Ashford & Simpson – 1978 – Is It Still Good To Ya
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By this point, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson are firmly holding the foreground as artists in their own right after many years of acting as songwriters for other soul and R&B hitmakers, and this self produced album continues in their tradition of sophisticated soul and rich balladry. With a number of singles that would help them begin to break through to later huge chart success, including “Is It Good To You“, “Ain’t It A Shame“, “It Seems To Hang On” and “Get Up And Do Something“.
A1It Seems to Hang On (5:11)
A2 Is It Still Good to Ya? (3:50)
A3 Debt Is Settled (3:51)
A4 Ain’t It a Shame (4:54)
B1Get up and Do Something (4:52)
B2 You Always Could (3:30)
B3 Flashback (3:55)
84 As Long as It Holds You (3:59) The Reviews
Their pop breakthrough; this went gold and sailed into the Top 20. This is meticulously produced mainstream soul, very similar to what Quincy Jones was doing at the time, only without all the showoff guests. The tender title track was a hit single, as was the frantic funk tune “It Seems To Hang On.” Meanwhile, “You Always Could” is a gorgeous melody that sounds tailor-made for Gaye and Terrell. The production is so tasteful they even pull off flirtations with disco (“Get Up And Do Something”). Longtime orchestral arranger Paul Riser is here, and the band would remain in place for several years: Eric Gale (guitar), Ray Chew (keys), and the remarkably limber Francisco Centeno on bass.
Having written many popular numbers for various artists over the years, the dynamic duo retain that same tradition for this project. The first release from this album was the midtempo “It Just Seems to Hang On.” While each verse is conveyed in a soft texture, the chorus jumps with excitement and intrigue, as does the vamp. Prior to this album, the husband-and-wife team had just one prior R&B Top Ten hit (“Don’t Cost You Nothing,” number ten in 1978).This song had a stronger impact; it stayed on the charts for 17 weeks. But more importantly, it held the number two position on the Billboard R&B charts for five consecutive weeks. The title track was the follow-up single. With its mesmerizing intonation, Ashford & Simpson intensely deliver this classic R&B ballad with all the right ingredients. In spite of the beauty of the song, it only peaked at #12 on the charts in as many weeks. The final release was “Flashback.” Not nearly as inviting as its predecessors, this disco number peaked at number 70 after five weeks on the charts.
On their sixth album together, Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson plunge into a lush pop disco that’s emotional as well as erotic, propulsive without sounding mechanized. Though these singer/writer/producers have been a lot more stylistically adventuresome in the past—Simpson has the technique, if not the soulful intensity, to deliver punchy R&B and gospel music—they’ve never seemed more comfortable than they do here. Working in stricter song forms with concise tunes, their vocal roles are clearly defined, and Ashford’s reedy tenor, tougher than on previous records, expertly complements his partner’s passionate flights.
The compressed euphoria of Is It Still Good to Ya was, merely hinted at on last year’s commercial breakthrough, Send It, whose songs were more complex but also more diffuse. On the new LP, the best material carries stronger echoes of Ashford and Simpson’s Motown classics, with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” the obvious prototype. Two beautifully arranged pop-disco numbers—”It Seems to Hang On” (a sexy hybrid of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Lowdown”) and “The Debt Is Settled”—are the production centerpieces. “Flashback” suggests the sleek formula pop of Abba (without the sterility), while “Get Up and Do Something” is a deft exercise in cotton candy funk.
As devoted hedonists comparing notes on a pink cloud over love land, Ashford and Simpson are totally convincing. Though their vision may be somewhat frivolous, they’ve managed to translate it into music I find almost irresistibly ecstatic.