Classics: Norman Connors – Take It To The Limit (Arista)
From his 1980 album of the name, the Nathan East bass driven ‘Take It To The Limit’ stands as Norman Connors‘s Disco crossover. In a sophisticated vein somehow reminding of Ashford & Simpson… The too rare Ada Dyer (aka Adaritha) taking the lead along with The Jones Girls in the backing vocals. With vocal arrangements under the direction of Jean Carn.
Born in Philadelphia in 1948, Norman Connors expressed an interest for music at the early age of 5, when taking up drums and starting to compose. He got extensively exposed to Jazz during his elementary school days. He eventually met his idol, Miles Davis, when he was 13.
His first recording was on Archie Shepp‘s 1967 ‘Magic Of JuJu’ album on the Impulse! label. He also worked with Billy Paul, Kenny Gill, John Coltrane and Charles Earland. Movin’ to the Big Apple, he then started a collaboration with Pharoah Sanders, recording 5 albums with him.
Connors delivered his first solo recording – ‘Dance Of Magic’ – in 1972. An album that saw him surrounded by luminaries such as Alphonse Mouzon, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke and Eddie Henderson among others. He began to make himself a name on the UK Jazz/Funk scene with albums such as ‘Live From The Sun’ and ‘Slewfoot’. He soon after met commercial success with the help of singer/songwriter Michael Henderson. An association which led to the incorporation of R&B elements in his repertoire.
They first jammed together in 1975 on Connors‘s ‘Saturday Night Special’. Jean Carn appearing on ‘Valentine’ (a duet) and on ‘Dindi’). The first major US chart success came the year after with ‘You Are My Starship’ and its title track as led by Henderson.Phyllis Hyman making a remarkable appearance on ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’, from the same album.
The second half of the 70’s marked a period of intense activity for Connors. Maintaining a heavy release schedule, he therefore made himself a reputation for finding upcoming talents… From Eleanor Mills to Beau Williams, not to mention Glenn Jones. 1980 standing as another peak for him with the release of the ‘Take It To The Limit’ album. He also formed Aquarian Dream which featured the late Sylvia Striplin in 1976. A group mostly remembered for ‘Phonenix’ arranged by Reggie Lucas. But also ‘You’re A Star’ two years later… Meanhile he also found the time to produce artists such as Al Johnson, Phyllis Hyman and Jean Carn.
Signed to Capitol Records in 1988, he scored another hit – ‘I Am Your Melody’ – along with singer Spencer Harrison.
His last album to date – ‘Star Power’ – has been released on Shanachie Records back in 2009. It features a new version of the classic ‘You Are My Starship’ featuring Peabo Bryson on lead vocals.