Sunday, January 21, 2007

Once I've been there..



Norman Connors - Once I've Been There (feat. Phillip Mitchell)

Norman Connors - Stella
Norman Connors - Wouldn't You Like To See (feat. Eleanore Mills)
Norman Connors - This Is Your Life (feat. Eleanore Mills)

A few weeks back, when buymusicbymail.com was selling a bunch of deleted Unidisc CDs, I took the opportunity to buy some of their out-of-print Norman Connors CDs.. Connors is one producer whose work I've been starting to explore a bit more lately. I'm mostly familiar with him through his Aquarian Dream project, where it seems a great deal of his more disco-styled productions went. The two tracks of theirs which I'm most familiar are "Phoenix" and "You're A Star" (hear both on Myspace), the latter being, in my opinion, nothing short of discofied genius..

That said, some of his own albums, at least the two that I've listened to from his years at Buddah have some excellent material as well. I guess, like his bio at the All Music Guide says, you can put Connors alongside George Benson, Roy Ayers and Patrice Rushen, all artists with backgrounds in Jazz, who've also made names for themselves in the R&B and/or Disco fields. Connors, having produced and/or featured, among others, the likes of Jean Carn, the late Phyllis Hyman, Eleanore Mills, Reggie Lucas and Wah-Wah Watson on his albums, it's no wonder why he is also well known, aside from being a musician and producer, as an excellent assembler of talent.

I'd say his "Romantic Journey" (1977, Buddah) LP is probably a good example of that. Surprisingly enough, Connors was not the producer of this album. Judging from the credits, his role, aside from being the assembler-of-talent, was in arranging, and playing drums, tympani and other percussion with the main production being handled by Skip Drinkwater. "Romantic Journey," for the most part runs between mostly Jazz and R&B, with the slight exception of "Once I've Been There," which also had some disco traction, making it up to #30 on the Billboard Disco Charts. The promo 12" single of that track also seems to be highly sought after, having apparently gone for some 400 or so US dollars on eBay a little while back (and currently going for over $100 US). Personally speaking, no matter how rare, I don't think I could ever pay $400 for a 12'' single, especially one which is identical to the album version and well represented on CD, but hey, that's just me..

Anyway, about the song itself, one of the things I love about it are those soft, classy strings and, if I'm correct in my terminology, those wonderful chord progressions on the strings, which are pretty much the backbone of the whole thing. Notably also, the song goes through a lot more changes than one would probably expect in a disco song. Not just chord changes, but also those brief but bold drum fluorishes right before the chorus, ably complimented and interplayed with those impressive and, in that instance, dynamic strings. It probably doesn't do much, as far as giving the track those four-on-the-floor disco credentials, but it's totally arresting nonetheless..

Having been written and sung by Phillip Mitchell (AKA Prince Phillip Mitchell), the song itself is perhaps more of a Phillip Mitchell track than a Norman Connors track. In a 2001 interview with Soul Brother's Soul Cellar, Mitchell talks about how his involvement with Connors came about:

"It was around 1977 and I was performing locally, at the Access Theatre in Louisville. Aki Aleong, who was Norman's manager at the time, actually came through with a cousin of mine and she introduced me to him - I think he might have been here for the Derby. He needed songs for Norman Connors and I said I've got some.... We began to talk and I played him some stuff and he liked it. Michael Henderson had just split from Norman's band to go solo, so I was asked to record my songs, 'Once I've Been There' and 'Destination Moon', so it was a pretty good deal for me. It turned out to be a big record and we toured and travelled throughout the country. I also recorded a duet with Eleanor Mills for the album. 'For You Everything.' That began a relationship with Norman.."

Now, the next three tracks are not disco, but are just some other favourites of mine from Norman's "This Is Your Life" LP (1977, Buddah/Arista) that I just had to share. Unlike "Romantic Journey," the entire "This Is Your Life" album was produced by Connors himself and would probably be my favourite of the two.. Aside from "Stella" (a groove which can't be denied), the other two tracks feature Eleanore Mills on vocals. Now I don't really know much about her, but she's just got one of those voices, so smooth and dynamic, yet so full of feeling and warmth, you can't help but be melted by it.. Her rendition of Jimmy Webb's "This Is Your Life," is nothing less than sublimely soulful and, my personal favourite, "Wouldn't You Like To See," combines both the soul and feeling of "This Is Your Life" with a sunny groove, all adding up to what is just one joyful performance.

The CD reissues of "Romantic Journey" and "This Is Your Life" are, as mentioned earlier, both out of print, however Buy Music By Mail might still have copies available. Please note though that the deleted CDs aren't advertised on their main site, so you'll have to email them for details. However, "Once I've Been There" is currently available on "The Best Of Norman Connors" (2001, Sequel) CD, as well as on the forthcoming compilation "Discotheque, Vol.2 : The Paradise Garage" (2007, Gut), which should be released in the UK on the 22nd.

LINKS:
NORMAN CONNORS - ONCE I'VE BEEN THERE (PROMO 12'') @ DISCOGS
NORMAN CONNORS - ROMANTIC JOURNEY LP @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
NORMAN CONNORS - ROMANTIC JOURNEY LP @ DISCOGS
SOUL BROTHER'S SOUL CELLAR - PHILLIP MITCHELL INTERVIEW
NORMAN CONNORS - THIS IS YOUR LIFE LP @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
NORMAN CONNORS - THIS IS YOUR LIFE LP @ DISCOGS
DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS - NORMAN CONNORS - ONCE I'VE BEEN THERE 12-INCH
DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS - NORMAN CONNORS "YOU ARE MY STARSHIP" LP

PURCHASE:
NORMAN CONNORS - THE BEST OF NORMAN CONNORS CD (INCLUDES "ONCE I'VE BEEN THERE") | CDUNIVERSE.COM | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK
VARIOUS - DISCOTHEQUE, VOL. 2: THE PARADISE GARAGE 2 CD (INCLUDES "ONCE I'VE BEEN THERE") | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM | CDUNIVERSE.COM | DUSTY GROOVE


CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, PAST REISSUES

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

great blog!
informative about stuff I havent even heard of = thanks . peace

DannyBlue said...

Just stumbled on this and been pillaging great music. Thanks very much for the tunes and the research. Subscribed now and will be back regularly.

http://www.grooveprovider.blogspot.com/

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments anon and dannyblue!

Hope you liked some of the music dannyblue, I'll definitely be linking you! :) Thanks again..

macdaddy said...

Thanks heavens graet article on Norman Connors, credit were credits due. He's a genius, who brought class to the radio on the 70's. He's more well kn own amongst funksters for the storming jazz track mother of the future. His classy soulful work was done on Arista/Buddah but he had some great albums in the 90's and he's still producing great music.

Tommy said...

Thanks macdaddy,

I just realized that I have the Slewfoot CD here somewhere, with Mother Of The Future on it.. I've gottsn so much music lately, I haven't had a chance to listen to it all..

Good to know his more recent stuff is good too.. I don't have any of them yet, but I've been curious about his later albums on MoJazz lately..

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