“Best known for its 1979 hit “Glide,” Pleasure was a risk-taking, horn driven band that often brought jazz overtones to its funk/soul foundation. Pleasure, which shouldn’t be confused with the ’90s rock band Pleasure, wasn’t huge but enjoyed a small cult following. The band was formed in Portland, OR, in 1972, when guitarist Marlon “The Magician” McClain (born August 8, 1955), lead singer Sherman Davis (born March 15, 1952), and keyboardist Donald Hepburn (born June 30, 1950) joined forces with saxophonist Dennis Springer (born July 21, 1949), bassist Nathaniel Phillips (born December 30, 1955), trombonist Dan Brewster and drummer Bruce Carter (born December 28, 1956). Pleasure was a merger of two Portland outfits: Franchise (which included McClain, Phillips, and Carter) and the Soul Masters (which was Hepburn’s band and also included Springer, Smith, and Davis). The Oregon residents got a lucky break when trombonist Wayne Henderson, a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders, saw them performing in a Portland club — Henderson was impressed with what he heard, and his enthusiasm led to a deal with Fantasy (where he produced four of its six albums) in 1974. Pleasure’s debut album, Dust Yourself Off, came out on Fantasy in 1975 and was followed by Accept No Substitutes in 1976 and Joyous in 1977. After Joyous, there were a few personnel changes: Brewster left the band, and Donald Hepburn’s younger brother Michael (born May 21, 1953) came on board as a keyboardist/lead singer. Get to the Feeling, Pleasure’s fourth album, came out in 1978 and was followed by 1979’s Future Now, which contained the hit “Glide.” Pleasure’s cult following really swore by the band, but it wasn’t until “Glide” (which reached number ten on Billboard’s R&B singles chart) that the funksters finally scored a Top 10 hit. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Tony Collins (born May 16, 1957) was added to the lineup for Future Now, and Doug Lewis came on board as a lead guitarist for 1980’s Special Things, which was Pleasure’s sixth and final album. Unfortunately, Pleasure didn’t have any more major hits after “Glide,” and in 1981, the band broke up.”
“Toto was formed in Los Angeles in 1978 by David Paich (b. June 21, 1954, Los Angeles; keyboards, vocals), Steve Lukather (b. October 21, 1957, Los Angeles; guitar, vocals), Bobby Kimball (b. Robert Toteaux, March 29, 1947, Vinton, LA; vocals), Steve Porcaro (b. September 2, 1957, Connecticut; keyboards), David Hungate (b. Texas; bass), and Jeff Porcaro (b. April 1, 1954, Hartford, CT; d. August 5, 1992, Hidden Hills, CA; drums). Paich was the son of arranger Marty Paich; the Porcaros were the sons of percussionist Joe Porcaro. The bandmembers had met in high school and at studio sessions in the 1970s, when they became some of the busiest session musicians in the music business. Paich, Hungate, and Jeff Porcaro wrote songs for and performed on Silk Degrees, the multi-million-selling 1976 album that combined pop, rock, and disco elements into a slick combination which heavily influenced mainstream pop music.
Toto released its self-titled debut album in October 1978, and it hit the Top Ten, sold two-million copies, and spawned the gold Top Ten single “Hold the Line.” The gold-selling Hydra (October 1979) and Turn Back (January 1981) were less successful, but Toto IV (April 1982) was a multi-platinum Top Ten hit, featuring the number-one hit “Africa” and the Top Tens “Rosanna” (about Lukather’s girlfriend, movie star Rosanna Arquette) and “I Won’t Hold You Back.” At the 1982 Grammys, “Rosanna” won awards for Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Instrumental Arrangement With Vocal; and Toto IV won awards for Album of the Year, Best Engineered Recording, and Best Producer (the group). In 1984, a third Porcaro brother, Mike (b. May 29, 1955), joined the group on bass, replacing Hungate. Then lead singer Kimball quit and was replaced by Dennis “Fergie” Frederiksen (b. May 15, 1951, Wyoming, MI).
Toto’s fifth album, Isolation (November 1984), went gold, but was a commercial disappointment. Frederiksen was replaced by Joseph Williams (b. Santa Monica), the son of the conductor/composer John Williams, for Fahrenheit (August 1986). Steve Porcaro quit in 1988, prior to the release of The Seventh One. In 1990, Jean-Michel Byron replaced Williams for the new recordings on Past to Present 1977-1990, then left, as Lukather became the group’s lead singer. Jeff Porcaro died of a heart attack in 1992, but was featured on the group’s next album, Kingdom of Desire. By this time, Toto was far more popular in Japan and Europe than at home. The group added British drummer Simon Phillips. Tambu, released in Europe in the late fall of 1995, appeared in the U.S. in June 1996. For 1999’s Mindfields, Bobby Kimball returned to the lineup after a 15-year absence. The group members continued to do session work during the band’s tenure, contributing significantly to the sound of mainstream pop/rock in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.”
“As Mood II Swing, production duo Lem Springsteen and John Ciafone became one of the most in-demand remixers in the late ’90s. The duo’s production career began modestly, however. After a failed attempt at R&B, the two turned to house music. Early productions such as Sylvano’s “Helpless” and Wall of Sound’s “Critical” were a step in the right direction, as were releases such as “I Need a Bitch” for Cutting and “Searchin’” for Groove On, but it was the duo’s remixes of Ultra Naté’s “Free” for Strictly Rhythm that struck gold. The song became a huge hit and soon Mood II Swing was remixing big-name producers like BT (“Remember”) and King Britt (“The Reason”) as well as the next Ultra Naté single, “Found a Cure,” which also became a huge hit record around the world. Then, as a testament to the duo’s success, the New York-based Nervous label dug up some old, forgotten productions by the duo and released them as Mood II Swing’s Nervous Tracks.”
“Keyboard virtuoso Jackie Mittoo was among the true legends of reggae — a founding member of the Skatalites and an extraordinarily prolific songwriter, he was perhaps most influential as a mentor to countless younger performers, primarily through his work as the musical director at the famed Studio One. Born Donat Roy Mittoo in Browns Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1948, he began playing keyboards at the age of four, and was rarely far from a piano through his teen years, performing professionally in groups including the Vagabonds and the Vikings. He frequently skipped school to play with the house band at nearby Federal Studios, and it was there that he met producer Coxsone Dodd, who recruited Mittoo for recording sessions when the scheduled pianist failed to appear on time. While attending Kingston College, he began jamming with fellow student Augustus Pablo, and they eventually formed a trio — the Jackie Mitree — which performed his original compositions.
By 1962, Mittoo was earning attention across the island for his work in the band the Sheiks, one of Jamaica’s most sought-after club attractions. Despite rechristening themselves the Cavaliers Orchestra, their popularity continued to soar without missing a beat. When Dodd opened Studio One in Kingston in 1963, he tapped Mittoo to serve as musical director; in the years to follow he played on virtually every disc the studio produced, arranging much of the material and helping develop new songs until they were sufficiently polished to meet standards. By the early months of 1964, he set about forming a new band with Studio One session regulars Tommy McCook, Lloyd Brevette, and Lester Sterling, as well as the Cavaliers’ Lloyd Knibb and Johnny Moore. Dubbing themselves the Skatalites, they were to become the quintessential ska band of the period; also featuring the legendary trombonist Don Drummond, the group lasted just 14 months — from June 1964 to August 1965 — but their influence on music worldwide remains incalculable.
After the Skatalites split, Mittoo began a solo career, scoring a major hit with his rendition of the Heptones’ “Fatty Fatty.” The instrumental smash “Ram Jam” followed in 1967, and resulted in a series of instrumental LPs, among them In London, Evening Time, Keep On Dancing, Now, and Macka Fat. At the same time, Mittoo continued his relentless pace at Studio One — according to the terms of his basic arrangement with Dodd, he received payment upon delivering five new rhythms a week, which over the years resulted in literally thousands of compositions which he both produced and arranged. Among Mittoo’s greatest contributions of the mid- to late ’60s were “Darker Shade of Black” (the basis for Frankie Paul’s “Pass the Tu Sheng Peng”), Freddie McGregor’s “Bobby Babylon,” Alton Ellis’ “I’m Still in Love with You,” the Cables’ “Feel Like Jumping” and the rocksteady anthem “Baby Why,” and Marcia Griffiths’ first hit. In 1970, his “Peanie Wallie” was also versioned by the Wailers, becoming the hit “Duppy Conqueror.”
Mittoo relocated from Jamaica to Toronto, Ontario in 1968, one of many reggae performers who found a home among the clubs lining the city’s Yonge Street area. He returned to Kingston regularly, however, and was closely aligned with Dodd and Studio One throughout the decades to follow. In Toronto, Mittoo also accepted a day job working for the Canadian Talent Library, an organization which worked to ensure that a sufficient amount of Canadian music was broadcast over national radio airwaves. By 1972, he had lived there for four years, and as such, his work became qualified as “Canadian content,” so for the CTL he recorded the album Reggae Magic, which launched the hit ‘Wish Bone.” During the mid-‘70, Mittoo also traveled to England to record a series of LPs with Bunny Lee; during the next decade, he worked regularly with Sugar Minott as well. In 1989, Mittoo joined the reunited Skatalites, but health problems soon forced him to bow out; he died of cancer on December 16, 1990.”
“Rick Wade was born in small-town western Michigan, less than an hour from Chicago’s South Side. In the mid ’80s, while studying at the University of Michigan, Wade gained his first gigs spinning deep underground house at the Nectarine Ballroom, the venue where Jeff “The Wizard” Mills was also making his name, for techno rather than for house. Simultaneously, Wade maintained a successful mix show on WCBN named “Journey To The Land of House.” It was a huge success, as were his subsequent gigs at clubs in and around Detroit. So much so that, by ‘93, Wade was able to build his own studio and form a label, Harmonie Park. Wade has released his textured brand of house not only on his own label but also on the likes of Trackmode, Moods and Grooves, ATC, M3, Elevate, Chord 44/Container, and Out Of The Box.”
“Glenn Underground is one of the deepest of the deep house producers, following Larry Heard’s classic Chicago tracks with his own earthy grooves, more closely aligned to the spiritual tones of disco than even contemporary house music. In fact, his bootleg remix of the prototype disco single — Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” with production by Giorgio Moroder — is virtually a necessity in the crates of house DJs. The head Underground has recorded for nu-school Chicago label Cajual/Relief (as GU) plus Europeans like Peacefrog, DJAX-Up-Beats, SSR, and Guidance. He often watched his uncle’s band practice while growing up in Chicago, and began playing with the group’s keyboard, a Fender Rhodes. He began DJing and also started producing tracks on tape as early as 1991 to mix in at his gigs.
One of the first was a cut-up version of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” which exploded in Chicago’s clubland and impressed Cajual Records label-head Cajmere enough to begin releasing Underground’s tracks. The label eventually issued more than a dozen GU singles and EPs during 1995-1996, even while Underground recorded several singles and his first full-length, 1996’s Atmosfear, for the British Peacefrog label. His 1997 Secrets of CVO EP for Guidance expanded his ’70s influences with clean minimalist fusion-funk; the track “House of Blues” even featured a solo by guitarist Stevie Israel. The collection The Jerusalem EP’s appeared on Peacefrog that same year, with a great variety of sounds from Detroit techno to deep funk and house. Underground had already debuted his collective the Strictly Jaz Unit with longtime friends Boo Williams, Brian Harden, Tim Harper, and Cei-Bei; the group released the LP Future Parables for London’s Defender Records. An Underground solo release, A Story of Deepness, followed in 1999. Underground and Williams also run Strictly Jaz Productions.”
“Growing up outside the Chicago area in neighboring Michigan, Rick Wade became fascinated with the city’s radio stations at an early age, taking an instant liking to artists such as Al Green and Isaac Hayes along with the disco sounds of labels such as Salsoul that received substantial airplay. By the early ’80s, Wade began spinning records at parties, slowly transforming into a talented DJ while simultaneously furthering his musical interests. Then as a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, he DJed at the University’s radio station, WCBN, where he pioneered the station’s first show dedicated to house music. It was during this period, at the end of the 1980s, alongside other electronic dance music DJ artists such as Ectomorph’s Brendan Gillen, that he began producing his own tracks. A few years later in 1993, Wade began his own house label, Harmonie Park, followed by a booty bass label, Bass Force.”
“Donna Summer’s title as the “Queen of Disco” wasn’t mere hype — she was one of the very few disco performers to enjoy a measure of career longevity, and her consistent chart success was rivaled in the disco world only by the Bee Gees. Summer was certainly a talented vocalist, trained as a powerful gospel belter, but then again, so were many of her contemporaries. Of major importance in setting Summer apart were her songwriting abilities and her choice of talented collaborators in producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, which resulted in a steady supply of high-quality (and, often, high-concept) material. But what was more, few vocalists could match the sultry, unfettered eroticism Summer brought to many of her best recordings, which seemed to embody the spirit of the disco era perfectly. The total package made Summer the ultimate disco diva, one of the few whose star power was even bigger than the music.
Summer was born LaDonna Andre Gaines on December 31, 1948, and grew up in Boston’s Mission Hill section. Part of a religious family, she first sang in her church’s gospel choir, and as a teenager performed with a rock group called the Crow. After high school, she moved to New York to sing and act in stage productions, and soon landed a role in a German production of Hair. She moved to Europe around 1968-1969, and spent a year in the German cast, after which she became part of the Hair company in Vienna. She joined the Viennese Folk Opera, and later returned to Germany, where she settled in Munich and met and married Helmut Sommer, adopting an Anglicized version of his last name. Summer performed in various stage musicals and worked as a studio vocalist in Munich, recording demos and background vocals. Her first solo recording was 1971’s “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” but success would not come until 1974, when she met producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte while working on a Three Dog Night record. The three teamed up for the single “The Hostage,” which became a hit around Western Europe, and Summer released her first album, Lady of the Night, in Europe only. In 1975, the trio recorded “Love to Love You Baby,” a disco-fied reimagining of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s lush, heavy-breathing opus “Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus.” Powered by Summer’s graphic moans, “Love to Love You Baby” became a massive hit in Europe, and drew the attention of Casablanca Records, which put the track out in America. It climbed to number two on the singles charts, and became a dance-club sensation when Moroder remixed the track into a 17-minute, side-long epic on the LP of the same name.
In the wake of “Love to Love You Baby,” albums (as opposed to just singles) became an important forum for Summer and her producers. The 1976 follow-up Love Trilogy contained another side-long suite in “Try Me (I Know We Can Make It Work),” and demonstrated Moroder and Bellotte’s growing sophistication as arrangers with its lush, sweeping strings. Four Seasons of Love, released later in the year, was a concept album with one track dedicated to each season, and 1977’s I Remember Yesterday featured a variety of genre exercises. Despite the album’s title, it produced the most forward-looking single in Summer and Moroder’s catalog, the monumental “I Feel Love.” Eschewing the strings and typical disco excess, “I Feel Love” was the first major pop hit recorded with an entirely synthesized backing track; its lean, sleek arrangement and driving, hypnotic pulse laid the groundwork not only for countless Euro-dance imitators, but also for the techno revolution of the ’80s and ’90s. It became Summer’s second Top Ten hit in the U.S., and she followed it with Once Upon a Time, another concept album, this one retelling the story of Cinderella for the disco era.
Summer’s albums were selling well, bolstered by her popularity in the dance clubs, and she was poised to become a major pop hitmaker as well. Her acting turn in the 1978 disco-themed comedy Thank God It’s Friday produced another hit in “Last Dance,” which won her a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal (as well as an Oscar for songwriter Paul Jabara). Doubtlessly benefiting from the added exposure, the double-LP set Live and More became Summer’s first number one album later that year. It featured one side of new studio material, including a disco cover of the psychedelic pop epic “MacArthur Park” that became her first number one pop single early the next year. Her 1979 double-LP Bad Girls featured more of her songwriting contributions than ever, and went straight to number one, as did the lusty singles “Bad Girls” and the rock-oriented “Hot Stuff,” which made Summer the first female artist ever to score three number one singles in the same calendar year. Her greatest-hits package On the Radio also topped the charts, the first time any artist had ever hit number one with three consecutive double LPs; the newly recorded title track became another hit, and Summer’s duet with Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” became her fourth number one single.
At the peak of her success, Summer decided to leave Casablanca, and became the first artist signed to the new Geffen label. Sensing that the disco era was coming to a close, Summer attempted to modify her style to include more R&B and pop/rock on her first Geffen album, 1980’s The Wanderer; the album and its title track were both hits. Not wanting to alienate her core audience, Summer returned to pure dance music on an attempted follow-up; however, Geffen deemed I’m a Rainbow not worthy of release (it was finally issued in 1996). Instead, Summer ended her collaboration with Moroder and Bellotte and teamed up with Quincy Jones for 1982’s Donna Summer. “Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” was a significant hit, but none of its follow-ups did very well. With producer Michael Omartian, Summer moved back into post-disco dance music and urban R&B with 1983’s She Works Hard for the Money; its title track was a smash and became a feminist anthem of sorts. However, with her career momentum slowing, it also marked the end of Summer’s prime. Despite winning a gospel Grammy for “Forgive Me,” Summer’s 1984 follow-up Cats Without Claws flopped, as did the 1987 comeback effort All Systems Go. Hiring the British production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, Summer scored her last major success with the 1989 Top Ten single “This Time I Know It’s for Real,” from the album Another Place & Time; around the same time, she began denouncing her earlier, “sinful” disco material. 1991’s lackluster, urban-styled Mistaken Identity effectively killed her career momentum, and none of her new ’90s albums produced that elusive hit. However, she did make some noise on the dance charts with “Melody of Love,” from the excellent 1994 retrospective Endless Summer, and reunited with Moroder for the 1997 non-LP single “Carry On,” which won the inaugural Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Summer subsequently signed a deal with Sony, which primed her for re-establishment with the 1999 greatest-hits live album VH1 Presents: Live and More Encore!; it featured the new song “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro),” which had some success on the dance charts. The energetic and eclectic Crayons, her first proper studio album since Mistaken Identity, was released on the Burgundy label in 2008.”
“Not nearly as talked about and analyzed as Moodymann, his key supporter, percussionist/producer Andrés nonetheless built an extremely respectable catalog of downtempo house productions throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s. Before issuing a self-titled full-length for Mahogani in 2003, he scattered a number of 12” releases for KDJ and Moods & Grooves. Andrés is also known as DJ Dez, and has released tracks under that alias on Hipnotech, in addition to collaborations with Slum Village.”