|Blues and Soul Magazine No. 353 April 6 - 19, 1982|
|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 beautifully…vibrant … 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 prosper..to live beautifully ..to be vibrant..to bloom! (BK)