Monday, May 11, 2015

Your eyes won't believe what your mind can't conceive

I like B-music. What's B-music? You know what B-movies are. B-music's the also-ran, the didn't-quite-make-it, the one-hit-wonder or, in its most piquant form, never-was-gonna-make-it-but-they-followed-the-dream-anyway (aka Anvil).

I fell down a Spotify k-hole and found some sweet late-disco/early Quiet Storm B-music.

The Jones Girls had been plying their trade for most of the 70s. They were Detroit-born sisters, forged in gospel singing, discovered first by Curtis Mayfield and later, after backing Diana Ross on tour, re-discovered by Gamble and Huff. Stars aligned then, and though they didn't become stars, dancefloors pulsed in '81 with this track.

I'm aching to find a good 12- or 7-inch copy of it, and in this week's obsession with it I've figured out its A-list sonic cousin.

Chaka's track is clearly more sophisticated, and there's a good reason why there's a gulf way wider than the Mediterranean Sea that separates "Tunisia" from "Egypt." Chaka's single "Night" in Tunisia is a cover that came from the mind of an actual genius who's genetically incapable of creating something as rustic as the unnecessary Middle Eastern-sounding keyboard riff in "Nights Over Egypt."

The Jones Girls can sing. But what they didn't have is access. The saying in the creative world is that you have to work with artists who are at least a little better than you so that your craft is raised. Access is based on timing, and the Girls' timing was not good, seeing as it was situated on the back-end of the (post-payola) Gamble and Huff juggernaut and given writers from the Philadelphia International stable that were maybe on the downslope of creating hit soul music.

After 1984, while Chaka found the third act of her career, The Jones Girls never got back on track.

Unequal songs, unequal careers, unequal access. But I (and probably only I) respond both songs with equal enjoyment, despite the unfair outcomes for the singers. But maybe they didn't want any more than that -- someone's ears being pleased at the sound of their song.

I best return my ears to simply listening before I embark on a master's-thesis rumination about the post-80s diminishing returns of Patrice Rushen.

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