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Welcome Back
US Funky Town Grooves CD, 2011
The original release on US Capitol, 1981

1) The Oscar 2) Feelin' The Love 3) Who Could Ever Leave You 4) Welcome Back 5) Land Of Make-Believe 6) Seems I Haven't Seen Her 7) Standin' On The edge Of A Love Affair 8) Let There Be Love 9) All I Really Need Is You 10) Remember November

Funkytown Grooves’ deal with EMI is really starting to bear fruit now, and their latest batch of releases have proven to overshadow any new release, however good they may be. Discerning readers will already own this on vinyl, and having this released on super-duper remastered CD is nothing short of thrilling.Blue Magic, like The Dramatics slipped out one album for Capitol Records in the early 1980s and both sets stand tall today, some 30 years on.

That said, something has to be said. This was a very odd album for the time, and to be honest I am surprised it was released at all. You see, the album could easily have been recorded between 1974 and 1976. It really has that luxurious Philly feel to it from the start to the very end. Not a surprise when you see that the late, great, Norman Harris was responsible for production and co-production comes from Love Committee’s – and later to be Temptation - Ron Tyson. Recorded at Alpha International recording studios in Philadelphia the scene is set, and the stage is dressed with solid writing from the likes of Bobby Eli, Allan Felder, Richie Rome and Vernon Barrett. Quality assured!!!

The dramatic opening song is worthy of any sweet Philly harmony group – the Delfonics would have been great on this! “The Oscar” thunders in with a crescendo of strings, and then Ted Mills' sweet falsetto takes control over what can only be framed as a very sweet Philly ballad. The uptempo Thom Bell-like “Feeling The Love” cannot be beaten and the Spinners inspired “Who Could Ever Leave You” contains a beautiful rhythm and is laced with some gorgeous Philly guitar. Fans of their “13 Blue Magic Lane” set will immediately warm to the zingy “Welcome Back”, the pounding beat and darting strings and flute add extra magic.

“Land Of Make Believe” has some Thom Bell overtones to it, and really sounds out of place with what many artists were creating at the same time. Today though, the set sounds fantastic. Timeless. My favourite song is the beautiful “Standin' On The Edge Of A Love Affair” which lets the guys interplay their vocal skills nicely. “Let There Be Love” and “All I Need Is You” are also must-haves. Both are ballads of the highest order. Strings, incidentally, are courtesy of Don Renaldo and backing vocals from Philly's finest – Carla Benson, Phil Hurtt and Barbara Ingram! This is, without doubt brilliant Philly soul from 1981, even though it has more of a veneer of 1976!!!

Do not overlook this remarkable album, released in its fully remastered glory on CD for the first time ever by the lovely chaps at Funky Town Grooves!

-Barry Towler

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