New York City Band 1979

6 Jul

New York City Band
with
Luther Vandross

In
1979, LUTHER VANDROSS was one of the premier session singers on the New
York
studio scene and probably recorded as lead vocalist on some of these
songs for the first time.
NEW YORK CITY BAND – directed by the great
HAROLD WHEELER – is a true
soul-funk-disco gem for everyone to
discover.

“American International Pictures
(A.I.P) was an independent film company that had produced many successful horror
movies. The music supervisor was a friend of mine. One day he called and asked
me to produce a soundtrack for a new film that was in production. When I asked
what it was about, he said that A.I.P. had signed John Travolta’s brother Joey
to star in a ‘gang’ film that would take place in the slums of Queens New York –
a place called ‘Sunnyside’, and that would be the name of the picture. I thought
‘Sunnyside’ didn’t sound very ‘gang’ or ‘slums’ to me but … He then said he
wanted to try for a big soundtrack album as he had done a deal with Casablanca
Records, the home of Donna Summers and other major ‘disco’ artists. I asked, “do
you want a disco record?” he answered “let’s call it a dance record”. For a high
quality dance record that needed more than a beat I called Harold
Wheeler
* in New York to do the conducting and arranging. Harold was on top
of his game and could jump in and out of all genres of music. We decided on a
big band and lots of voices with the bass and kick-drum up high in the mix, and
most of all we had to have good melodic songs.”

Luther Vandross was one of
the premier session singers on the New York studio scene and we hired him as
‘choir master’, responsible for the performance of all the singers hired for the
recording. Luther sang lead on most of the chorus tracks and then we came to the
two songs that were written for a solo voice – Harold and I both simultaneously
shouted ‘Luther!’. Luther jumped behind the vocal booth and shouted back “not
me!”. After a cup of tea and some high powered persuasion by Harold and me, he
agreed.”

“When
you hear Luther’s solos on ‘Got to have your body’ and ‘Bo Diddley’ you will
understand why we worked so hard to convince him to do it.”

“Sunnyside was released and played
in the theatres for about three days – which is probably why nobody has ever
heard this record before.”

Alan Douglas, March
2007

*Harold Wheeler has the
distinction of having been the youngest conductor on Broadway, beginning a long
and distinguished career also as orchestrator and composer of some of its most
memorable hits (The Wiz, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, The
Tap Dance Kid
, Swing, The Full Monty, Hairspray). The
term ‘musical genius’ is not just a cliche when used to describe Wheeler, whose
credits are not limited only to theatrical productions. He has both arranged and
produced for luminaries such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder,
Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Al Green, Aretha
Franklin
, Nina Simone, Vanessa L. Williams, Brian
McKnight
, Anita Baker and jazz great Dizzy Gillespie.

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