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Album by Album

Part 2: The years on Columbia and later years

Check also the full Emotions discography of albums

The First Part of Our Emotions Story: The Stax/ Volt Period

Our part 1 of the story ended with the Emotions' last recordings on Stax, and left them shopping for a new record deal. Maybe some die-hart 60s / Stax fans did not like the idea that the group signed with Columbia and started cooperation with Maurice White and his fellow members of the funk-soul super group Earth, Wind & Fire, but my personal opinion is that was the best thing that ever could have happened to the Hutchinson sisters - not only in commercial point of view, but also from artistic / musical development. First of all, let's face it, Stax was leading the Emotions to pop direction and clearly had now idea what to record with the group, when the old Stax sound was getting out of date.

Wanda Vaughn was interviewed by Christian John Vikane in the liner notes of the Emotions Anthology 1969-1985, and she did not save her words, describing the last years with Stax. The Emotions had recorded a song titled Put a Little Love Away, a pure pop-country song written by Brian Potter & Dennis Lambert and originally recorded by American pop singer Maureen McGovern. "Stax had us going pop", said Wanda. "That's what they were trying to do. Jimmy Bishop, who was hot in the Philadelphia area, got us on The Mike Douglas Show because of that song. Mike loved that Lambert & Potter song. When he heard us sing it, he said, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know you could sing like that!" It was group lead, like the Lennon sisters".

Put a Little Love Away (Volt 4106) was a minor hit for The Emotions as 7" single, peaking at position 53 (pop # 73), but if this was the direction and musical environment Stax had for the group, it was really time to move on. And eventually the group had no alternative: Stax declared bankcruptcy and sold their back catalogue to Fantasy, which then also reactivated the label in 1977 and published also an album by the Emotions from the old Stax recordings, with the title Sunshine. All the Stax recordings were already handled in the Part 1 of our story, but in 1975, The Emotions signed to Maurice White's newly established Kalimba Productions, which would release the recordings on Columbia (USA) and CBS (the rest of the world).

Earth, Wind & Fire was really flying high in 1975, when Charles Stepney was still alive (he passed away May 17, 1976) and was contributing the group with his fabulous arrangements and production. Al McKay was also interviewed in the liner notes of the Emotions Anthology, and he confessed that "Charles Stepney was godsend to us. He brought the arrangements and he brought order to our sessions. We knew what we were doing but Charles brought great ideas and new songs like Reasons and Yearnin' Learnin'." Stepney also co-wrote the hit That's the Way of the World, together with Maurice and Verdine White.

1975 was the perfect time for The Emotions to join Maurice White and his new production company Kalimba. In her interview, Wanda recalls that "my father had known (drummer) Ron Ellison for some time, and he was friends with Maurice White. Ron thought it would be perfect for Maurice to have a girl group. Ron had us have a meeting with Maurice when he came to town with Charles Stepney. We went over to Charles' house, I sat down and started playing How Can You Stop Loving Someone, I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love and No Plans for Tomorrow, all the songs that we'd written and sung together. The rest is history, it was crystal clear to Maurice he would sign The Emotions, as not only could the sisters sing, they had their unique sound and they could write songs, too. "I signed them because of their unique sound and identifiable harmonies", said Maurice.

Still in January 2016, only two weeks before Maurice's passing, he was quoted saying that "Working with the Emotions gave me a chance explore a softer, sweeter side of music than was possible with an all-male band. Their sound was unique and I am glad I was involved in helping them share their gifts with the world".


US Columbia LP 34163, 1976
Buy this album from our CD Shop

The reissue by UK Expansion CD, 2012
1) I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love
2) Me for You
3) You've Got the Right to Know
4) We Go Through Changes
5) Special Part
6) No Plans for Tomorrow
7) How Can You Stop Loving Someone
8) Flowers
9) God Will Take Care of You
Bonus Track:
10) Flowers (Single Version)

The Flowers album was recorded in 1975 and 1976, and it featured Jeanette Hutchinson Hawes back with her sisters, when she had left the group to raise a family in spring 1970. Theresa Davis was not involved in this album, so it was the original Hutchinson trio back again recording for Columbia.

Although the debut album of The Emotions on their new label was not released until August 1976, and Charles Stepney had passed away in May 1976, Charles was the real mastermind behind this gorgeous album. Wanda and Charles had recorded some demo songs together, and introduced these to the members of Earth Wind & Fire. Al McKay (guitar), Larry Dunn (keyboards), Verdine White (bass) and Fred White (drums) had gathered together at Paul Serrano's studios and started to work for the album. Al McKay remembers the group members immediately liked all the demo songs, and decided to include them for the Columbia debut. Al said that it was great plus to the group they had wrote the songs by themselves.

Indeed Wanda and Jeanette contributed half of the songs on the album. Wanda had self-penned a song titled How Can You Stop Loving Someone, telling a story of a guy she was dating before she moved to Los Angeles. "He didn't want me to move. I knew we weren't really going to make it, I was saying "how can you stop loving someone". Wanda then played the song to Charles, who immediately said that the intro of the song is from Beethoven. Wanda said she had no idea - she never listens to classical music! The actual song is a very gentle, almost fragile song which is embedded in an airy backdrop laced by some refined guitar work. You can recognize Charles Stepney's arrangement in the closing moments, when Larry Dunn colours the background with his stylish keyboard lines. Even though the vocals are sung in an almost whispery tone, I find this track extremely soulful, delicate and stylish in the extreme.

The first single pick from the album was a double-header I Don't Want to Lose Your Love / Flowers (Columbia 10347). The record company had obviously thought Flowers is the A-side of the single, and it was the first song that charted from the Emotions on Columbia Records. It peaked at soul-16 and pop-87 and was first listed in July 1976. However, the radio DJs and fans of the group found the flip I Don't Want to Lose Your Love, which was debuted on Billboard soul chart in October 1976, and it actually fared better than the Maurice White-Al McKay-written Flowers, and it scored at soul-13 and pop-51. Flowers is dominated by a Charles Stepney's typically tasty arrangement with Al McKay playing the airy guitar and Larry Dunn doing his magic on keyboards. The album version gave an extra minute to the original single release. Actually this was the only track written by the Earth, Wind & Fire members on the whole album.

In retrospective, I Don't Want to Lose Your Love is probably the best remembered song on the whole album. It was written by Wanda and Jeanette, but dominated by Earth Wind & Fire horn section's tight riffs. Still, the most attractive part of the track was the shining vocal arrangement by the Hutchinson sisters. The rhythm track was driven by Al McKay's guitar riff, and the combination of the bouncy rhythm track, tight horn riffs and the Emotions' colourful harmonies is a real winner. I'm sure the single would have score the top ten, if Columbia had clearly marketed it as the debut single, but now it was hidden as the flip of Flowers, which Columbia naturally thought would be the lead single when it was written by EW&F superstars.

The album was a real treat for people like myself who were fans of both The Emotions and Earth Wind & Fire. No one could accuse that Maurice White was trying to mould the Emotions into the EW&F sound, as the Hutchinson sisters had written most of the songs by themselves, and the overall feel of the album was very airy, light and radiant. The Emotions has always been spring and summer music for yours truly, and indeed the album titles also underscore that: Flowers, Rejoice, Sunbeam (plus Sunshine on Stax compilation from 1977)...

Deniece Williams also contributed on the album one song, and Deniece's style was ideal for the Emotions as well. Special Part is written by trio Deniece Williams-Clarence McDonald-Lani Groves, who were responsible for most of the tunes on Deniece's Kalimba production debut, which was released only months after the release Flowers - the classic song Free was the first single, released in November 1976. Niecy's contribution to the Emotions is one of the several gems on the Flowers, both by its melody and unique arrangement.

Clarence McDonald also co-wrote (together with Fritz Baskett) the song that is my favourite ballad on the album, entitled Me for You. A real jewel of a song, an extremely beautiful composition delivered heavenly by Sheila and Wanda - they sound extremely soulful and profound, although the melody is very refined. The peak of the song starts at 1:40 on the second verse - just listen:
"Would you look at me?
Is this the kind of look from a passing friend?
Is this some kind of talk from your closest kin?
I don't know, but it gets me do----wn...

- leaves oneself totally speechless - simply out of this world!

The lack of a top ten single did not prevent the album to climb to the top ten of Soul Charts, and to sell well (Pop-45) on pop market, too. The whole Kalimba production unit was flying high to reach their commercial heyday in the following couple of years. The Emotions' peak in their career both commercially and artistically was their next album, released in 1977:


US Columbia LP 34762, 1977
Buy this album from our CD Shop
The reissue by UK Expansion CD, 2012 and US Sony Music, 2011
1) Best Of My Love
2) A Feeling Is
3) A Long Way To Go
4) Key To My Heart
5) Love's What's Happenin'
6) How'd I Know That Love Would Slip Away
7) Don't Ask My Neighbors
8) Blessed
9) Rejoice

Bonus track on the Expansion reissue:
10) Don't Ask My Neighbors (Single Version)

This album was also reissued by Ralph Tee on Expansion Records, 2012, which is the print we have on sale in our own CD store, but I am reviewing this album from my older Sony Music / CBS Nice price reissue. The only remarkable difference betweeen these two versions is the single version of Don't Ask My Neighbors as the bonus track on the Expansion reissue.

Jeanette Hutchinson did not participate in the recording of this album, but she was replaced by younger sister Pamela, so this was another Hutchinson sisters vocal trio. Musically the more important change, was, probably that Clarence McDonald was the co-producer together with Maurice White. Clarence had worked with Motown and soul heroines like Gladys Knight and Diana Ross, and his contributions on the Flowers album were excellent, so he was a wise and reliable choice to support Maurice in the production.

It was not an easy task to excel their smashing Columbia debut Flowers, but Rejoice did it. The whole Kalimba production team simply shined in 1977, finding classic soul songs, and creating instantly memorable combination of Earth Wind & Fire rhythm tracks, fabulous arrangements and the Hutchinson sisters shining vocal harmonies. In one of his more recent interviews Philip Bailey mentioned that they would have wanted Love Song by Skip Scarborough for Earth Wind & Fire to record, but it ended up to L.T.D. - and it remains the most recognised song in Jeffrey Osborne's live concerts still today. However, Maurice White's friend Skip Scarborough brought another tune Don't Ask My Neighbors especially for the Hutchinson sisters. Let's have Wanda Hutchison describe the unique moment (as interviewed by Christian John Wikane in the liner notes of The Emotions Anthology on BBR Records 2-CD compilation, 2016):

"Skip came in on a session we were doing. I remember it so well. His eyes were all red. He was telling Maurice how something had just happened to him and his wife. He sat there at the piano and started to play Don't Ask My Neighbors Skip is not really a singer but he knew how to get the feeling of it. Sheila started singing. It was about 2 A.M. In the day time, Sheila's voice has that airy thing but at night Maurice would say her voice gets real smooth and real soothing where nothing is forced. She didn't know what she was going to say next but it just came. Her first take was the song. It was so emotional. We did the backgrounds that same night because the feeling was there. That boy was crying all the way through it! I'll never forget that".

An equally classic and instantly memorable song was Best of My Love, which was written by Al McKay with Maurice White. - Al McKay describes the song as follows (from the same liner notes of the Anthology double CD):
"It was always for the Emotions. It started out as a ballad. I was just playing some chords and Maurice started singing. I remember we were sitting at his house trying to figure this thing out. I started playing the groove and started singing what I heard. He jumped right on it and took it right over. The next thing we know, we have groove that's working, now we got a melody that is working. Maurice White continued: "We started with a rhythm track and made a little demo. They were inspired by my imagination. How can you explain inspiration? Put together the right musicians and if the timing is right - it just comes through."

Wanda was the lead singer on Best of My Love, and she describes how the recording process was an unexecptional challenge for her. She had started singing the song like Maurice White on the demo version, in a low key, which was perfect for Wanda. "I was doing it like Mavis Staples - real guttural". However, she was told to sing an octave higher, and on the second take, she did it. "the next take I did was the one that sold all those records". The single was released in May 1977, it sold to number one both on soul and pop charts - platinum, of course. Al McKay desribes his feelings when he heard the end result of the recording:

"Flowers was nice but Best of My Love just blew the roof off. It was the perfect pie. As soon as I heard Wanda open her mouth on there, I said 'Oh yeah, she's laying it down'. She has that thing that just goes through you - chills, man!"

If Best of My Love was "the perfect pie" as a single, Rejoice was exactly the same as an album. It had the strong Earth Wind & Fire flavour throughout the album - even on those songs that were actually NOT played by EW&F members but by James Gadson on drums, Marlo Henderson on guitar and David Shields on bass - four tracks on the album - but anyone who cherish Cheryl Lynn's 1978 smash Got to Be Real also know that these cats could play a funky soul track for sure (OK, Henderson was replaced by Ray Parker, Jr.)! The album was the number one on Billboard soul album chart for seven weeks in total, and also on pop top ten and sold for platinum. Later on, Best of My Love won the Grammy for the "Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group" - for once, commercial success was matching with musical perfection!

The album was actually a mixture of songs from very different sources. Again, there was one song contributed by Deniece Williams, Clarence McDonald and Lani Groves - How'd I Know That Love Would Slip Away, songs by the Hutchinson sisters (A Feeling Is, Love's What's Happening, Rejoice), songs by EW&F members (Best of My Love, Key to My Heart, Blessed) and also by veteran pop songwriters Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil, yet the overall feel was exactly the same due to superb production work by Maurice White and Clarence McDonald. Even the pop writer duo Mann-Weil shine on A Long Way to Go, when Sheila and her sisters turn the pop-folk based song into a shining, gospel-flavoured performance, colourfully arranged in woodwinds and a brass section and truly inspiring closing moments with the sisters' colourful vocals over the rich orchestrated musical backdrop. A timeless masterpiece.

Propably the most peculiar tune on the album was the EW&F contribution Key to My Heart, which is a ballad in a waltz rhythm, but the sisters deliver the tune like any typical soul composition with a very colourful vocal arrangement. A more conventional EW&F contribution was the Jerry Peters-Maurice White song Blessed, which is embed in a bouncy mid-tempo rhythm featuring Fred White and Maurice White on drums, Al McKay on guitar and Jerry Peters on electric piano. These guys simply could not fail in 1977, instead everything they touched seemed to turn to gold.

The title track Rejoice was a song that The Emotions opened their concerts for years, as it is a track that perfectly combined the sisters gospel roots to a spirited modern funky soul firework. The arrangement is extremely colourful and full of nuances.

As a whole, I still rate this album as the best girl group recording of all times, period. Unfortunately, even The Emotions themselves could not ever reach the quality of this set with their future releases!


US Columbia LP 35385, 1978
The reissue by UK Expansion CD, 2011
1) Smile
2) Love Is Right On
3) Time Is Passing By
4) Walking The Line
5) Ain't No Doubt About It
6) Love Vibes
7) I Wouldn't Lie
8) My Everything
9) Spirit Of Summer
10) Whole Lot of Shakin'
11) Music Box

Sunbeam album was released in August 1978 and it sold gold, although the chart success was clearly less spectacular than its predecessor managed to gain. Sunbeam never reached the top ten of soul charts, but peaked at position 12. Let's face it, Rejoice would have been hard to beat even if this would have been smashing set, but the new album simply lacked the classic songs like Don't Ask My Neighbors, Best of My Love or A Feeling Is on their previous set.

It would have been easy to explain that Earth, Wind & Fire was too busy with their own All'n All project and had not enough time to help the Hutchinson sisters, but that wasn't at least the whole truth. If you look at the credits on this album, the EW&F members had contributed as many songs on this album than on Rejoice, but there was no new Best of My Love, and the Skip Scarborough contribution (co-written with Maurice White) this time, Walking the Line was definitely very classy but still far from the brilliance of Don't Ask My Neighbors.

Obviously the peak track was meant to be the Maurice White-Al McKay -penned disco-soul track Smile, which opened the album and was the first single pick. It reached the top ten of soul charts but didn't reach pop top 100 and was by far less melodic and attractive than Best of My Love, the inevitable point of comparison. I have always regarded Smile as too hectic, melodically modest and also the rhythm track did not have any real groove, at least compared to smash disco soul & funk hit singles of the same period (like Cheryl Lynn's Got to Be Real, which was virtually played by the same team that contributed three tracks on the Rejoice set: the title track, and A Long Way to Go and A Feeling Is. A disappointment at least to yours truly.

Walking The Line by Skip Scarborough and Maurice White tried to repeat the success of Don't Ask My Neighbors, and it is certainly the most memorable song on this album, yet it didn't had the same classic touch, and the melody is not as strong. I like the arrangement, though, and the sisters stylish harmonies, but when this was released as the third single from the album, the song had only minor success (position 58 on soul charts).

The second single pick from the album was another Maurice White-Al McKay composition Whole Lot of Shakin', on which you could easily hear the EWF touch, but this was really the second division track compared to the EW&F standard of All'n All album in 1978, no matter how high Al McKay personally rated this track in the liner notes of the Emotions anthology. Maybe the basic problem was that the tracks were more meant to "make your head bounce" than write really memorable tunes. Or maybe the time was simply too disco-oriented to concentrate on actual songwriting, when everyone was aiming at writing hooky dance riffs. Position 44 on the single charts simply demonstrated that the Emotions fans wanted more than hooky riffs from the group.

In his Expansion reissue liner notes Ralph Tee described that altough the US hits from the album did not do well in the U.K., in later years the soul devotees found the track Love Vibes and have turned it a local favourite from the album. The track was written by Jeanette Hutchinson Hawes and Lonnie Reaves but it was dominated by typical colourful EW&F arrangement with some jazzy touch and real fireworks with the rhythm and horn section. I have to admit I had completely forgotten this track, but indeed it sounds pretty interesting these days, especially as you can easily hear the spirit of All'n All on this.

Playing the album 30 years after its original release, I notice I had also completely forgotten tracks like Love Is Right On, I Wouldn't Lie or My Everything. Really nothing wrong with these tracks, but the tunes just were not very memorable. The writer J. Hutchinson credited on the album is linked to Jeanette on, but the "J" is actually father Joe, not his daughter Jeanette. Another Joe's composition Time Is Passing by is a funky bouncer but once again lacking a decent melody.

Some interesting contributors can be picked from the credit information of My Everything and Spirit Of Summer. The Commodores guitarist Thomas McClary is one of the three writers of My Everything, another mediocre mid-tempo bouncer, whereas Eumir Deodato had alone written the track Spirit Of Summer, only a year before his huge success with Kool & the Gang with Ladies' Night. This track was more reminscent of Deodato's jazz fusion albums, and is a harmless 2-minute interlude with ethereal sounds and worldless singing by the sisters.

The funkiest track on the whole album was titled Ain't No Doubt about, another track everyone seems to have ignored in all liner notes, but this tune had a hint of Pointer Sisters funky attitude of their Blue Thumb period, but maybe this wasn't really The Emotions' cup of tea after all.

Although the material on the album was far from brilliant, with The Emotions singing the songs with their heavenly voices, Earth Wind & Fire playing the tight backgrounds and various top songwriters like Skip Scarborough contributing, the album can hardly be missed by any devoted Emotions or Earth Wind & Fire enthusiast.

P.S. The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985 (BBR 2-CD, 2016) contains one non-album track from the Sunbeam sessions, entitled Changes. It was originally published in July 1978 as the B-side of the pre-album single Smile (Columbia 10791), and this is yet another "OK but hardly essential" mid-pacer, written by Marlo Henderson and Wanda Hutchinson. The best part of the track is some robust sax playing by Don Myrick.
P.P.S. An interesting small detail for us Finnish soul devotees, the string section on the album features a Finnish violin player named Ilkka Talvi, misspelt as Ilkka Tolvi on the credits...

Boogie Wonderland

US ARC/Columbia 12" Single, 1979
Although Boogie Wonderland was never released on any Emotions album (except the Emotions Anthology), it is probably the all time most popular song by The Emotions. Still, in commercial success their own smash The Best of My Love was a bigger seller with platinum sales and the number one slot both on soul & pop charts in the United States. Boogie Wonderland never reached the top position, but it sold gold being the number two in soul charts for 4 weeks and #6 on pop charts during the hottest disco period, early summer 1979.

Boogie Wonderland was not a typical Earth, Wind & Fire song by any means. It was written by Allee Willis and Jon Lind, and it was meant for another ARC artist Curtis & the Bros, but after hearing the song, Maurice White and Al McKay decided to record it for Earth Wind & Fire with the Emotions. Maurice White recognized the song steered the band more towards pop-flavoured disco "It was a new direction for us, to record a tune that was strictly for dancing without any spiritual overtones involved. The momentum from our previous hits was reiterated in the energy of the rhythm and upbeat lyrics, so the song grabbed people's ears. Making the tune song danceable was in tune with the times and people understood the lyrics."

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Come Into Our World

US ARC/Columbia LP 36149, 1979
The reissue by UK BBR CD, 2013
1) What's The Name Of Your Love?
2) Cause I Love You
3) Come Into My World
4) On & On
5) I Should Be Dancing
6) Where Is Your Love?
7) The Movie
8) Layed Back
9) Yes I Am
Bonus tracks on the CD reissue:
10) My Baby Dance
11) I Should Be Dancing (Single Version)
12) Where Is Your Love (Single Version)

Ideally, the new album Come Into Our World should have been released in August 1979, to utilize the full potential of Boogie Wonderland, but it took six months to complete an album, and it was released only 2 weeks before Christmas 1979. Unfortunately, the disco heat had already cooled out, but the album was full of disco oriented uptempo tunes, two of them co-written by Allee Willies, who had contributed September and Boogie Wonderland.

There's really nothing wrong with Come Into Our World, just the timing was wrong, as the album was almost a non-stop disco dance oriented set, and the trends were already getting towards laid-back two-step sounds. The album opens with the obvious aimed peak single, What's The Name Of Your Love?, written by Allee Willis, David Foster and Maurice White. David Foster had started to write songs for Earth Wind & Fire and contributed to I Am album with After the Love Has Gone. Wanda was impressed, because David reminded her of Charles Stepney, and enthused that David's songs always took to an unexpected direction that was "something effective and crazy". However, the single just only reached top 30 in the soul charts, and the album sales were disappointing - highest position 35. Surely, the lack of heavy marketing by Columbia/CBS was one reason, as Maurice wanted to keep The Emotions on his own ARC label.

My personal favourite on the whole album is the second Allee Willis-David Foster-Maurice White contribution The Movie, this time with David Paich as the 4th songwriter. Remember, Cheryl Lynn's breakthrough smash Got to Be Real was written by Cheryl, David Foster & David Paich. But The Movie was not an uptempo tune, but a glorious super-melodious, attractive mid-tempo song - perfect for the market that was already looking for laid back sounds. Needless to say, the vocals by the Hutchinson sisters were heavenly. You can easily recognise also Maurice White singing the cameo male vocals in the opening moments.

One look at the musician credits on the album, and any soul & funk devotee is instantly impressed: Keni Burke, Steve Ferrone, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Paulinho DaCosta, Gary Glenn, David Paich, Marlo Henderson etc. Of course, Fred White and Verdine White were involved, and the superior horn section including Michael Rahmlee Davis, Don Myrick, Louis Satterfield plus an over 60-piece string orchestra, of course with Ilkka Talvi listed, this time with the correct spelling!

Wanda Hutchinson's own world had also changed since Sunbeam. She had started to date musician Wayne Vaughn during the tour with the Brothers Johnson. Of course, she had to introduce the Wayne to Maurice White first: "Maurice said: 'let me check this guy out. I'm gonna be your big brother'. - And he was - everybody knew that Wanda was her "sister"..."

Indeed there was nothing wrong with the uptempo dance tunes on this album, but the timing was not right. The title track Come into My World was of course written by the new couple Wanda & Wayne, the actual track is a hurried uptempo disco tune not too distant from 4/4 Boogie Wonderland rhythm. I Should Be Dancing was written by Marlo Henderson and it had even a busier rhythm, but the background was full of musical fireworks by the percussions (Paulinho DaCosta), rhythm section and the brass section.

As a bonus track on the BBR CD reissue (now out of print) there is also a track titled My Baby Dance, which is not from the album, but was a B-side of the single I Should Be Dancing. It was also written by Marlo Henderson, and the track boasts a tight horn section over a hurried rhythm track.

The best tracks on the album were, though, mid-pacers. Layed Back is already a surprisingly funky churner from the female group. The bass-heavy funker was written by Wayne and Wanda, and is again dominated by sharp horn riffs. An excellent funky soul track, and superbly sung by Wanda. The relaxed midtempo Cause I Love You was written by David Paich and Gary Glenn and soulfully delivered by Sheila Hutchinson.

Ross Vannelli wrote two songs on the album. The first one, Where Is Your Love is a classy ballad tune sung by Sheila, and the background has almost Charles Stepney kind of Earth Wind & Fire magic in its arrangement. Vannelli also wrote the bright closing track Yes, I Am, which combines a highly melodic tune with a percussive upbeat groove with strong horns & a large string section - and with a short trombone solo.

The other ballad on the album was On & on, co-written by David Foster, Maurice White and Sheila Hutchinson-Whitt. In my book, this rather sugary ballad melody sounds like a Whitney Houston song - 5 years before she debuted in spring 1985...

The bad sales of the album had made the album really a hidden treasure, hopefully BBR prints someday some new copies of the sold out CD reissue!

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New Affair

US ARC/Columbia LP 37456, 1981
The reissue by Dutch PTG/Vinyl-Masterpiece CD, 2010
1) All Night, Alright
2) Love Lies
3) Now That I Know
4) There'll Never Be Another Moment
5) Turn It Out
6) New Affair
7) Here You Come Again
8) When You Gonna Wake Up

I have to admit that I was not highly enthuastic about this set at the time of its release in 1981, but the more I have listened it in recent years, the more I like it. Surely the point of comparision was hard to beat, when Emotions had released treasures such as Flowers and Rejoice on Columbia, and this time Skip Scarborough was not conttributing any classic soul songs, but at least the musical background was still top notch. The credits boast nothing but celebrated soul-jazz-funk musicians including The Earth, Wind & Fire horn section, Ricky Laws, Steve Ferrone, David Paich, Keni Burke, Paulinho DaCosta, Chuck Findley, Jerry Hey, Gray Grant etc. Surely the participation of EW&F members was rather thin this time, but Maurice White had still co-written and co-produced two tracks (There'll Never Be Another Moment, Here You Come Again) but the lack of an obvious hit single pick sank the album as well, in only 8 weeks after it first charted.

Two singles were picked from the album: Turn It out and Now That I Know, both of which were only mini-hits (peak positions 48 & 68 on Soul charts), and although there was really nothing wrong with these two tracks, they were not strong enough for chart success, or simply not promoted enough by Columbia. Maurice White had really taken a risk to launch his own label ARC, and he was not able to promote the releases the same way as Columbia could have. In his self-biography he was sad about the fate of the ARC label and how he could not support his protegees like The Emotions the way they would have deserved.

The uptempo disco-funk track Turn It out was produced together with the recently married couple Wanda Hutchinson Vaughn & Wayne Vaughn, and according to Wanda's own words (from The Emotions anthology liner notes), she "had the gospel roots and Wayne had that jazz-funk-Brothers Johnson thing, and all that influence from Quincy Jones". Indeed you could hear the Brothers Johnson/Quincy influence on Turn It out, the feel was the same, but maybe the actual melody was not catchy enough demanded for a major single hit.

Now That I Know is a classy ballad song with an instantly recognisible Emotions sound and feel, but the composition by three lesser known songwriters (Gary Poirot, Jeff Hull, Stephen Landau - misspelt as "Lundo") did not have the magic touch of Skip Scarborough, although there is definitely a hint of the same feel. Jeff Hull later contributed Piano in the Dark for Brenda Russell.

The two songs that were co-written and co-produced by Maurice White did not save the album from sinking in 8 weeks. There'll Never Be Another Moment had also Allee Willis and David Paich as co-writers, and even though the tune may have lacked a smash hit potential, it is one of the highlights of this pleasant album.

The same could be said about the other Maurice White contribution Here You Come Again, co-written by produced Bill Myers - whom Maurice had invited to produce the album - and Sheila Hutchinson-Whitt. The track had a funkier touch in the backdrop and some powerful singing, but again the melody was not catchy enough for chart success.

The closing track was a rather mediocre reggae-tinged plodder titled When You Gonna Wake up.

The album really deserve a second chance to be be listened closer again, as not only the musical backdrop was superb, but also the best songs are growers that gradually sound better with each listen.


US Red Label LP RLLP-001-1, 1984
The reissue by UK Expansion CD, 2008

1) All Things Come in Time
2) Are You Through with My Heart
3) You're the One
4) Can't Blow Out the Candle
5) Sincerely
6) You're the Best
7) You Know I'm the One
8) Never Let Another
9) I Can Do Anything

Bonus tracks on the CD reissue by Expansion:
10) Eternally
11) Good Times
12) Giving You All I Got
13) You're the Best (M&M Mix)
14) You're the Best (M&M ReŽ-edit)

No matter how Maurice White tried to explain the reasons behind the failure and demise of his own record label ARC, maybe the crucial thing was the overall change in black music during the early 80s. The refined, stylish music by Deniece Williams, The Emotions, D.J. Rogers or The Pockets would not have succeeded in the 80s with their old 70s style, instead they had to modify and renew their music, and when Maurice could not find success even with his own Earth Wind & Fire group, how could he have helped the artists on his own label to turn into the synthetic mode of the 80s music? There was a whole new generation of producers like Kashif, Jam & Lewis, Paul Laurence etc. creating the new black music of the 80s, and even if ARC label would have survived during the first five years of the 80s, could Maurice have produced mega-hits for his artist roster on the new decade? Hardly.

Maurice own biography My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire perfectly proves how lost Maurice was himself in the early 80s. He still explained the failure of his new product with the traditonal "lack of marketing", but no major label would have turned a failure like Electric Universe (1983) a sales success. Maurice really believed it was a brilliant idea to drop the horn-laden sound of Earth, Wind & Fire, and replace the horns with "hard-edged synthesizers". At the moment he tried to search new direction by recruiting British synth-pop musicians Martin Paige and Brian Fairweather to produce new music for EW&F, everyone else but Maurice himself knew he would fail miserably. Finally, when the opening track Magnetic was released as the first single from the Electric Universe album, Maurice had to admit that "it tanked spectacularly" (his own quote from My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire).

Frankly, I had a similar feel when I first heard this 1984 album by The Emotions, now on a tiny Red Label print, and with producers Billy Osborne & Attala Zane Giles trying to update the ladies' sound to the synthetic 80s black music. Three years had passed since their last ARC album New Affair and indeed, the music had dramatically changed in three years since 1981. The Jones Girls had released a highly synthetic, trendy 1983 album On Target with Robert Wright and Fonzi Thornton updating the group's sound to the 80s. The following year Keni Burke was updating their sound on their excellent 1984 album Keep It Comin'. If The Jones Girls could turn their music to 80s mould, why couldn't Emotions as well?

After the initial shock after hearing this album, one had to admit that although this album was far from the brilliance of the Emotions' best 70's efforts, it surely had its bright moments. Despite their programmed rhythms and simple backings, the ballads and mid-tempo tunes included some excellent compositions and vocal performances. I Can Do Anything was self-penned by Wayne & Wanda Vaughn, and the vocals were second to none: Sheila was the lead singer. In his liner notes of the Expansion CD reissue of the album, Ralph Tee cites that the track All Things Come in Time is "definitely one of the classiest track The Emotions have recorded, and like much of their work, is completely timeless". It was also written by Wayne & Wanda, and Wanda sung the lead vocals.

Pamela or Jeanette Hutchinson were not involved in recording this album. They were replaced by Adrianne Harris, whom Sheila appraises that "she and I have a very similar vocal blend to Jeanette show she was perfect", but Adrianne did not get any chance to show her vocal talent by singing any song as a lead singer. Consequently, very hard to evaluate her talent from the backing vocals of this album only.

Are You Through with My Heart was again sung by Sheila with her typical "crying style", and certainly nothing wrong with neither the melody (Keg Johnson/Marlo Henderson/Pat Henderson) or the vocal delivery. The same could be said about the title track Sincerely, which was co-written and sung by Sheila and produced by veteran Benjamin Wright.

I have to admit that I didn't like the synthetic uptempo tunes at all by the time of the release of this album, but when Ralph Tee described You're the Best as an "80s boogie classic", I had to re-listen the track and it really has a similar feel to The Jones Girls' 1983 album On Target, which I've later learnt to like a lot. The album track of You're the Best was a 6:05 long synthetic mover, but the 12" single included 8:13 and 9:05 long extended M&M Mix versions. both added to the CD reissue of this album. And indeed, these are quite effective synthetic joggers in the same mould as Kashif's best efforts at the same period.

The Emotions Anthology (1969-1985) on the BBR label also contains three picks from this album: Are You Through with My Heart, You're the Best and You're the One, which is a synthetic and rather simple ballad song written by Billy Osborne and Attala Zane Giles, but certainly nothing wrong with Sheila's interpretation. The group members' comments on the album were rather laconic: "We never toured on Sincerely. It never went anywhere", Wanda says. Well, maybe the tiny label and the whole project is something the sisters would rather forget, but for their devoted fans, it certainly had it moments.

If I Only Knew

US Motown LP 6136ML, 1985
No CD reissue

1) Supernatural
2) The Good Times
3) Miss Your Love
4) If I Only Knew (What I Know Now)
5) Just a Girl in Love
6) Shine Your Love on Me
7) Giving You All I Got
8) Closer to You
9) Eternally

Only a year later, The Emotions released an album on the legendary Motown label. How could that happen? The liner notes of the Emotion Anthology reveal: "Lee Young, Sr., who'd executive produced Sincerely for Straight Life Productions landed a deal for the Emotions at Motown Records, where he's been a Vice President in the company's creative division from 1978-1983. At the time, his son Lee Young, Jr. also presided as VP of the label's Busines Affairs until his promotion to EVP of Motown Music Group in 1986." Well, no further explanation needed!

Three tracks from this album were included in the CD reissue of Sincerely, but otherwise the tracks on this album have never been released on CD. Or at least not until BBR released Miss Your Love on the BBR Anthology double-CD set. On the liner notes of the Anthology, Wanda recalls that "I did Miss Your Love before we even got to these people (who produced the album)". "I tried to sing it like I thought Tina Turner would sing it", she explained. Indeed, this has a rock-ier approach than an average Emotions tune, but not necessary the direction I would have wanted the group to continue. Not representative of this Motown album, either.

As the Anthology liner notes Chrtiane John Wikane correctly states, Motown did not pick any new contributors for The Emotions release, instead they continued with the same team that was responsible for the previous album Sincerely. In other words, Billy Osborne & Attala Zane Giles continued, as well as Benjamin Whight & Lee Wright, and the sounds were equally synthetic as on Sincerely album.

The lack of a CD reissue alone suggests that this album was not a major success, and indeed, it was a commercial flop. No singles from the album ever reached the Black chart, and the album spent ten weeks on Billboard Black Albums chart, but the peak position was only 54. Motown did not much promote the album, but even with heavy promotion, this would have not been a commercial success.

Ralph Tee had picked three tracks from the album on Sincerely CD reissue, for bonus tracks. The first track was the closing track of the original Motown album, entitled Eternally, especially when Will Downing had recorded a cover song of the tune by the title The Love We Share (on his sophomore album Come Together As One). The original version by The Emotions is a beat ballad written by Osborne & Giles, actually quite an attractive neat melody.

The second pick from Ralph was another Osborne / Giles contribution The Good Times, also a programmed beat ballad in a stripped down instrumentation. With Sheila's soulful leads, certainly nothing wrong with the vocal delivery, although neither the composition or the arrangement had any classic value. You can almost imagine a sax solo starting at three minutes of the song, but only a short keyboard solo appears.

Giving You All I Got was the third and last pick by Ralph Tee, and this contribution by Osborne & Giles twosome started to sound already too simple and sytnthetic to my ears. I'm so happy that soul artists proved that real instrumentation can greatly improve the soul ballads, when artists such as Anita Baker lead soul music back to its roots from the year 1986 on. Simply, this kind of ascetic, synthetic sounds did not do justice for the Emotions' stylish and soulful singing. And the buying audience agreed, no matter what the record company executives thought.

Shine Your Love on Me is the funkiest cut on display, and it might have been ideal for Evelyn "Champagne" King and Wanda sings the gutsy lead vocals, but maybe this was a bit too funky for the Emotions' style? Attalla Zane Giles even plays some funky bass on it.

Any tracks not yet mentioned from this album were rather disappointing efforts trying to modify the classic soul group sound to mid-80s synthetic radio sounds, which was a poor idea anyway, as many female soul artists (Stephanie Mills, Jean Carn, Vaneese Thomas, Shirley Jones of the Jones Girls) started to record with real instruments again in 1986-1988, and gained top hits with their genuinely soulful style, without any compromises. Sadly, The Emotions did not get a new chance to show their vocal talents with a classier production any more, and the Motown album still remains their last studio recording.

The Emotions Live in '96

US Sunbeam/Raging Bull CD RB-2016-2, 1996
1) Sunbeam Theme
2) I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love
3) A Feeling Is
4) So I Can Love You
5) Show Me How
6) Flowers
7) Rejoice
8) Ain't No Doubt About It
9) When We Gonna Wake Up
10) Blessed
11) Don't Ask My Neighbors
12) New Beginnings
13) I Want To Thank You
14) I Surrender
15) Treat Me Right
16) Do You Wanna Go?
17) Best Of My Love

The next time we had a new album by the Emotions was over ten years later, in 1996, when this indie CD was released on their own label Sunbeam. In the liner notes, it was told that "the resurgence of The Emotions began in January 1995", when the group wrote, produced and starred in the musical of their own life story, "Bigger than Bubblegum". The live album is recorded by the same team of musicians who played in the musical. The album also contains four studio cuts, three of which were produced by John Barnes, with whom the Emotions worked with on the Movie Soundtrack Bebe's Kids (1992). I Want to Thank You, a modern swingbeat type of uptempo mover, produced by Barnes, was originally released on the CD soundtrack.

I wrote a positive review of this Live set in our printed issue 3/1996, and mentioned that the album demonstrates that the Hutchinons hadn't lost any of their vocal magic. Also, the musical background was quite satisfying, as the backings were mostly played by real musicians including a sax player soloing on the prime tracks like the Skip Scarborough classic Don't Ask My Neighbor. As you can read from the track listing above, the group played mostly their Columbia gems in their live set, but also a couple of their early 70s Stax hits. Sadly, the closing track Best of My Love is a live recording using only computer-based synth & drum setting, and this performance vastly differs from the other live tracks.

Certainly nothing wrong with the new tracks on the album, either, although they pale in comparision to their 70s masterpieces. Do You Wanna Go? was a quite exciting modern creeper starring acoustic guitar over a stylish keyboard base and Sheila singing the refined, smooth melody. The soulful and sax-drenched traditional soul ballad I Surrender, written by John Barnes is even better, an absolute gem of a song. Unfortunately, the sisters never get a chance to record a whole album of new material.

If we compare the fate of The Emotions to the other famour sister group The Jones Girls, both Shirley Jones and Sheila Hutchinson have tried to create a solo career. Shirley managed to sign on Philadelphia International and even had a number one hit in 1986 with her single Do You Get Enough Love. Sheila Hutchinson has also released a couple of solo singles, but none of them have really commercially succeeded. I have a 12" single Keep a Little Lovelite Burnin' in my own collection, as it was distributed in UK by Soul Bowl Records, from which I bought weekly vinyl releases in the 80s and early 1990. Despite the rather mundane indie backing of the 12" single, Sheila's vocals just ooze pure soul.

Expansion Records has released three Columbia albums and the Red Label release Sincerely on CD, and although the last mentioned is now out of print, the Columbia reissues are selling steadily in the United States. The BBR double-CD Blessed - the Emotions Anthoilogy 1969-1985 is a great package with its detailed liner notes and interviews, especially when Christiane John Wikane completed his interview with Maurice White only two weeks before his passing in January 2016.

Article by Ismo Tenkanen, Soul Express, editor