Black Magic – 1970 – Where Love Is
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Here is a very obscure LP from the turn of the seventies – a reminder of the invention and freedom that Black music embraced during this period – the theatrical stylings of bands like Rotary Connection and the complex arrangements of Charles Stepney. Black Magic served as rhythm section to Sonny & Cher both on record and stage, and exude a spirited exhuberance, curling their youthful hands round a Friends Of Distinction ethos and injecting it with a concept-lead staged musical affair. This is really an amazing find, my friends.
This is a @320 vinyl rip (supplied by Nikos) of the original LP including covers.
A1 Where Love Is (2.38)
A2 Mama Says (2.37)
A3 Black Bottom (2.38)
A4 Miss Jessie (3.15)
A5 Kimu (4.03)
A6 Aunt Adele (2.50)
B1 ‘Tater Man (2.50)
B2 Faces On A Bus (2:18)
B3 Vacant Lot (2.55)
B4 Pershing Square (2.57)
B5 Before It’s Done (2.59)
B6 Echoes Of Love (2:37)
Review by Trakbuv
Black Magic – certainly a new act to me. A fiesty sextet – 3 guys, 3 gals. Delving deeper into the individual talents on display unearthed an amazing pedigree to this forgotten outfit. Instantly familiar to me was Jerry Peters, the highly gifted producer, arranger, writer and keyboardist (check his solo LP ‘Blueprint for Discovery‘ from 1972) for the likes of Jerry Butler, Brainstorm and The Sylvers. From what I have gleened, Annesther pictured on the back cover may not be the same as the person pictured on the front sleeve – who is Marva Holliday. Annester Davis (sometimes referred to as Anne Ester) worked on many soul and Jazz LPs as backing vox with the likes of Gene Harris and Phyllis Hyman. She also reunited with Jerry Peters on a jazz LP by Manfredo Fest (‘Manifestations’, 1979). Marva has a more detailed history (here). She had cut one solo single on GNP Crescendo (‘It’s written all over my face’) – which is apparently quite big on the Northern Soul circuit – prior to joining Black Magic. What she also brought was her lyrical prowess in helping to pen 3 of the songs on the album. Unfortunately she left the group just prior to the release of the album to have a child, hence the change in personnel between the two faces of the sleeve.
Jerry Peters, Greg Poree and his sister Anita are all over Friends of Distinction’s ‘Real Friends’ LP of the same year, including one of their biggest hits, ‘Love or let me be lonely’, one of the greatest songs ever written IMHO. Anita Poree also collaborated with Leonard Caston (of Caston & Majors fame) over at Motown, writing songs for the likes of Eddie Kendricks in particular (‘Keep on truckin’, ‘Girl you need a change of mind’, etc). Greg went on to become a session guitarist. I could not find any info on the remaining two members, bassist Wayne ‘Dark Gable’ Douglass and actress/model/singer Niggy d’Oberoff (the ‘Black Twiggy’).
Built around the mould of The 5th Dimension & The Friends of Distinction, with a theatrical concept styling that was so delicious around the beginning of the 70s, this is as much an experience as a collection of radio friendly plastic. They translocate us to the middle of the ghetto, unsurprisingly, with an exquisite mosaic of rhythms and sounds. Each track has it own character while piecing the parts of a larger jigsaw. We kick off in fine style with a sunny group harmony number‘Where Love Is‘, immediately confirming the link with The Friends Of Dimension, sorry, The 5th Distinction. Things become a little funky with the reminder that ‘Mama Says’ and you better take heed – sucker ! A very confident baritone lead and a very nice track. ‘Black Bottom’ is a little novelty number recalling a bygone era. And the rhythmically challenging ‘Miss Jessie’ carries a familiar woe and gives it an attitude that is refreshing. Very clever and accomplished. ‘Kimu’ is theatrical soliloquy that could only fit as part of the puzzle – and as such is a brave inclusion. ‘Aunt Adele’ is a vibrant tale of the wise tale teller – surely an inspiration for the album’s structure.
For me, Side Two is much more conventional as a listening experience and is far more instant and successful for it. It really is an awesome testimony of how this failed to ignite the hearts and minds of the record buying public in its day. Such a shame. We start with the glorious ‘Tater Man’, a very mature ode given a throbbing insistence of the invisible man working on the street. ‘Faces on a bus’ is absolutely gorgeous and again a familiar series of stories given an edge by its inspired structure. The concept behind ‘Vacant Block’ is brilliant – and another highlight. The front cover has the back of Anita displaying the word ‘Sex’ and the her brother’s foot ‘Strife’ in reference to a line in the song. Yeah – my eyesight really is that good !! ‘Pershing Square’is a personal number for the band, and heralds the awaiting pinnacle of the platter. Saving the best for last !! ‘Before it’s done’ is the BOMB. Okay, some of the lyrics are a little twee, but overall well intentioned. Beautifully sung, beautifully captured – and probably my favourite. Vying for my attention though is the very next track, the strident and anthemic ‘Echoes of Love’. This is a fabulous way to end any listening experience – on a bold high note.
FMS is proud to bring this wonderful Black experience to a theatre near you – only those with a serious love of our music need enter. And enter you must.
Question for a moment what would drive you to donate some of your leisure time to run a blog like FMS. For us, it is simple – to invite, share and educate as many people as possible to the awesome emotional ride of this wonderful music of ours. And in doing so, we hope to show respect for the original artists, most of whom never got the recognition they deserved when they offered up their hopes and dreams in the recording studio.
I guess, like all things in life, what starts out as a blessing can become taken for granted with time. However, I think we need to take a step back from time to time to remember what this is all about. And remind ourselves why blogs like ours exist, and continue to exist.
There is real danger right now of blogs shutting shop or going private – ours included – where a simple thank you may be all that is required to ensure its longevity. A simple thank you to demonstrate some acknowledgement of the effort to rip the original LP for your pleasure, and the care taken over our research and presentation – a simple thank you in honour of the original artists and their loved ones, who do read these pages – and a simple thank you to every one for ensuring this music never dies.
In recognition of this, we are offering ‘Black Magic – Where Love Is’ only to those who leave a comment. Try not to see this as some ego trip for our amusement, but as an opportunity to show solidarity behind our common musical love and recognition for all involved – including the artists. A simple thank you will suffice, but all comments are welcome, with the obvious exception of profanity.
So do not forget to leave a comment and fill in the box with your email (can be seen only by me) so i can send you the link.
To everybody who has left, and will continue to leave comments , we are very grateful for your support and hope you enjoy the LP as much as we have here at FMS. Just to remind everyone how importantly the original artists feature in all our hearts, and the fact that they do read your generous words of praise, here is a comment left by Marva Holiday of Black Magic :
Thanks for sharing this LP with the world. I’ve enjoyed reading some of the comments and will print them out for Anita (my lyric writing mentor and long time friend).
I sang lead on one song that did not make the album. (No complaints. I had a great time writing and singing background :-)— Here is some more info for you:
Niggy (the black Twiggy) is singing lead on the beautiful “Before It’s Done.” Jerry Peters is the male lead on Tater Man, Faces On The Bus, Kimu, etc. He is also playing the clavinet on Kimu. Greg Poree, of course, did all the guitar work and also played the banjo on Black Bottom.
Anta is singing the lead on Where Love Is. She and Niggy were actors and they are the two voices you hear at the end of Miss Jessie (the first song I ever wrote.thanks to Anita’s coaching :-).
Though I left the group, my voice remained on the album. I’m the one who says “It would be groovy to see things from another point of view sometime” before we launch into “Vacant Lot”. Anita and I are singing the “grow flowers in my hair” refrain.
I sometimes think of redoing one of these songs. Maybe one day. Thanks again.
Please feel free to come back with your impressions of the album so Marva and Anita can appreciate why we have such a high regard for them and their peers.
Now available to everyone