Classics: Alexander O’Neal – What Is This Thing Called Love (Dee Classic 12″ Mix) (Tabu Records)
“What is this thing called love?” An interrogation which has undoubtedly been on everyone’s lips since the world began…
Takin’ the center stage, Alexander O’Neal is most likely one of the best singers Flyte Time moguls Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis have ever produced. The man leavin’ and instantly and like no other imprint over the R&B production, from the mid-80’s until the mid-90’s. Meanwhile delivering an impressive series of seminal classics. From ‘Hearsay’ to Fake’ and ‘Criticize’ to name a few. With the 1991 released ‘What Is The Thing Called Love’ from his ‘All True Man’ album makin’ no exception…
Brilliantly showing the existence of a bridge between R&B and House vibes, David Morales brought ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ to another dimension at the end. This along with Eric Kupper on Keyboards and Teddy Burrus on piano. The threesome remaining true to the Def Mix sound signature meanwhile spicin’ up the whole with aerial string parts over a smooth bass-driven rhythm pattern.
What is this thing called love? Don’t look any further. What is this thing called love? There we go!
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– Alexander O’Neal first saw the light of the day back on Nov. 15, 1953 in Natchez, MS, a few months after his father got killed. He attended Alcorn State University after graduating from high school in his hometown. And at age of 20, he relocated to Minneapolis, where he started working as a petrol-pump attendant. He also happened to be a keen football player before venturing into singing.
Believing in his vocal abilities, he sang with local group The Philadelphia Stories before forming his own bands. First with The Black Market Band then The Mystics.
O’Neal delivered his first single – ‘Do You Dare’ – on Erect Records back in 1982. Meanwhile his follow-up – ‘Attitude’ – saw the light the year after on Rich Records, featuring Jesse Johnson on guitar. He then came to join Flyte Tyme as their lead singer. A band which included Monte Moir, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. But a disagreement with Prince would get him to soon after leave the band with Morris Day replacing him.
In 1984, O’Neal signed a deal with Clarence Avant‘s Tabu Records. There, he did some backing vocals for labelmates The S.O.S. Band and Cherrelle. The year after seeing him releasing his eponymous debut-album. But also duetting with Cherrelle on ‘Saturday Love’ and eventually score his first R&B Top 10 single.
1987 saw him gettin’ a new status with the release of his ‘Hearsay’ album. An effort which yelded a bunch of classics for him. From ‘Fake’ to ‘Criticize’. But also ‘(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me’, ‘The Lovers’ and ‘Never Knew Love Like This’. Eventually enjoying greater success in the UK than he was in his native US. Such as he brilliantly demonstrated it with his six sold out nights at Wembley Arena. ‘Hearsay’ reapparing the year after as a part of an ‘All Mixed Up’ remix album.
Alexander O’Neal released his fourth album – ‘All True Man’ – by the beginning of 1991. But although it featured extra charting singles such as its title cut and ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ (with remixes courtesy of David Morales and Frankie Knuckles), its sales did not reach the level of ‘Hearsay’. No more than its follow-up – ‘Love Makes No Sense’ – which was his first without production from Jam and Lewis and his last for Tabu back in 1993. Eventually marking O’Neal‘s progressive fall along with time. Such as his signature with Motown although no singles or albums saw the light at the time.
From then on, none of O’Neal‘s attempts to recapture his glory happened to work unfortunately. Including his latest ones such as his re-recording of ‘Fake’ with Mancunian band Mamma Freedom back in 2016. With the same applying to ‘Hearsay30’, a re-recording of his 1987 ‘Hearsay’ album.
– A quick typing – ‘David Morales’ – in the search box of our site should give you a certain idea of his legacy. And, by that, of the consideration we have for him. Standing among the most prolific but first and foremost talented producers/remixers of his generation. With his name firmly associated to a signature – the Def Mix Sound – and an alter ego – Frankie Knuckles. Themselves synonyms with some of the most brilliant episodes in the maturation of the contemporary groove.
A native New Yorker of Puerto Rican ancestry, David Morales grew up during Dance Music’s most influential era. Thus, unsurprisingly frequenting its legendary clubs such as The Loft and The Paradise Garage.
As a result, it wasn’t long before he started his own nightclub – the Ozone Layer – in Brooklyn, by the beginning of the 80’s. His residency which lasted until 1986 eventually leading him to spin at The Paradise Garage in 1983. The 80’s seeing him DJing later at Newark, NJ’s famous The Zanzibar. With the latter standing as the craddle of the famous Jersey Sound also known as Garage. But also joining forces with Frankie Knuckles and For The Record DJ Pool founder Judy Weinstein under the Def Mix Productions banner to help manage remix requests and handle artist business affairs.
All in all, on his own or along with Frankie Knuckles, David Morales has remixed and produced over 500 releases. With the list of those he happened to rework the music of givin’ a better idea of the impact he generated. And this way above the strict spheres of House Music. Eventually bringin’ fragments of his universe on ‘Mine To Give’ by the likes of British Junglist Photek along with Robert Owens. But also working along Brit-Soul / Acid Jazz activists. From James Taylor Quartet feat. Noel McCoy‘s ‘I Love The Life’. To the Brand New Heavies‘ ‘Never Stop’, Loose Ends‘ ‘Love’s Got Me’ and Imagination‘s ‘Instinctual’. Not to mention Lisa Stansfield‘s ‘8.3.1.’. And how to not think of Alison Limerick‘s ‘Where Love Lives’ or Incognito‘s ‘Always There’ among others?!?
Of course, David Morales made some noise in the House scene. Responsible for seminal tracks such as ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’, ‘Finally’ and ‘My Piece Of Heaven’, respectively for Robert Owens, CeCe Peniston and Ten City. This in addition to Ce Ce Rogers‘ ‘All Join Hands’, Inner City‘s ‘Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin” and Richard Rogers‘ ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’. If not Doug Lazy‘s ‘H.O.U.S.E.’.
But, just like Frankie Knuckles, he also created serious bridges with R&B names. Beginning with Mariah Carey (‘Fly Away (Butterfly Reprise)’) with whom he established a long term working relationship. But also Luther Vandross (‘The Rush’) and Alexander O’Neal (‘What Is This Thing Called Love’). This in addition to Miles Jaye (‘Heaven’) and Whitney Houston (‘Love Will Save The Day’).
Meanwhile, under his own banner, Morales also made quite an impression. Beginning with his debut-album and single of the likes – ‘The Program’ – as David Morales & The Bad Yard Club back in 1993. But also ‘Needin’ U’ as The Face, five years later. And how to not remember ‘Golden Era’ along with Róisín Murphy? A cut which stood among the essential tracks of the year 2012… Or, more recently, ‘Lovin” as The Face feat. Kym Mazelle. And ‘There Must Be Love’ as fronted by Janice Robinson. This with remix courtesy of Nigel Lowis, which we welcomed as our Single Of The Week back then…