Friday, March 24, 2006

Disco Delivery #12:
Damon Harris - Damon (1978, WMOT/Fantasy)

Damon Harris - It's Music
Damon Harris - Silk

Let me just say, before last week's Disco Delivery, I never knew just how (apparently) popular Phylicia Rashad is.. Not sure that I can top that this week, but for what it's worth, I figured it was time for a little break from the divas..

Damon Harris was a member of The Temptations from 1971 to 1975, as original member Eddie Kendricks' replacement. At the time he joined the group, he was 20 and by far their youngest member. He had been such a big fan of the group even before joining that he had previously been a part of another group called The Young Tempts who had released a few singles on former Motown group The Isley Brothers' T-Neck label. Not surprisingly, Motown filed suit and they changed their name to The Young Vandals. Fast-forward to 1975, after a four year tenure Harris was ousted from the Temptations, apparently because of issues with group leader Otis Williams. After leaving the fold, he reformed the Young Tempts/Vandals under the name 'Impact.' They would end up releasing only a couple of albums and neither were big sellers, but both have become quite highly regarded today.

After the breakup of Impact, he did this one solo album in 1978 on the WMOT (We Men Of Talent) label, which at the time was California based Fantasy Records' Philly outpost. The album was produced by the late James "Budd" Ellison, who until his recent passing this past October 2005 was Patti LaBelle's longtime musical director.. While the album was quite good; commercially speaking, it didn't exactly fare any better than any of Impact's albums, yet did yield at least two notable songs..

The lead off track, "It's Music" was one song that I had loved even before tracking down this album. I had originally heard it on the Larry Levan Live at the Paradise Garage set. It worked so perfectly on his mix, with Damon's vocal drawing you in, gently urging you to "feel the music.." Such a great way to build up the mood, I thought. Needless to say, I was so glad to find that full 7.40 album version when I did. The best way I can describe the sound of this record is just as a straight ahead, percolating, sexy, and polished sound.. Those funky guitars and horn section are (as usual) some of my favourite parts about this record, along with Damon's gentle, yet assertive vocal and the strong backgrounds which really build this one up.

The rest of the album was quite good as well; some really classy, melodic R&B especially on "Funday," "Actresses," "I Fell In Love," and "My Love For You," but the only other notable disco track on the album was the title track "Silk." A song about a lady "who got her name from the way she plays the game," who is "every inch a lady, ain't no man can call her 'baby'." After seeing her with her "lady friends," he realizes that "there's no lover and there's no man," hmm... In any case, it's one of my favourites on the album; the lyrics, though simple, are paired with a wonderful melody, anchored by the those great horn and string sections. It's the type of tune you can have running through your head for days on end, at least in my experience anyway..

As far as I know, Damon Harris hasn't released any other solo albums. These days though Harris is involved with his own Damon Harris Cancer Foundation (remove exclamation point in new window) which he started after his successful battle with prostate cancer. He also still performs as "The Temptations Revue featuring Damon Harris," one of several former Temptations members with their own 'revues' of Temptations hits..

A note about the cover photo on the top.. No, I did not make that thing myself. I'm not an expert, but I'm sure even I could do a better job. That cover is the hack-job of the original that they used on the now out-of-print 1995 Hot Productions CD reissue of the album (mastered from the original vinyl no less!). Unfortunately I couldn't find a pic of the original cover, so that had to do for now..

Some trivia: Patti LaBelle is credited for 'Background Vocal Arrangements' on the album, which were performed by the ubiquitous Sweethearts of Sigma: Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton.

Also, if anyone plans to buy this CD at, beware of sellers who are selling CD-R copies of out-of-print Hot Productions CD's like this one. I haven't bought any from there, but I've heard this from others who have..





Anonymous said...

Damon was on the finest 3 Temptations albums ever'1990' 'Masterpiece' and the glorious 'A Song For You', which in my opinion is their best ever album, I love it. I have the 12" of 'Music' and I think I used to have the album 'Silk" but it never set the world alight for me and neither did the band Impact, now his best work was with the Temptations.

hey how about a feature on the producer Norman Whitfield, is he alive dead, no one seems to know, who's cashing his royalty cheques?

Eric Henderson said...

I never knew just how (apparently) popular Phylicia Rashad is.. Not sure that I can top that this week

This is certainly good enough for me. "It's Music" was always one of my very favorites on the LL Paradise Garage set, partially because of a clip my TV station ran during gay pride weekend of previous years' festivals. The clip in question came from '79 or '80, I think, and showed a turntable set up in the middle of Loring Park with two guys in leathery briefs getting down to "It's Music." Great stuff.

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments guys! :)

Funny that you should mention Norman, Mac.. I've actually been thinking of doing a Norman Whitfield feature on here sometime soon, he's one of my favourite producers. I'm really curious about his late 70's output on his Whitfield label; so far I've been impressed with what I've heard. Speaking of his royalties, he was in the news about a year ago when he was charged for tax evasion on 2 million (US) worth of royalties.. So he's still around, though unfortunately not in the best of health either from what I read..

As far as the Tempts go, I'm kind of new to them, but I'm really liking what I've been hearing. I got the 2-CD "Psychedelic Soul" set a little while back and I've always been curious about their "1990" album; I hope to get the CD reissue of that soon.. I absolutely love the songs I've heard off "A Song For You" as well, so that one is on my shopping list too..

Glad to know you liked "It's Music" as well Eric..

"The clip in question came from '79 or '80, I think, and showed a turntable set up in the middle of Loring Park with two guys in leathery briefs getting down to "It's Music."

That brought a smile to my face hehe.. Gotta love vintage footage! :)

Anonymous said...

Tommy- new to the Temptations - excuse me, where you been for the past 30 years in a cave!

Tommy said...

Ha!.. Well, I wasn't even around for 9 of those 30 years, much less in a cave, if that's a good enough excuse..

I knew some of the big hits like "My Girl," "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" etc.. Just only recently started digging a little deeper into their work..

Anonymous said...

Hi, only just found out about this site, hence the belated post to this thread. I've got the 12" of 'It's Music', which I really like but I can't believe no one has mentioned 'Ride On' which is on the b-side and also on the album (I think). What a great song, talk about slinky! Anyone agree? If not, give it another listen.

I'm a big fan of Norman's stuff too. I particularly love those long drawn out psychodelic funk epics he did with The Temptations. I don't think you can go wrong with any of their early to mid-seventies albums. Their version of 'Smilin Faces..' is the best.

Thanks for a great site, Tommy.


Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments Mark! :)

Yes, "Ride On" is on the album, I'll have to give it another listen sometime.. Now that you mention it, "Ride On" does quite a nice mellow groove to it.. At the time though, I found it to be merely decent, and not quite as outstanding as the ones I put up here.. Still, I thought the album was quite good as a whole..

Now that you mention Norman, I'm way overdue for a post on him.. I have a few things in mind, as well, I'm currently waiting for a couple of his disco era projects in the mail.. So hopefully I'll get to do a post on him sometime soon..

Anyway, I'm glad you like the site, and thanks again for the comments! :)

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