist has been more widely recognized.  “LP, which is an abbreviation for Latin Percussion, is a company and they kind of endorsed me a few years ago, helped me out, and earlier this year I got another endorsement from a company called Gon Bops, and they’re a big percussion company.”


BACK TO THE QUINTET

  “I was highly recommended after Bobbie passed by a member of the Spinners, Marvin Taylor.  I went to them, tried out, but it took awhile, because they were just using four guys for awhile.  There were many guys, who tried out, and I got the position.  That was in March of this year.”

  “My first performance with them was September 21st.  That was in Greenbelt, Maryland, right by Washington.  I know the songs, but it took me actually four months to learn the steps.  When they called me, they were so busy, and I was kind of in and out, going visiting them and coming back, but then I got into a heavy rehearsal with them right around April.”

  “My favourite Spinners songs would be It’s a Shame, How Could I Let You Get Away, I’ll Be Around, Sadie, Ghetto Child, I Don’t Want to Lose You and I’ve Got to Make It on My Own.  This has been a great experience for me.  Of course, a lot of the fans have been wondering, who is this guy.  I know I can’t take Bobbie’s place, but at least I carry the torch.”

  You can get acquainted with the profiles of the other members of the Spinners, too, on our site:

CHARLTON WASHINTON at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep307.htm#charlton

JESSIE PECK at http://www.soulexpress.net/spinners09.htm

MARVIN TAYLOR at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep409.htm#spinners

HENRY FAMBROUGH is featured in our massive 5-part Spinners story in our printed papers in 2002-03, which are still available for purchase at

http://soulexpress.oxatis.com/PBSCProduct.asp?ItmID=10255260

(Ronnie’s site: http://ronnieraheemmoss.com; interviews were conducted on November 2 and 6, 2013; acknowledgements to Henry Fambrough, Ronnie Moss, SisDetroit and Wendell Lucas).


COMP-ART-ment

CANDI STATON *

  After her gospel spell with the Jewel Gospel Trio, Candi released two singles on Unity and Minaret labels prior to her Fame era since 1968.  You can read her comments on those and her Fame recordings till 1974 at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep2_2011.htm#candistaton.  Now in their reissue series Edsel has released Candi’s next four albums on Warner Brothers between 1974 and ’78 on two double-CDs.

  Candi/Young Hearts Run Free (EDSK 7032; Deluxe 2 CD set; www.demonmusicgroup.co.uk; 12 + 12 tracks; 39 + 60 min., notes by Tony Rounce) puts together the first two albums from 1974 and ’76, respectively.  Candi was the last album those days produced by Rick Hall and cut at Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound studios by using such trusted in-house musicians as Jimmy Johnson, Reggie Young, Pete Carr and Travis Wammack on guitar, Barry Beckett and Spooner Oldham on piano, Roger Hawkins on drums and David Hood on bass.  Harrison Calloway was one of the arrangers and horn players.

  The music was a mixture of southern funk and impressive soul ballads from the pens of Phillip Mitchell, George Jackson and George Soule.  Alongside such single hits as the funky As Long As He Takes Care of Home (# 6-soul, # 51-hot) and the thrilling 6/8 soul ballad Here I Am Again (# 35-soul; both by Phillip Mitchell), other cream cuts included a tuneful slow-to-mid-pacer, Your Opening Night, two country-soul beauties, Going Through the Motions and But I Do, and a poignant ballad called We Can Work It Out.  Let’s include a cover of Mac Davis’ melodic pop song, Stop and Smell the Roses, too.  Candi is simply an outstanding album, and one of the very best in her career.

  For her next album Candi hooked up with Dave Crawford, who in Los Angeles produced the set and also wrote five out of the eight songs on display (the rest four bonus tracks on this CD are a single edit, extended and instrumental versions of the hits).  Dave had his own trusted players, like Ollie E. Brown on drums, Scott Edwards on bass, Jack Ashford on percussion, Ray Parker on guitar and Sonny Burke on keyboards.  Jim Gilstrap and Deniece Williams, among others, were on background vocals.

The second single, Run to Me (# 26-soul), was a captivating, feel-good disco dancer and Destiny  and I Know were constructed in a similar vein, but there was one song above others, the title tune, Young Hearts Run Free.  This story-telling disco song became the biggest hit in Candi’s career (# 1-soul, # 20-hot) and she talks about it, as well as her previous Candi album at http://www.soulexpress.net/candistaton.htm (please, scroll down a bit to “Young Hearts Run Free”).   

  Among the slow songs there’s a heartfelt soul ballad titled What a Feeling, a country-soul tune named You Bet Your Sweet Sweet Love, a version of Al Green’s Living for You and the whispery, Summer Time with You, something Sylvia could have cut.  Young Hearts Run Free is a very entertaining and danceable set with 50 % of above average disco dancers and 50 % downtempo material.  Together with Candi, this double-CD comes highly recommended.


  Music Speaks Louder than Words/House of Love (EDSK 7033; Deluxe 2 CD set; 43 + 52 min.).

  Warner invited Bob Monaco to produce Candi’s ’77 album, Music Speaks Louder than Words (11 + 1 tracks).  The late Bob Monaco gets credit for discovering Rufus, but he also produced many pop & rock acts, and to a degree you can hear it on this album.  Recorded in California, most of the songs comes from outside sources, including the single releases – Allen Toussaint’s fast and easy A Dreamer of a Dream (# 37-soul), the Bee Gees’ poppy Nights on Broadway (# 16-soul, # 102-hot) and the Doobie Brothers’ discoed Listen to the Music (# 90-soul).

  Bobby Womack co-wrote a pleading soul ballad named One More Chance on Love and Paul Kelly penned the funky Main Thing.  The title tune is a melodic mid-pacer, whereas Before the Next Teardrop Falls was a gold country hit for Freddy Fender two years earlier.  Of the four albums featured here, for me Music Speaks Louder than Words is the least impressive one, mostly due to the lack of consistency and direction in the concept.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It just leaves you with an impression of too varied and superficial music.

  The companion album, House of Love (7 + 3 bonus tracks), brought Dave Crawford back in 1978, and this time he wrote four out of the seven songs on the LP.  Victim (# 17-soul) tried to repeat the formula and success of Young Hearts, but wasn’t quite as catchy and thought-provoking, and I actually prefer the follow-up disco single, the smooth Honest I Do Love You (# 77-soul). 

  The familiar I’m Gonna Make You Love Me is a duet with Dave, and on the acoustic and very churchy Take My Hand, Precious Lord Candi offers a taster of her forthcoming gospel era.  Personal favourites include a melancholic soul ballad titled I Wonder Will I Ever Get over It and another country-soul ballad called So Blue.  Candi and Dave Crawford made a good pair, although Candi and Rick Hall were still better (www.candi-staton.com).


TOMMY HUNT

  I was a big admirer of Tommy’s early and mid-60s uptown recordings (Human, I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself etc.), but I wasn’t too crazy about his 70s product in the U.K., and actually besides those 60s recordings the only disc I have from him is Until My Arms Fall Off on Swamp Dogg’s S.D.E.G. label from 1996. 

  A Sign of the Times/The Spark Recordings 1975-1976 (Shout 61; www.cherryred.co.uk; 21 tracks, 79 min.) combines Tommy’s two albums for Spark in the U.K. in the mid-70s, A Sign of the Times and Live at Wigan Casino.  Those days Tommy was a firm northern favourite, and consequently the music was mainly quick-tempo dancers and stompers.  His three charted single releases were a cover of Roy Hamilton’s Crackin’ up, a poppy dancer called Loving on the Losing Side and the big-voiced, fire engine speed-tempo One Fine Morning – they’re all here.  I also liked the uptempo, melodic title tune, A Sign of the Times.  On the downtempo front there’s a pretty ballad with a strings sweetening called A Miracle Like You, a show tune titled Loving You Is and Help Me Make It Thru’ the Night, interpreted in a Gladys Knight style.

  The live album must be a relic for those who were there at the Wigan Casino, but it leaves the uninitiated like me cold.  I couldn’t sense the excitement.  It just doesn’t convey.  On the contrary, the monotonous express train tempo and over-familiar songs get boring after a while.  I Can’t Turn You Loose, Get ready, the awful version of Knock on Wood, Never Can Say Goodbye, Baby I Need Your Loving... – a cavalcade of worn-out soul standards.  But no matter what I write, I’m sure the NS aficionados and the 80-year-old Tommy’s faithful fans have already purchased this CD (www.tommyhunt.co.uk).

© Heikki Suosalo

The Spinners and Ronnie Moss photos courtesy of Ronnie Moss.





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