Len Coley and Roddy Harris formed DELEGATION in Birmingham, during
the mid 70’s later adding Jamaican born Ricky Bailey whose voice was to
give them added flair on lead helping them to compete in the competitive
UK Soul Market.
The Group worked with one of the UK’s most prolific hit makers of the
70’s and 80’s, Ken Gold, responsible for masterminding The Real Thing as
well as writing and producing for artists such as The Nolans, Liquid Gold
and Billy Ocean who secured a deal with State Records after which the
group released a few UK singles with moderate success.
However, when Oh Honey hit the US charts in 1979 it scored an
incredibly impressive top 50 US Pop chart position and smoothly grooved
all the way to #6 in the US R&B charts helping the album enter the
Billboard Hot 200 and make #8 on the US R&B album chart.
DELEGATION later moved to Ariola Records while changing their lineup
with Len Coley being replaced with Bruce Dunbar, a Broadway Musical
singer who starred in the musical "Hair" before joining the band, bringing
with him his captivating falsetto, so well suited to DELEGATION’s smooth
funky sound. Once they had drafted in the arranging talents of keyboard
virtuoso, Lynton Naismith, DELEGATION went to work on 'Eau De Vie'
which would go on to become their highest selling album achieving a Gold
Record status in 1980.
Notable songs on this album include the groovy first single, PUT A LITTLE
LOVE ON ME full of raw Funk bass lines and smooth Lynton Naismith organ
paired with dazzling and driving yet subtle guitar licks giving it a slight
Calypso groove. This winning formula was continued into the second
single YOU AND I, with the guitar coming forward and the group really
showcasing their vocal chemistry from the opening. DELEGATION turned
up the disco for HEARTACHE No 9 adding a powerful string and horn
section to a track that is currently receiving an overdue renaissance on
the UK club scene.
BBR is very proud to bring you EAU DU VIE, completely remastered and
repackaged complete with liner notes and extended bonus content.
Released in deluxe Super Jewel cases, EAU DU VIE is a must have for all
Soul and Funk and Jazz fans out there!
1. Heartache No. 9 5:15
2. Sho' Nuff Sold on You 5:17
3. One More Step to Take 4:41
4. Blue Girl 5:14
5. Darlin (I Think About You) 4:21
6. You and I 5:18
7. Stand Up (Reach for the Sky) 4:54
8. Welcome to My World 4:35
9. Put a Little Love on Me 4:33
10. Heartache No. 9 (12" Special Re-Mix Version) 7:00
11. Put a Little Love on Me (12" Long Version) 8:15
12. You and I 3:36
13. Heartache No. 9 3:39
14. Put a Little Love on Me 3:02
Label: Big Break Records
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Review By Derek Anderson.
Visit also his Musicblog : http://dereksmusicblog.wordpress.com/
DELEGATION-EAU DE VIE.
Often, it seems American bands have a monopoly when it comes to producing quality and successful soul and funk music. Sometimes, British groups can match their American counterparts in the success stakes. It doesn’t happen often, but very occasionally, a British band releases a single or album that takes America by storm. One group that managed this, were Delegation, formed in Birmingham during the mid-seventies by Ricky Bailey, Len Coley and Roddy Harris. Delegation worked with songwriter and producer Ken Gold, who previously, worked with The Real Thing, Liquid Gold and Billy Ocean. After enjoying chart success in the UK with Where Is the Love (We Used To Know) and You’ve Been Doing Me Wrong in 1977, Delegation’s music successfully crossed the Atlantic. This success started with Oh Honey, which reached number six in the US R&B singles charts in 1978. The same year, Delegation’s debut album The Promise of Love reached number eighty-four in the US Billboard 200 and number eight in the US R&B Charts. Then just as Delegation looked like breaking the near monopoly American soul groups were enjoying two things happened. They changed record labels, signing to Ariola and Len Coley left the band. Replacing Len for the recording of their sophomore album Eau De Vie was Bruce Dunbar, a former Broadway singer who’d starred in the musical Hair. His falsetto vocal was a near perfect fit for Delegation’s sound and style. However, losing a founding member, plus changing labels, was pretty traumatic, especially for a group just beginning to make it big stateside. How would this affect Delegation when they released Eau De Vie, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 26th November 2012? That’s what I’ll now tell you.
Having made a commercial breakthrough on both sides of the Atlantic, losing a member must have been galling. All the hard work, and progress made over the last few years was now at risk. In many ways, it was almost like a new band. So when it came to recording Eau De Vie, founding members Ricky Bailey and Roddy Harris plus new member Bruce Dunbar must have wondered what the future held. Could they build on the success of Oh Honey and their debut album The Promise of Love? Would their existing fans take to the new member’s singing style? Then there was the question of attracting a wider audience. There was also the adding complication of having signed to a new label. This meant dealing with new management, A&R staff and promotion people. Their heads must have been spinning. They’d gotten so close to becoming one of the few British soul bands to establishing a fan-base in America. Now all this was up for grabs. At least they had songwriter and producer Ken Gold guiding them through this new chapter in Delegation’s career. Indeed, Ken Gold would play an important part in Eau De Vie.
Of the nine tracks on Eau De Vie, Ken Gold cowrote seven of them. Six of these tracks were with his songwriting partner Micky Denne. The other track Darlin’ (I Think About You), Ken and Micky penned with Lynton Naiff. Ricky Bailey, one of the founding members of Delegation cowrote the other two tracks with Ray Patterson. Somewhat aptly, Welcome To My World saw Ricky and Ray cowrite the track with new vocalist Bruce Dunbar. These nine tracks became Eau De Vie.
Recording of Eau De Vie took place at three London studios, The Roundhouse Studios, SARM Studios and CBS Studios. A band containing a rhythm section of drummer Graham Jarvis, bassists Dil Katz and Alan Jones and rhythm and lead guitarist Robert J. Ahwai were joined by keyboardist Lynton Naiff and percussionist Ken Gold. String and horn sections were arranged and conducted by Lynton Naiff, while Ken Gold produced Eau De Vie. This was the first album featuring the new lineup of Ricky Bailey, Roddy Harris and Bruce Dunbar. Could they replicate the success of The Promise of Love on Eau De Vie?
In the UK, Eau De Vie was released in October 1979 and failed to chart. Neither did Put A Little Love On Me released in October 1979. Things weren’t looking good for the new lineup of Delegation. Sadly, things failed to improve. Neither You and I released in February 1980 nor Heartache No. 9, released in October 1980 failed to chart. The only hope was Eau De Vie might fare better in America.
For Ariola, Delegation’s new label, they must have breathed a sigh of relief when Eau De Vie reached number sixty-nine in the US R&B Charts in April 1980. Granted it failed to match the success of The Promise of Love, but at least the album charted, unlike in the UK. Welcome To My World was released as a single in April 1980, reaching just number fifty in the US R&B Charts. Then three months later, in July 1980, Heartache No. 9 reached number sixty-six in the US R&B Charts and number fifty-nine in the US Disco Charts. While Delegation and their record company must have been disappointed, the addition of a new member meant it was not dissimilar to launching a new group. However, should Eau De Vie have fared better commercially? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve told you about the music on Eau De Vie.
Eau De Vie opens with the single Heartache No. 9, one of the six Ken Gold and Micky Denne penned tracks. Straight away, the track bursts into life, bringing to mind Chic. Chiming, funky guitars join the rhythm section, lush dancing strings and rasping horns. Then when the vocal enters, it’s not unlike The Real Thing. It’s a real mixture of influences and genres. Funk meets soul and disco, while British and American music become one. Glorious harmonies sweep in and out, as the joyous, uplifting and hook-heavy track reveals its delights. You’re swept along above an arrangement that’s funky and soulful while the vocal is soulful, tender and joyful. A track this good, sets Eau De Vie up nicely and if the other tracks are as good, this could be something special? Will that be the case though?
As Sho’ Nuff Sold On You opens, it reveals an understated sound. Percussion and keyboards combine as the arrangement builds. When the harmonies enter, you can’t help draw comparisons with Chic again. Then when the vocal enters, it has a tougher, funkier sound. This sounds as if it’s written specifically for the American market. It’s delivered with sassy, backing vocalists responding to Ricky Bailey’s vocal. Bruce Dunbar’s soaring falsetto is a perfect fit, yang to Ricky’s ying. Later, the harmonies become punchy, as the track takes on a seventies American funk sound, with even a touch of Sly and the Family Stone. Horns growl, percussion and a funky rhythm section play their part in demonstrating another side to Delegation’s music, one that’s uber funky.
One More Step To Take is another of the uptempo tracks. From the opening bars you’re won over, smitten. Ken Gold and Micky Denne work their magic, penning a track heavy on hooks. Waves of drama courtesy of the rhythm section join dancing strings, percussion and handclaps before Ricky’s vocal enters. When it enters, his vocal is laden with joy and emotion. Tight harmonies sweep in, reminding me of The Real Thing. They add the finishing touch. After that, it’s just a case of settling back and enjoying a track that’s an uplifting, joyous slice of good-time, sunshine soul. Why it wasn’t released as a single in the UK seems a missed opportunity.
Blue Girl sees another change in style, with the tempo dropping. There’s a wistful, melancholy sound to the introduction. Keyboards, rhythm section and percussion give way to Ricky’s tender vocal. It’s filled with sadness and emotion, sung against a backdrop of heartfelt harmonies and a meandering, wistful arrangement. The arrangement meanders along, keyboards and guitars key to its sound, providing the perfect backdrop for Ricky’s vocal. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics, revealing his versatility as a vocalist. Harmonies reply to his call, playing their part in one of the most beautiful tracks on Eau De Vie.
There’s similarities with Darlin’ (I Think About You) and the opening track Heartache No. 9. That’s no bad thing, given their uptempo, infectiously catchy sound. Chiming guitars join the rhythm section in driving the arrangement along. A pounding bass, keyboards, blazing horns and sweeping swirling strings join a jazz-tinged guitar before Delegation add punchy harmonies. By now, the guitar licks are reminiscent of Niles Rogers on an old Chic album. That’s high praise. The harmonies and Ricky’s vocal feed off each other. They seem to drive each other to greater heights, as soul, funk and disco combine. It’s a potent, heady and hugely catchy combination. Mind you, with Ricky’s lead vocal, the punchy harmonies and a lyrics by Ken Gold, Micky Denne and Lynton Naiff, that’s no surprise.
You and I sees the Chic influence shine through again. Everything from the guitar, keyboards and lush strings is reminiscent of Bernard Edwards and Niles Rogers at their peak. It’s only when the harmonies enter, things change. They’re tight and punchy, while Ricky’s vocal is impassioned and heartfelt. With chiming, Chic guitar licks ever-present, the arrangement floats along, with Delegation soulfulness personified. Why the single wasn’t a commercial success, in retrospect, seems something of a mystery.
Like other tracks on Eau De Vie, Stand Up (Reach For the Sky) just bursts into life. A dramatic, pounding and funky rhythm section, rasping horns, percussion and chiming guitars join swirling strings before Ricky’s vocal enters. When it does, that’s when the vocal interplay begins. Delegation reveal their harmonic talents. They feed off each other, the vocal changing hands, harmonies sweep in and out and Delegation give a harmonic masterclass. Add to this, rasping horns, cascading strings and funky guitar licks and the result is another joyous, uplifting track.
Welcome To My World is another of the slower tracks on Eau De Vie, but shows Delegation at their soulful best. The arrangement has a melancholy, wistful sound. Woodwind, a slow, pensive rhythm section and keyboards usher in some tight, heartfelt and deeply soulful harmonies. They’re beautiful and emotive, as is Bruce Dunbar’s vocal. His falsetto vocal is perfect for the lyrics, with Ricky and Roddy adding some of the best harmonies on the album. Later, a half-spoken vocal is accompanied by harmonies and from there, Bruce unleashes a vocal that’s beautiful, heartfelt and full of emotion. Together with the harmonies, this is why this is the highlight of Eau De Vie.
Closing Eau De Vie is fittingly, Put A Little Love On Me, written by Ken Gold and Micky Denne, who wrote so many of the album’s best tracks. Delegation seem determined to finish the album on a high. The arrangement bounces along, reminding me of Liquid Gold, another of Ken Gold’s groups. Funk and soul unite. A pounding, funky rhythm section, synths, percussion and chiming guitars combine creating a hugely catchy backdrop. Then when Ricky’s vocal enters, he delivers a powerful, sassy and feisty vocal. Punchy harmonies accompany his vocal, while horns rasp and the songs swings along. Later, Ricky becomes a cheerleader, as if encouraging the group to end Eau De Vie on a high. This they do, with a track that’s catchy and dance-floor friendly.
Earlier I posed the question whether Delegation’s sophomore album Eau De Vie deserved to fare better commercially. The answer to that is a resounding yes. That Eau De Vie failed to even chart seems remarkable. However, in retrospect, that’s not surprising. By April 1979 when Eau De Vie was released, music was changing. Disco’s popularity had waned and by July 1979, would become something of a musical pariah. Then there was the problem of radio play. In the UK, even by 1979, the UK had only one “state” broadcaster, whose music was shall we say, unadventurous. They tended to play only what was commercially successful and were content to feed the listening public a diet of what can only be described as inoffensive, populist music. Even commercial radio, which was in its infancy, was following the lead of the “state” broadcaster and seemed to think listeners deserved a diet of bland music. Soul, funk and jazz music weren’t exactly high on radio playlists, except if it was something commercially successful. Even when disco was at the height of its popularity, all the British public heard was the acceptable and commercial side of disco. So for groups like Delegation, getting their music heard wasn’t easy. As for the music press, they were divided along the lines of those who’d jumped on the punk and post-punk bandwagon and journalists who still thought that Neil Young, Pink Floyd and Led Zepellin were cutting-edge. At least in America Delegation found a slightly more appreciative audience.
In America, Eau De Vie failed to replicate the success of The Promise of Love. Given that this was the “debut” album from the new lineup of Delegation, this wasn’t a surprise. It would take time for listeners to adapt to the new lineup’s sound. What UK listeners and many American listeners missed, was an album full of hook-heavy, soulful and funky music. Whether it was the uptempo or slow tracks on Eau De Vie which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 26th November 2012, Delegation didn’t disappoint. They never missed a beat and Eau De Vie is an album that’s full of quality music. There’s neither filler nor padding. Just great music. Eau De Vie is Delegation at their very best. Delegation were proof that when it came to soul and funk music, sometimes, British groups could match their American counterparts for quality, soulfulness and funkiness. Eau De Vie is proof of that. Standout Tracks: Heartache No. 9, One More Step To Take, Blue Girl and Welcome To My World.