Saturday, September 30, 2006

Disco Delivery #26:
A Taste Of Honey - Another Taste (1979, Capitol)



A Taste Of Honey - Dance | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - The Rainbow's End | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Do It Good | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - I Love You | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Take The Boogae Or Leave It | LINK TWO
A Taste Of Honey - Race | LINK TWO

How great is that album cover?.. Love the colour scheme and the neon lettering..

Anyway, everybody's probably heard A Taste Of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" at some point.. Only one of the most ubiquitous disco songs out there, and speaking for myself, one of my first favourite disco songs as a kid.. It wasn't until around 2000 when I really started to collect disco records, that I checked out the rest of their output. For the most part, every single one of their albums is exceptional, but this one, along with their final album, "Ladies of the Eighties" are probably their most overlooked LPs.. Despite nothing but favourable reviews (at least that I've come across), "Another Taste" was to be a classic case of the sophomore slump, commercially speaking at least. The opening track, "Do It Good," continuing in the same "get on the floor" vein, with it's bass/guitar driven groove and catchy refrain was to be the first single from the LP. A great track on it's own terms, it was no match for their mega-hit from the previous year; peaking at a respectable #13 on the Billboard R&B charts, but only managing #72 and #79 on the disco and pop charts, respectively (although I do hear it's one of their biggest hits in Japan). Commercial slump notwithstanding, I'm with the critics on this one. Once again produced by jazz-funk legends The Mizell Brothers, Alphonso (Fonce) and Larry; even if there wasn't an instantly catchy single like "Boogie Oogie Oogie," the album as a whole was a definite improvement over their debut. The grooves are smooth and sublime, and as an LP, always consistent and engaging. While undeniably still disco, they seemed to be bucking some of the trends by continuing with the Mizells on this album. At least from my perspective, not having been around at the time, it seemed like the sound and the vibe they went for was in total contrast to the harder, faster more rhythmic sound that seemed to colour much of the disco from 1979. The album instead being full of light, sunny, uplifting, mellow grooves. Perhaps it may have limited the album's appeal among disco audiences in 1979, but after hearing a song like Hazel Payne's "The Rainbow's End," "Dance" or the beautifully simple "I Love You," I can't help but be glad they went in the direction they did. In fact, they seem to be at their best on those very songs. All three are coloured with elegant, sweeping strings, flutes and great vocals and guitar work courtesy of front-ladies Janice-Marie Johnson and Hazel Payne. I also have to point out how much I love it when they get to breaking it down towards the end of "I Love You," when they let the beautiful backing instruments shine behind that bumpin' bass drum..

Side Two begins with "Race" written by keyboard player Perry Kibble and Thurman Aldridge. One of the more obviously dance-oriented songs on the album and what I believe was the second single on the album, which didn't chart. It's got an almost disco-jazzy vibe, especially with those flutes right at the top of the mix. The most 1979-ish song on the album is probably the cutesy titled "Take The Boogae or Leave It" written by front ladies Janice-Marie Johnson and Hazel Payne. Putting away the flutes and the strings for some four or so minutes and going full-tilt-boogie with the bass and guitar, it's definitely one of the most instantly recognizable songs on the album. It's almost as if they wrote this song with "Boogie Oogie Oogie" in mind.. a part II, if you will.. Best part of the song: Janice-Marie's awesome, funky bass..

Again despite making a solid LP, the album would peak at #26 R&B and #59 Pop on Billboard. Not altogether bad, but quite a drop from the top 10 peaks their debut had on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. In fact, according to the charts posted on the All Music Guide, "Another Taste" would be their lowest charting LP out of the four they released. Perhaps the glut of disco records on the market in 1979 had something to do with it, maybe their sound just wasn't with the hot trends at the time, or there just wasn't that instantly catchy single on the album, or perhaps all of those combined. Whatever the case, clearly some changes were on the way for the group. Before their next album, the two principal male members, keyboard player Perry Kibble and drummer Donald Johnson would leave the group. Several years back, I remember hearing an interview with Janice-Marie on a site called the R&B Page (which is sadly no longer online), where she talked in detail about her time in the group. Apparently execs at Capitol had only wanted Janice-Marie and Hazel and wanted nothing to do with the guys, instead opting to put the ladies up front (which they did) and to replace the guys with studio musicans (which they didn't, at least at first). Apparently after this LP, the execs got their wish and for their next two albums, A Taste of Honey was down to just the ladies. An unfortunate decision in my opinion; though that's not to say they didn't make great records after. Their next album "Twice As Sweet" (1980, Capitol) would pair them with producer George Duke and yield them one of their best songs, "Rescue Me" and their second (and last) major hit, "Sukiyaki." Their final album "Ladies Of The Eighties" (1982, Capitol) would pair them up with producers Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire and Ronald LaPread of The Commodores. Perhaps the group dynamic had something to do with it, or the influence of the Mizell Brothers, or most likely both, but even still, their first two albums had a certain something missing from their last two records. An artistry, a sophistication perhaps, or just that certain vibe and image that seemed to really make them unique.

After their last album, Janice-Marie would make a solo album called "One Taste Of Honey" (1984, Capitol), apparently done as a contractual obligation to the label. Shortly after, she would retire from the music business until around the late '90s when she started performing again. By 2000 she would release her second solo album "Hiatus Of The Heart (2000, Tastebuds). She continues to tour perform these days, both solo and as A Taste of Honey. In recent years, she's also been reconnecting and exploring her Native American heritage in her music. Her latest release was a single called "Until The Eagle Falls" from 2002. Hazel Payne, meanwhile, also resumed performing around the late '90s. In 2004 she performed with Kid Creole (AKA August Darnell) in the disco musical "Oh What A Night." Today she also tours and performs with her own band. Although both ladies largely perform separately these days (as far as I know), in 2004 Hazel and Janice-Marie briefly reunited live on stage for a PBS Disco Special.

As for the other two members, keyboard player Perry Kibble and drummer Donald Johnson ended up, interestingly enough, here in my hometown - Calgary, Alberta. Perry Kibble passed away in 1999, but before his passing was quite prominent in the local music scene and a member of a local group here called Clear Image. The mother of their lead singer was a friend of my own mother, and gave her a copy of their locally produced CD.. I'm going to have to put it up here sometime.. They had performed on local TV here a few times, and not surprisingly, "Boogie Oogie Oogie" was a staple in their repertoire. Donald Johnson is still around today and living here in Calgary. Today he's a bluesman who tours and records as Donald Ray Johnson. Johnson is still going strong and has so far has released three albums: "It Ain't Easy Being Blue" (1995), "Donald Ray" (1998), "Pure Pleasure" (2002) and "Travelin' Man" (2006).

LINKS:
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP REVIEW @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP REVIEW @ WILSON & ALROY'S RECORDS REVIEWS
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
A TASTE OF HONEY - ANOTHER TASTE LP @ DISCOGS
A TASTE OF HONEY @ WIKIPEDIA
A TASTE OF HONEY @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
A TASTE OF HONEY @ DISCOMUSEUM.COM
A TASTE OF HONEY REUNION @ SOULFUL DETROIT FORUM
INTERVIEW WITH DON JOHNSON @ SMOOTH JAZZ NOW
THE MIZELL BROTHERS @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
THE MIZELL BROTHERS FAN PAGE - SKY HIGH
JANICE MARIE JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL SITE (remove exclamation point in new window)
HAZEL PAYNE @ PERSONALITY ARTISTS
DONALD RAY JOHNSON'S OFFICIAL SITE (remove exclamation point in new window)

PURCHASE:
A TASTE OF HONEY - CLASSIC MASTERS CD @ AMAZON.COM


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

another superb release keep up the good work, cant wait for any el coco you might have or alec r costandinos .music just got betta with your releases nice 1

Christophe said...

hi tommy,
great upload but I can't manage to download from this links on zupload or quickdump.
Too bad :(

Anonymous said...

Great post, but the download is impossible slow!

Chicago_Sexbox said...

Oh how I have waited for this post! You are right, "Another Taste" was far superior to their debut album, but unfortunately it lacked that one killer single. I agree too that the last two albums were a bit more sophisticated than the first two. Ironically, I knew of A Taste Of Honey becuase my mother would always play "Ain't Nothing But A Party" from the "Twice As Sweet" album when I was a kid. It was years before I realized they were also the "Boogie" people too, lol. Janice's solo album was fairly decent also and didn't stray too much from the "Ladies Of The 80's" sound.

Thanks for this installment!

christopher keyz said...

Once again u come through with stuff i really want - thankyou thankyou... Zload or whatever it is, is painfully slow, think I'll try get a track a day or something like that - Thanks again - u continue to put up the bizznez in Disco.

Tommy said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone! :)

Again, I'm really sorry for the download problems.. I switched the primary links to eggdisk yesterday. I found out that my folders there were still set to 'private,' so I finally solved that problem. Hopefully those links should be working fine now. They seem to work great on my side, but if they aren't for you please let me know.. I switched the second links to speedyshare. I hope that also works better for everyone..

Chicago_Sexbox, I figured it was about time I heeded your Taste of Honey suggestion. ;) Glad you liked it! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey,
I love this group and havent even heard much except their hits.
and I really only knew, but idolized, the Mizells from Donald Byrd and Bobbie Humphries.
thanks for the music and knowledge! well written!
peace

Tommy said...

Thanks anon! :)

I definitely need to check out some more of the Mizells' work. I've had my eye on the Mizell compilation CD on Blue Note for a little while now..

Anonymous said...

Check http://www.soulandfunkmusic.com/artist/a_taste_of_honey for the discography

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