Eleven years ago a young and determined drummer/percussionist/singer/songwriter/producer/educator by the name of Drew Schultz released a compilation album called Back to Class, which he described as “a love letter to Detroit soul music” (Deep Soul November 2012 (soulexpress.net). Now on September the 9th he’ll release Back to Class, Vol. 2 with as many as 20 tracks put together with some of the Detroit’s finest musicians. Spyder Turner, Melvin Davis, Pat Lewis and Dennis Coffey appeared already on the first volume, but now you can add to the list such names as the Four Tops, Carolyn Crawford, Joe Pep Harris, the Fantastic Four and many more. In the capacity of an educator in the Metro Detroit area for organizations including Motown Museum and Oakland University, Drew finds it most important that 50% of profits benefit the music programs of the Detroit public schools. Drew introduces himself more in detail on the opening page of https://www.Drew-Music.com.
Drew: “I started this project in 2013. Originally I released a few singles after Back to Class, Vol. 1. Those singles are all included on Back to Class, Vol. 2, although every previously released song contains some new re-recorded and re-arranged material so - even if you’ve heard them before – there will be something new in the recording to enjoy. Six of the songs have previously been released, while fourteen of them are brand new. Some of the songs were recorded as far back as 2013, while some were recorded and completed in early 2023.”
In spite of the high quality of the material and many magnetic names on the first volume, it didn’t turn into a goldmine. Drew: “I wish I could say the first album was a smash hit – however, I am almost halfway to recouping all the costs from Back to Class, Vol. 1 with most of that recoupment occurring within the past few years. This is all due to some unexpected synchronization placements of the songs within television and independent films. This is one of the reasons why Back to Class, Vol. 2 is so long with so many songs. Music streaming is not a large scale generator of profits, but I’ve found that sync placement licenses have the potential to actually garner profits and aloe the project to raise some real money for the Detroit public schools.”
MOTOWN NOSTALGIA WITH MY FIRST LOVE
Drew produced and arranged this entire album, which is also self-financed. “Almost every part of the album was recorded at my own home studio, engineered by me using my own equipment. Some vocal tracks were recorded at Studio 24/7-D by Paul Morris and at SDA studios by Steve Adams.”
Drew wrote the lyrics and composed all the songs except two, where he had co-writers. “My First Love was actually a set of lyrics that were handwritten by Tony Clarke. The lyrics were found by Tony’s son Geno and brought to me and McKinley Jackson to flesh out the music. McKinley wrote the majority of the chord progression. I arranged the rhythm section, horns, strings, and retooled the lyrics to ensure that they fit the tempo and structure of the arrangement. Yvonne Vernee is the featured vocalist. She is the lead singer of the Elgins, and had a northern soul record called Just Like You Did Me written by Tony Clarke, and she composed the spoken word part on My First Love - so My First Love is written by Tony Clarke, myself, McKinley, and Yvonne.”
Eddie Willis, Drew and Dennis Coffey.
My First Love is a quick-tempo dancer with strong echoes of that irresistible Motown sound from the past. This gripping song has a few counterparts on this set, specifically Change by Harrison Kennedy of the Chairmen of the Board and Long Term Plan by Carolyn Crawford. Carolyn’s track will be the third single pick off the album. Besides those three tracks there are still at least two that certainly please Motown fans. A melodic and driving dancer called Delusions features the Four Tops, Dennis Coffey and Antwaun Stanley of the funk group called Vulfpeck. This track will be released as the fifth single just one week prior to the release of the whole album. Unlike the title says, Take It Slow is an up-tempo number that features Delbert Nelson on vocals, Eddie Willis on guitar and another “funk”, Brian Asselin on tenor sax.
MOVING ON WITH THE FANTASTIC FOUR
The other song with a co-writer is an emotional and inspirational ballad named Moving On. Drew: “I was thrilled to write it in conjunction with former Motown/Ric Tic/Golden World songwriter and producer Al Kent, who is one of my all-time songwriting heroes. He helped with the lyrics on the bridge and provided the spoken work bookends at the beginning and end of the song.”
Drew with the Fantastic Four.
The song features not only Al Kent but most importantly the Fantastic Four. “The Fantastic Four as a group was reconstituted by original member Ralph Pruitt and they are still going strong today performing and recording in Detroit. Ralph sadly passed away in 2014. On this recording are Ray Ward, Jerry Brooks, Leroy Seabrooks, Eddie Hughes, and Darrell Nunlee. Leroy and Darrell had toured together as members of Sylvester Potts’ Contours. Leroy was sadly ill during this time, and we lost him in April 2023. At the time we recorded the vocals for Moving On – in late 2022 - he was too ill to perform live with the group but I was thrilled he still wanted to be on the recording – so this song could technically feature the Fantastic Five. “
THE BROKEN HABITS
“The musicians on this album are some of my closest friends. Every song has some combination of musicians from my band that formed in NYC while I was in college, The Favorite States, as well as my current band in Detroit, The Broken Habits. The Favorite States are myself on drums, Jent LaPalm on bass, Emilio Tostado on guitar, John Guari on keys, and Chris Ams on vocals.”
“The Broken Habits are myself on drums, Matt Ryan on bass, Carlton Washington on guitar, Mike Harrison on keys, and Trish Shandor on vocals. On some of the songs Takashi Lio performed upright bass parts.” In 2017 Drew and the Favorite States (then known as the Funk Machine) released a benefit album titled Tribute to Funk Brother Eddie Willis, and 2019 saw a release of a concert recording by Drew and the Broken Habits called Live at 20 Front Street.
There are many moods on this set. To counterbalance Motown-inspired stompers there are softer songs with high-pitched singing, such as the atmospheric Fairytale by Mark Scott of the Miracles, the melodic Please (Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams) by Reginald Torian of the Impressions, featuring Lee Goodness on drums and Cecil Jones as a co-vocalist, the plodding The Answer by Billy Prince of the Precisions. Reginald Torian still returns on Waiting Game, where he carries the melody through on a galloping rhythm.
Pat Lewis is the vocalist on the slowly swaying and breezy Rely on Me, while among the mid-tempo numbers the punchy So You Want to Make Me Happy by Melvin Davis merits a proper mention. That song, as well as Spyder Turner’s captivating toe-tapper named Give It Up, have by now been available as singles. The lively and melodic Too Quick Caller, featuring Joe Pep Harris of Undisputed Truth,is still waiting for its release on August the 28th. Steve and Wendell Calloway of the Professionals back him up on this track.
Joe Pep Harris, Drew and Melvin Davis.
JAZZY JOE MESSINA
Tommy Good is featured on the slow and jazzy late-night song titled If You Were to Fall for Me. Drew: “That is me playing the piano on If You Were to Fall for Me. I’m very proud of it, but it took a lot of takes in the studio to get right. I’m definitely not a good enough piano player to knock it out live on stage.”
The mid-tempo He Just Won’t Listen is another jazzy number, and it features Ronnie McNeir singing in a lower register than accustomed. Thursdays at the Maestro’s is a mellow, jazzy instrumental featuring Joe Messina on guitar. Drew: “Steve Blackburn plays the wonderful flute throughout that song, and Steve Shepard plays rhythm guitar. We used to get together at Joe Messina’s house to read jazz charts and practice group improvisation, and this track was trying to capture that feeling. Joe was one of the Funk Brothers for Motown Records, and a wonderful guitarist and human being. Just being around Joe was always a booster shot of positivity. He was an inspiration to me.”
A Detroit vocalist named Buddy Smith and Detroit’s queen of the blues, Thornetta Davis, join forces on a finger-snapping blues song called So Long, and Willie Jones of the Royal Jokers shines on the infectious and driving Murphy’s Law. “Rick Alan plays the bari solo on Murphy’s Law. He is a good friend from the Detroit area now residing in Germany.” There’s still one more melodic and playful mid-tempo song named Perfect. “That is me trying my best to sing on that one. I know, truly, I will never be perfect.”
Drew with the Four Tops.
DREW AS A HERMIT
Drew: “I am so thankful to call these artists friends as well as collaborators. The hardest part was just scheduling, especially during the Covid pandemic. I had several recording sessions, where I would wear my mask, run an air purifier, and stay silent in a corner of the room facing my computer - and therefore facing the wall - with the vocalist more than 10 feet away facing the opposite direction from me.”
“For almost two years I was kind of a hermit, actively choosing to do this work with my own heroes and inspirations in a safe method as opposed to hanging out with friends closer to my own age, or going to shows, concerts and events. I would do nothing differently. I am so proud to say that the album was able to be completed and without putting these artists, who I so deeply respect, at risk. I am so grateful for everyone on this project. Without these artists and musicians, my life would be so drastically different. Without Detroit soul music I may have never moved to Michigan, may have never met my wife, etc. etc. etc. I can’t imagine how my path would be without all of these artists and I will forever be grateful for everyone involved. “