Classics: Ray, Goodman & Brown – Special Lady (Polydor)
“You must be a special lady and a very exciting girl. You gotta be a special lady ‘Cause you got me sittin’ on top of the world…”
A “Special Lady”, indeed and a special track. With the newly formed Ray, Goodman & Brown comin’ up straight to #1 position in the R&B charts for their debut on their new label.
From the very first notes of that 1979 released ‘Special Lady’, you know you’re in front of something… special! This with its one of a kind vocal arrangements. In the caliber of groups such as The Temptations, in terms of variations, although closer to The Stylistics or Blue Magic in terms of tones.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Special Lady’ stands among Ray, Goodman & Brown‘s biggest classics. And I suppose it’s pretty much the first track comin’ to mind when thinkin’ of them…
From their early days as The Moments, this formation came with an ever changing line-up along with time. With their second name – Ray, Goodman & Brown – not even necessarily reflecting the amount of their members. This, on a whole, makin’ it quite dificult to precisely know who’s been doin’ what at the end. Anyway, we’ll try to make it as easy as possible for you…
The Moments formed in Washington, DC in the mid-60’s. Eventually releasing their debut-single – ‘Baby I Want You’ – on Larry and Fonce Mizell‘s transient Hog label back in 1965. Their line-up at the time consisting of Richard Gross, John Morgan and Eric Olfus.
They reappeared after a three years hiatus. This with an extra member by the likes of Mark Greene. And on the newly formed Stang Records label, set up by Sylvia Robinson. Eventually debuting on their new home with ‘Not On The Outside’.
‘Not On The Outside, But On The Inside, Strong!’, their debut-album, saw the light the year after. Its liner notes mentioning the presences of John Morgan along with Al Goodman and Billy Brown. Greene, Olfus and Gross had decided to leave in the meantime, although their voices could be heard here or there on various tracks.
After three of the four original members of the had had left, Billy Brown re-recorded a new lead-vocal track of ‘Love On A Two Way Street’. A song which labelmate Lezli Valentine had originally released but failed to chart. Seeing the light with some remixing work, it eventually topped the R&B charts for five weeks. Other tracks such as ‘If I Didn’t Care’, ‘Sexy Mama’ and ‘Look At Me (I’m In Love)’ comforting the status of the band during the following years.
The Moments also happened to share the bill with labelmates The Whatnauts on the memorable ‘Girls’ back in 1974. A gem which US rapper Funkmaster Wizard Wiz brilliantly sampled fourteen years after on ‘Girls’
By 1979, the group had had a total of 27 R&B chart hits and switched from Stang to Polydor. Its members renaming the group with their last names – Ray, Goodman & Brown – after a legal dispute had barred them from using The Moments on their new label.
The first single under their new name – ‘Special Lady’ – became one of Ray, Goodman & Brown‘s biggest classics. With other hits following such as ‘Inside Of You’ or ‘Take It To The Limit’. Meanwhile regular movements kept on punctuatung the life of the ‘trio’. From Morgan‘s firing and its replacement by Harry Ray. To Ray‘s departure to pursue a solo career and the arrival of Kevin ‘Ray’ Owens to replace him. Then Ray‘s return a couple of years later. This in addition to the arrival of Harold ‘Eban’ Brown who would become their lead vocalist for a bit more than two years, back in 1991 before joining The Manhattans, then The Stylistics in 2000.
Harry Ray suffered a fatal stroke in 1992, and Kevin ‘Ray’ Owens replaced him once again. Meanwhile Greg Willis also happened to contribute, although he never became a full-time member. The ‘Mood For Lovin” album confirming this back in 1988 while credited to Ray, Goodman & Brown featuring Greg Willis. Meanwhile eventually seeing them venturing into upbeat territories on the underrated although quite worth the check ‘Electrified’.
With Owens‘ return, the trio continued to perform and tour as Ray, Goodman & Brown. Releasing two albums in 2002 and 2003.
Al Goodman sadly died, aged 67, on Jul 26, 2010 of heart failure. This after undergoing surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, NJ.
Two years after, Harold ‘Eban’ Brown rejoined remaining original member Billy Brown to re-record The Moments ‘Greatest Hits – Volume 1’.
As of 2014, Larry Winfree was officially welcomed to replace Al Goodman. Thus bringing the group back to its regular trio status.