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Perception Productions, a New York based label that ran from the late 60s through until 1974, was a strangely eclectic affair. Its roster stretched from a radical Afro-American poet through to the pop band King Harvest. The inbetween points covered jazz, funk, vocal harmony soul and proto-disco. In fact distilled down into the compilation this sampler is taken from, the label provides us a view of Manhattan’s black music scene of the period, from the established greats to the fresh young things who would make their mark in the coming years.
His greatest moments at the label came with Black Ivory which was the group that also first introduced the musical world to the genius of Leroy Burgess. Both Burgess and Adams are today lauded as some of the most important figures in the history of dance music, Adams with his songwriting and productions on his own P&P label and for scores of others. Burgess as a performer – often with Adams – and also as a songwriter and producer. Black Ivory were formed when Harlem native Leroy Burgess met his then girlfriends brother Larry Newkirk and discovered that he had a group called the Mellow Souls, after hearing Leroy’s voice Larry asked him to join the group. by the time they joined Today the group consisted of Leroy, Russell Patterson and Stuart Bascombe. They recorded two albums for the Today ‘Don’t Turn You Around’ and ‘Baby, Won’t You Change Your Mind’. We’ve lifted all three tracks we use from their debut album, which was recorded in New York and at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia. The strings and uplifting choruses on ‘Surrender’ and ‘You Keep Asking Me Questions’ certainly reflect the emerging Philadelphia sound, whilst ‘You and I’ shows the group’ roots in vocal harmony singing. Their greatest success came after leaving Today to go to Buddah, most notably their dance classic ‘Mainline’ from 1979.
The Fatback Band’s history is very much that of how street funk developed in New York. Bill Curtis had been in New York since the early 50s, and had been an on the road drummer who had played behind all the big stars of the time either on tours that travelled around the country or as part of the legendary Apollo Theatre’s house band. By the late 60s he was working out of Queens, providing bands for all sorts of events from club gigs to weddings, from covering chart hits to playing calypso. He also had his own label for which he provided the main band, known after the label – and Bill’s drumming style- as The Fatback Band. Tiring of never being paid as an independent label he decided to hand that task over to someone else and signed to Perception in 1971. Their first breakthrough came when with the release of their debut album ‘Let’s Do It Again’ the track ‘Going To See My Baby’ was picked out by New York’s number one soul DJ Frankie Crocker who started playing it on his show. With his support the group broke through with hits such as ‘Njia (Nija) Walk’ from their second album ‘People Music’. They were rapidly picking up an audience and their final release for the label ‘Dance Girl’ was proving to be very popular when Perception went bust and the record was lost. Fatback then signed to Spring’s ‘Event’ label and went on to massive international success with amongst others ‘Spanish Hustle’ and ‘I Found Lovin’.