Cameo – Candy (Atlanta Artists)
Larry Blackmon and Tomi Jenkins put together what would soon after give birth to Cameo – The New York City Players – back in 1977. Living in Harlem back at the time, Blackmon also appeared as a drummer along with Black Ivory.
Gifted with a unique vocal style, he would be for much on the establishment of Cameo as a major act on the R&B/Funk scene. Most likely reaching their peak in the second half of the 80’s with gems such as ‘She’s Strange’, ‘Word Up!’, ‘Back And Forth’ and ‘Skin I’m In’. With the intoxicating ‘Candy’, taken from their 1986 ‘Word Up!’ album, makin’ no exception…
What I particularly like about ‘Candy’ is the fact that it perfectly highlights the band’s flamboyance. Somehow bringin’ us back to the souvenir of Prince. Blending sort of hedonistic lyrics over a bouncing Funk driven rhythm pattern. With Michael Brecker‘s jazzy solo sax part comin’ up as the icing on the cake.
A native of NYC, Lawrence Ernest Blackmon developed an interest in music during his childhood. Every Sunday after church, he attended shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Eventually gaining inspiration from artists such as James Brown, Otis Redding and/or The Temptations.
He started his formal music training at junior High School. Then he came to put together a succession of groups including The Mighty Gees, East Coast then The New York City Players. A name he soon after had to change, turnin’ it into Cameo, to avoid confusion with the Ohio Players.
The first recordings of Blackmon bring us back to 1973 and the release of the East Coast‘s eponymous album. There one could see him jammin’ along with the late Gwen Guthrie on vocals. But also pianist/keyboardist Gregory Johnson who would be a member of Cameo between 1976 and 1982. And trombonist/bassist Patrick Grant who happened to write ‘Supernatural Thing’ for the late Ben E. King back in 1975.
Cameo dropped their debut-album – ‘Cardiac Arrest’ – back in 1977 on Casablanca Records via Chocolate City. Makin’ some noise in the charts with cuts such as ‘Rigor Mortis’ and ‘We All Know Who We Are’. Meanwhile their 1979 ‘Secret Omen’ effort opened an impressive series of 5 gold albums in a row. Spanning extra gems such as ‘Shake Your Pants’, ‘Keep It Hot’ and ‘Freaky Dancin” among others.
By that time Cameo got runnin’ around a nucleus of 4 members. In other words, Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins, Nathan Leftenant and Charlie Singleton. They also relocated in Atlanta, GA where Blackmon launched his Atlanta Artists record label. And their sound had also slightly changed. Blending 70’s Funk with 80’s technology and opening their most successful period commercially speakin’. Givin’ birth to a continuous series of firing tracks until the beginning of the 90’s. From ‘She’s Strange’ to ‘Single Life’ and ‘Attack Me With Your Love’. Then ‘Word Up!’, ‘Candy’, She’s Mine’ and ‘Back And Forth’. Not to mention ‘Skin I’m In’ or the bumpin’ ‘I Want It Now’ which saw them flirting with Swingbeat back in 1990.
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