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Five for Friday - May 28, 2021: all '70s R&B edition

Today, I'm doing the 5 a lil different.

Since this is the weekend that many folks in the northern hemi consider to be the start of summer, I thought I'd dig into my vault and pull out some songs that have a strong seasonal vibe.

They're all from the '70s.

All R&B.

And all are likely unfamiliar to most of you.

Let's dive in, shall we?

Ramp - Everybody Loves The Sunshine

This is bliss. Thick burbly bass riffs. Hazy, lazy keyboard lines. Soft warm vocals. Just lovely summer vibes all around. Roy Ayers wrote it and cut it first. It came to him one hot sunny day and you can tell how hot it was by the fact that the lyric is so offhanded. I mean bees and things and flowers? But that's part of its appeal, and this is probably my favorite of all the versions that followed. To borrow a phrase from Sly Stone, when I hear it I feel so good inside myself I don't want to move.

Shawne Jackson - Just As Bad As You

They don't get much more obscure than this. And it shouldn't be. This easily sounds like classic Philly proto-disco, but a bit more gritty because it mostly forgoes the kind of sumptuous orchestration typically associated with Gamble-Huff hits. Essentially, this is one of those songs that disproves Betty Wright's Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do. Not only is Shawne up to cheat on her cheatin' man, she's encouraging all the ladies to declare their right to do it too. It is so joyous in its subversion of stereotypes that it may surprise you to know it was written by a guy named Domenic Troiano, who has a pretty impressive CV. It was a hit in Canada, where it essentially originated, and it proved Canadians could be just as bad as anyone at laying down a killer grove.

Jeffree - Mr. Fix-it

Here's another 'how was this not a hit'? Although it came out at the height of disco's dominance, this very much sounds like the kind of jam that Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield would have knocked out in their sleep in the early '70s. It has that kind of mid-tempo magic that makes it casual enough to relax to but muscular enough to get a groove on. Vocally, Jeffree reminds me a bit of a UK singer named Lewis Taylor, so discovering this after Lewis was strange in that it felt the latter artist had somehow influenced the former. That's as close as I get to living in a parallel universe.

Leroy Hutson - Love the Feeling

Pure champagne effervescence. This highly polished, mid-tempo groover has a light dollop of waka-jawaka that makes it all go down smooth. Another delightful cut that never quite broke out. All of Leroy's 70s albums are musts.

The Festivals - You're Gonna Make It

It seems appropriate to switch from Hutson, who replaced Curtis Mayfield in The Impressions, to The Festivals, who sound a bit like The Impressions. It helps that Johnny Pate, who worked with Mayfield's group, did the arrangements here. This has the kind of punchy, bright Chicago sound that, for a moment, would have made you do a double take. Written by the group, it is a testament to staying with your goals and clinging to your dreams. The irony is that they didn't make it. But this minor R&B hit makes a real lasting impression, literally and figuratively.


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