SHALAMAR | Adventures In The Solar System

Blues and Soul Magazine No. 353 April 6 - 19, 1982

SHALAMAR, Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel, Howard Hewett, Blues and Soul 1982 Feature

Shalamar in many articles seemed to be be on the defensive to be taken seriously as a group and not a "contrived" overly commercial act as highlighted in this article from Blues and Soul before the album "Friends" would make give them one of the biggest albums of 1982 in the UK and solidify them a a pivotal musical act.

Blues and Soul 353

Adventures In The Solar System

As the official biography clearly states: Shalamar is a dance band…"But as a dance band they do one hell of an impression of a vocal trio!"

Shalamar -- the name literally means living beautifullyvibrant a flower in bloom  - first came to public attention in 1977 with the Motown medley dance floor hit "Uptown Festival". In actuality, Shalamar as an entity didn't really exist at that time. They were simply session musicians put together by Dick Griffey and Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame and co-owners of Soul Train Records, as a vehicle for the Motown medley idea - which of course was an instant success in America whilst at the same time creating a considerable buzz on the dance floors of the world via import record sales.
The subsequent success of the record prompted Griffey to increase his label activities and thus The Sound Of Los Angeles Records (SOLAR) was born.
Griffey's immediate priorities were two-fold: to secure a house producer for the newly formed label and, secondly to secure an act to fi the Shalamar bill! For his first requirement, Griffey turned to the multi-talented Leon Sylvers III (mentor of the Sylvers family aggregation) and for the other half of his initial quandary he selected two young dancers from Don Cornelius' Soul Train Dance Troupe - Jeffrey Daniels and Jody Watley.
Daniels and Watley together with Shalamar's first lead vocalist Gerald Brown, thus assumed the identity of Shalamar and begun a successful recording career resulting in a spate of hit singles - "Take That To The Bank", "Second Time Aroind", "Full of Fire"m etc. together with a series of top selling album releases. "Uptown Festival, Disco Gardens, Big Fun, Three for Love, and Go For it.
Although Daniels and Watley retained their first team place for the duration, Gerald Brown was replaced in 1979 as lead vocalist by Howard Hewett and it was this lineup which recently paid a visit to the UK to make their performing debit and to speak with the  British music press.

Shalamar's current single is "I Can Make You Feel Good" taken from their new album "friends" - the groups first album under the label's new licensing agreement with Elektra Asylum (WEA) and it as this initial topic which opened our meeting with the trio.
"To be perfectly frank with you" replied a suitably relaxed and smiling Howard, "we believe the album is our most commercial to date and the single choice could have been any one of a number of the tracks from the album." "We, in an agreement with Leon, wanted to finish up with an album that gave the listener something good wherever they happened to drop the needle on the record, and we all think that we have achieved that aim pretty well."

We pointed out that this particular choice just happened to be co-written by Howard, but this presumably was merely coincidence? 

"Writing is an important ingredient of Shalamar's future" retorted Howard (with nodding approval from Jeffrey and Jody) "and we all have ambitions in this area, not only for ourselves but for other acts too. This is partly what is so good about the Solar system in that it gives everyone a chance to expand in a all areas of creativity.
"Dick really is an amazing person when it comes to this. He has decided that it is mutually beneficial for the acts on Soar to be as constructive and creative as possible and gives everyone connected with the label a lot of creative freedom."
Jeffrey took up this particular  theme and added with some enthusiasm and added "Yeah, a lotta people have knocked the system but it definitely works. We for instance have a lot of choice in all aspects of our career..the show design, repertoire selection, production, touring. It's all very democratic. Solar is a young company and growing all the time. We just figure to be a part of that growth." We decided that the single selection was just co-incidence and passed onto other matters.

The album Friends is, without doubt, outrageously commercial  and looks set to endorse the groups faith in its commercial aspect. The fact that the album is the first under WEA banner obviously hasn't impeded its progress and although all three members of Shalamar are reluctant to discuss any political implications - "We're just glad to be with Solar" - it is clear that Griffey's negotiations with the company have achieved what he obviously required from the outset -  lot of dollars poured into the label and a lot of WEA muscle and clout lured into the Solar acts.
I pointed out to our three interviewee's that there had been one or tow negative reactions to their British performances. In fact, the percentage was considerably higher than this, but we do try to be positive…

"I don't know about that" flared Jody, who decided that she had spent sufficient time manicuring her nails. "I can tell you what the reaction of the audiences were and they were very positive..very receptive. I guess it's part of the game to have critics knock your performance." Well, yes, Jody I'm afraid it is, and as an artist you have to accept the criticism with the accolades. After all, being a third of a highly successful recording act does have it's compensations..right?

Jeffrey and Howard (gallant gents that they obviously are) rallied to Jody's defense and both confirmed the lady's statements as to the public response. But then I never doubt a lady's word anyway.
I (tentatively) queried as to whether or not the visit was an advance scouting party for a fully fledged Solar package later on during the year - a possibility which in fact had been mentioned by Griffey himself during a brief rap with B&S during his visit last year to set up the UK part of his deal with WEA.
"Not really" advised Jeffrey. "although the idea is still very much a possibility as far as Solar is concerned The US Galaxy of Stars tour was very successful and instrumental in getting the overall SOLAR sound and image across to our domestic market, and I think that Dick is still keen to do a European equivalent. The only thing is that no one knows exactly who will be on the tour..
"As for ourselves…although we will always want to be a part of the Solar label we want to develop our own individual image and be accepted for what we are - now doesn't that sound kinda like a cliche?"
Just a bit Jeffrey, just a bit, but we catch your drift…

Whilst on the subjects of cliches we mentioned the old chestnut of "Shalamar being a contrived act: a Griffey creation. The expected outburst never happened! Instead I was given a resigned look by all three and the following answer…
"I suppose because of the circumstances of  our formation, there will always be those who will say that Shalamar is a contrived act - people just love to put a label on you, particularly if you don't happen to fall into any of their categories y'know?

"We happen to believe that we were selected because we had a measure of talent and feel that we have all improved with experience. The important thing as far as we're concerned is that we know who we are and our audiences know who we are -- the origination thing is not important."
Despite the existing limitations of Shalamar, and in all fairness, Shalamar themselves appear to realize this, all three are equally convinced that the group continue to flourish and live beautifully be bloom! (BK) 

SHALAMAR A Hint of Reunion?

In a recent interview with D.L. Hughley former Shalamar member Howard Hewett weighs in. The subject has been a frequent topic over the years. Will they or won't they reunite the classic lineup of Howard Hewett, Jody Watley, and Jeffrey Daniels?

SHALAMAR - Body Pop or Mindless Soul Power

NME September 25, 1982 by Graham K Smith
Shalamar - body pop or mindless soul power? GRAHAM K SMITH experiences the all-American interview scenario.

MUCH AS WE may want to lay the ghost of disco to final rest, to shed the lingering memories of banal cotton-woool auto dance in favor of a music both intellectually provocative and irresistibly rhythmic, there's always something there to remind us of the appeal of brainless gloss.
Not that I'd describe Shalamar as being tuppence short of a shilling in any respect - it's just that their single-minded pursuit of success remains uncluttered by constraints of ideological correctness or political consideration.
Despite aggressive positive discrimination in favor of a more 'enlightened' cerebral agility to match the footwork, most pretenders to the crown of golden sales have either tasted the bitter dust of defeat or the false sweetness of compromise. ABC, formerly the shock troops of the 'radical' dance, capitulated without a second thought to enjoy what what has now become a very hollow victory - while the surprise charting of Flash's gigantic 'Message' (the exception that reiterates the rule) merely highlights the impotence of Britain's Red funksters.
And as if to politicos' fumbling rhetoric, Shalamar breeze effortlessly time and time again into the charts.

Shalamar, to you and me the funsters down the local record emporium come Saturday morning are Jeffrey Daniel (the one seen distorting his rubbery frame on TOTP), Howard Hewett (macho foil to Jeffrey's effete artistry) and the sylph like beauty Jody Watley. Though I'm fact, like in a thousand and one similar pop rags to riches stories, Shalamar is the vehicle of Leon Sylvers and Sound of Los Angeles Records. Our three spotless icons are a simple public face, an image with which we can associate those insidious hit tunes culminating in today's "There It Is."

Jeffrey, Howard and Jody are everything you'd expect homogenized American pop product to be - painfully polite, immaculately professional emissaries, spreading the ruthlessly refined word of Shalamarism. We chat, spar, joke. I question and the answers flow back like a gelatinous palliative - the talk is of albums, tours, hit formula's, the very wonderful Leon Sylvers, "what the people want."
A little niggly probing about something as innocuous as possible musical diversity frightens this creature back into it's shell. Shalamar ums and ers, stresses how it's got to feel right, how it depends how Mr. Sylvers records the backing tracks, and how although you've got to progress you can't beat a winning formula - and I only asked if they'd maybe funk it up a little more.
They all agree that a more intensive involvement in the workings of Shalamardom is on the way - in a songwriting in playing, in arranging, even in production - of course that involvement will commence with the next album (yup, it's all gonna happen on the next album!).

Famous names fly about the room now Shalamar's chart success has edged beyond the first nervous scratchings of one-hit wonderbums-Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and Stanley Clarke all get name checked as possible additions to future Shalamarations, but Jeffrey's quick to point out that "we won't say anything too premature just yet" attaboy, Jeff, stick your neck out!
It's always a pity to have to meet the perpetrators of such transient subliminal pop as Shalamar's. If my initial reaction to their recent outpourings was of haughty dismissal in the hope that something 'worthwhile' was poised to take it's place, an ultimate submissions to their subtle melodic assaults was unavoidable. The corporate manufacturing organization beavering away behind the dazzling two dimensions of Jeffrey, Howard and Jody, has succeeded admirably in its formularisation of sound and product quality control.
'Interviewing the visible orifice of such an organization really is irrelevant - surely seamless conceptualization such as this should outmode such trivial and wasteful contact.

Buy Shalamar's album (I'd recommend it to anyone), watch Jeffrey on TOTP  - that's all you need to know. If Shalamar were communists they'd be the perfect group.

SHALAMAR Goes for the Gold with Friends Magazine Clipping

SHALAMAR, Howard Hewett, Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel go for the gold with "Friends" for sales of 100,000 in the UK in 1982. "Friends" would go on to platinum certification in the UK (300,000). "Friends" was also certified in America. Gold certification in the United States is sales of 500,000.  The album was also reissued in 2013 on Big Break Records. 

Outkast's Big Boi Takes on Jody Watley and Shalamar

Howard Hewett, Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel 12" inch vinyl 

The classic Shalamar hit gets mashed up in a sexy new take from Outkast's Big Boi. Read about it and have a listen on courtesy of Soulbounce  and Youtube.