Crystal Winds - First Flight
You have in your hands one of the lost (and last) masterpieces of Chicago soul, legitimately reissued for the first time, and taken from the original master tapes!
This legendary album first surfaced in 1982 on the privately pressed Cash Ear label, with limited local distribution. It garnered some attention (as such masterpieces do) from some of the more forward-thinking of the UK’s jazz-funk-soul scene (before there was a ‘modern’ soul scene as such) and became a highly-prized collector’s item for soul fans across the world, always hard to get to hold of and never failing to satisfy those that were lucky enough to get hold of it as one of those rare superlative from start-to-finish albums. It then re-surfaced as a bootleg (unknown to many of those buying it) in 2003, when it was reviewed in Echoes and In The Basement magazines, appearing on ‘Escrow Records’, an act of piracy that upset its creators no end.
The key figures behind Crystal Winds were Paul Coleman and M.C. (Morris) Brown, both alumni of the band Rasputin’s Stash which had had two albums out in the mid-‘70s which had done reasonably well for Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion and Chicago indie Gemigo, respectively. With all due respect to those records though, nothing on them (mainly brash and noisy funk) quite showed off the talents of these guys as well as virtually any track on their subsequent 1982 incarnation does.
Between them, keyboardist Coleman and saxophonist Brown wrote the vast bulk of the album (guitarist Martin Dumas co-wrote Lover’s Holiday with Brown, and one J.Lagrone is added to the credits of So Sad and Signs of Winter’s Time) and handled the male lead vocals, with the distaff element provided by Theresa Davis. Brown wrote the horn arrangements, the pair did the string arrangements, and legendary concertmaster Rich Tufo (associated with Curtis Mayfield and other Curtom acts including Linda Clifford) was also on hand for the album (credited with conducting and orchestrating both strings and horns). Guitarist Dumas had also been a member of Rasputin’s Stash, as had drummer E.Frank Donaldson (who plays on two tracks).
There’s something deliciously rewarding about this album –from the complex vocal harmonies that introduce the sung part of So Sad, through the jazz-influences of the ethereal, ever-changing Signs Of Winter’s Time, the discordant, lagging funk of Love Ain’t Easy, the epic, inspirational It’s A Wondrous Thing which moves fluidly between acid guitar soloing and barely-moving floaty soul harmonization, and the mid-tempo bass-driven chugger Lover’s Holiday (not the Leroy Hutson tune)… there’s always something richly musical going on (which is why two instrumental reprises feels like a bonus, not like being short-changed).
The UK’s modern soul scene was the original driving force for demand for this album over the past couple of decades, but its quality will not be lost to members of many musical tribes. We at BBE are pleased to be putting this wonderful music back into circulation, properly, for the first time in over three decades.