Classics: Toney Lee – Reach Up (Radar Records)
“Reach Up. Everybody reach… Reach to the top”. A classic very much illustrative of the period that saw its release. A period, and more precisely a year (1982) most likely dominated by positive messages. From Keni Burke‘s ‘Risin’ To The Top’ to D-Train‘s ‘Keep On’. Not to mention Sharon Redd‘s ‘Never Give You Up’. Or The Jammers‘ ‘What Have You Got To Lose’…
Back then, no one would anymore be talkin’ about Disco (3 years after the famous Demotion Night in Chicago!). No more yet than about House (Music) yet which was to appear soon after. But music tailored for clubs kept on being released. With some simply talking about Club Music and others using the expression ‘Boogie’, if not ‘dubbed out’ on occasions.
Anyway, ‘Reach Up’ pretty much made its way among the biggest tracks of the year. And it the meantime, it would become Toney Lee‘s biggest classic ever. With production work by the likes of label head Eric Matthew who co-founded Gary’s Gang along with the late Gary Turnier.
‘Reach Up’ has therefore inspired countless artists and producers. Beginning with Paul Simpson who embedded parts of it 7 years after on the memorable ‘Musical Freedom’ featuring Adeva.
– Toney Lee is mostly remembered for the Eric Matthew produced ‘Reach Up’ back in 1982 on Radar Records. Its approach, using dubbed out sounds, was quite avant-gardist for the time being. Eventually prefiguring what would become House Music soon after.
He delivered its follow-up – ‘Love So Deep’ – the year after on the same label, although it didn’t generate the same following. He dropped his first and only album – ‘Teaser’ on Critique Records in 1986. Then he signed with Jump Street Records where he released 2 extra singles including ‘My Baby Loves Me’ produced by Paul Simpson.
One could eventually find extra traces of him back in 1992 under the form of ‘No Matter’ on Canadian House Music label Emotive Records in 1992.
As a sideman, Lee eventually joined Eric Matthew on the second single of Status IV (‘You Ain’t Really Down’) back in 1983. The two protagonists would eventually join forces once again as The Shy Boyz 4 years later. This givin’ birth to ‘u Ain’t Really House’ along with Farley Jackmaster Funk.
Toney Lee also left his contribution to Togetherness. A studio group put together in 1989 to support Paul Simpson on the song ‘We Are The Ones’ from his ‘One’ album. It featured Loleatta Holloway, Barbara Roy and Rochelle Fleming. Not to mention Fonda Rae, Ray Simpson and the then emerging Will Downing.
Lee also happened to join The Backbeat Disciples on ‘Let There Be Love’ along with Arthur Baker back in 1991.
– All roads seems to be leading to Rome. With Gary’s Gang recording what would be their biggest classic ever – ‘Keep On Dancin” – in a garage! As a matter of fact, Gary Turmier and Joe Tucci (aka Eric Matthew) would officially give birth the group after they sold ‘Keep On Dancin” to Sam Weiss‘s SAM Records. Comin’ straight to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, it would open the path for extra gems such as ‘Do It At The Disco’ and ‘Let’s Lovedance Tonight’. Extra cuts worth the check from the band including the infectious ‘Showtime’. But also ‘Makin’ Music’ and ‘Knock Me Out’ which Matthew released later on on his Radar Records label.
On the heels of his success with Gary’s Gang, Matthew set up his own label. Producing the memorable ‘Reach Up’and ‘Lovin’ You’ respectively for Toney Lee and Status IV. But also the smooth ‘I’m Out Of Your Life’ for Arnie’s Love. Not to mention the grooy Boogie ‘Come And Get My Lovin” for Barbara Fowler. He also happened to co-produce Sharon Redd‘s ‘Beat The Street’, ‘Never Give You Up’ and ‘Love How You Feel’ with Darryl Payne. This in addition Sinnamon‘s classic ‘Thanks To You’