Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round

Classics: The Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round (Avco Records)

What pretty much made the Philly sound like no other was its extreme refinement and diversity. Most likely embodying its mellower side, The Stylistics owed very much to the instantly recognizable (falsetto) voice of Russell Thompkins, Jr. But also to both producer Thom Bell and lyricist Linda Creed who shaped some of their most beautiful songs.

Not as famous as ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, ‘People Make The World Go Round’ is another monument in the genre. Featuring The Trammps‘ drummer Earl Young and Vincent Montana, Jr. on percussion. Not to mention Norman Harris (MFSB, The Salsoul Orchestra) on guitar to name a few.

Diamonds are forever…

Overview
From Philadelphia, PA, The Stylistics took form back in 1968 from the remnants of two local groups. In other words, Russell Thompkins, Jr., James Smith, and Airrion Love from The Monarchs. And James Dunn and Herbie Murrell from The Percussions. That reunion happened while both bands were competing in a talent show at Benjamin Franklin High School.
Spending 2 years performing in local clubs and theatres, they delivered their debut-single back in 1970. A cut called ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ which initially saw the light on indie label Sebring. Licensed soon after on Avco, it eventually got them in the national charts the year after…

Under the guidance of producer Thom Bell and with the help of lyricist Linda Creed, they would score an impressive run of hits during the 3 comin’ years. With Thompkins‘s unique falsetto singing style heavily contributing to their signature sound. From ‘I’m Stone In Love With You’ to ‘Break Up To Make Up’. But also ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, their biggest success ever, and ‘You Are Everything’. Not to mention ‘People Make The World Go Round’. The split which occurred with Bell back in 1974 most likely generated devastating effects on the group’s success in the U.S.. The contribution of arranger Van McCoy shortly helped keepin’ up appearances on ‘Heavy Fallin’ Out’ and ‘Let’s Put It Altogether’. If not ‘Can’t Give You Anything’ which became a UK top #1. But the overall feeling had somehow disappeared.

The Stylistics progressively lost the scope from then, releasing what would be their two final albums on Mercury. Thompkins eventually explaining that the music they were recording had become dated and progressively away from the popular Disco sound of the late 70’s.

Both James Dunn and James Smith departed in 1980 because of conflicts over the direction of the group. The Stylistics continued though, recruiting new member Raymond Johnson. Eventually reuniting with Thom Bell, they delivered their last top 20 track – ‘Hurry Up This Way Again’ on TSOP that same year. Johnson departed in 1985, leaving the group a trio. Love, Murrell, and Thompkins continuing to tour until 2000, when the latter left the group.

Thompkins started a new group back in 2004 – Russell Thompkins, Jr. And the New Stylistics – along with with Raymond Johnson, Jonathan Buckson and James Ranton who left the group for health reasons.

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