Dexter Wansel – 1979 – Time Is Slipping Away
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When the producer/composer/keyboardist/vocalist recorded four albums for Philadelphia International in the late ’70s, he made certain that all of them were diverse and unpredictable.
True to form, Wansel keeps listeners guessing on 1979’s Time Is Slipping Away, which was the last of the four. The LP gets off to a Chic-influenced start with the lush, glossy disco number “I’ll Never Forget (My Favorite Disco),” but most of the other material isn’t disco. Time Is Slipping Away also contains everything from Parliament-minded P-funk (“Funk Attack“) to sophisticated quiet storm music (“The Sweetest Pain“) to instrumental jazz-funk (“One for the Road“).
Occasionally, this album is excellent “The Sweetest Pain“, which features female vocalist Terry Wells, is a caressing gem that quickly became a favorite on quiet storm formats. But for the most part, Time Is Slipping Away is merely decent. Nonetheless, his Philadelphia International output was generally likable, and this LP is no exception.
Becoming a part of the staff creative collective, Wansel began arranging, playing keyboards, and writing songs for the label’s acts including The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Jean Carn and The Intruders, amongst others.
A1 I’ll Never Forget (My Favourite Disco) 4:31
A2 The Sweetest Pain 5:42
A3 Funk Attack 3:58
A4 Time Is Slipping Away 3:14
B1 It’s Been Cool 5:00
B2 Let Me Rock You 4:32
B3 New Beginning 4:37
B4 One for the Road 4:39
Review by Derek Anderson
Mention the name Dexter Wansel, and many people think of the music herwrote, arranged and produced for artists on Philadelphia International Records. The artists that Dexter worked with during his time at Philadelphia International Records reads like a who’s who of Philly Soul. Teddy Pendergrass, The Jacksons, Lou Rawls, The O’Jays, The Jones Girls, Jean Carn and Archile Bell and The Drells all benefited from either Dexter’s songwriting, arranging or production skills. However, what people forget is that Dexter is also a hugely talented keyboard player, who released four groundbreaking albums for Philadelphia International Records between 1976 and 1979. His debut album was 1976s Life On Mars, which wasn’t just a truly innovative album, but one that inspired and influenced a new generation of producers. It reached number forty-four in the US R&B Charts. A year later, in 1977, came the release of What the World Is Coming To, which reached number 168 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. Next was Dexter’s most ambition and successful album Voyager, released in 1978. Voyager reached number 137 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-seven in the US R&B Charts. On Voyager, Dexter fused jazz-rock, soul and funk, resulting in a quite un-Philly sounding album. For his final album for Philadelphia International, 1979s Time Is Slipping Away, Dexter returned to the fold, with an album that had much more of a Philly Sound.
For Time Is Slipping Away, Dexter made a number of changes. Instead of using the Planets who accompanied him on Voyager, Dexter decided to use M.F.S.B. Mk II, Philadelphia International’s house band. After the original M.F.S.B. left the label to become the Salsoul Orchestra, a second incarnation of M.F.S.B. became the label’s house band. It would be them that accompanied Dexter when he recorded it at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios.
Dexter and his longtime songwriting partner Cynthia Biggs came up with three tracks, while Dexter wrote three tracks and one with Steve Green. The other track New Beginning was written by Herb Smith, M.F.S.B. guitarist who played guitar and sang the vocal on the track. Terry Wells who was still an up and coming singer, would sing lead vocal on The Sweetest Pain. Adding backing vocals were The Jones Girls, who were very much Dexter and Cynthia’s proteges.
M.F.S.B. Mk II were joined by the unmistakable sound of Don Renaldo’s strings and horns and The Sweethearts of Sigma, a.k.a Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson on three tracks. Along with The Jones Girls and Terry Wells the eight tracks were recorded. Dexter produced Time Is Slipping Away and arranged two tracks, while Jack Faith arranged the other six.
Although Dexter Wansel’s Time Is Slipping Away didn’t match the success of his previous album Voyager, the music was much more like you’d expect from an album baring the Philadelphia International Records’ label. Gone was the rock-funk of Voyager to be replaced by an album that contained Philly Soul, disco, jazz, funk and a defiant diversion back into jazz-funk with One For The Road, which closes the album. The best tracks on the album either feature Terri Wells or The Jones Girls.
This includes the Chic-inspired I’ll Never Forget (My Favorite Disco), the Dexter and Cynthia Biggs’ penned The Sweetest Pain, which features an impassioned vocal from Terri Wells. Time Is Slipping Away which was also written by Dexter and Cynthia, sees Dexter deliver the lead vocal, and delivering his best vocal, one that’s melancholy and pensive. Then there’s Let Me Rock You, which features The Jones Girls and is blessed with one of Jack Faith’s best arrangements on the album. Herb Smith wrote, sang and played the guitar on New Beginning, demonstrating his talents as a songwriter, singer and guitarist. The only track on Time Is Slipping Away I don’t like is Funk Attack with its pseudo good-time sound, full of false bonhomie. Having said that, it’s not a bad song, just one I don’t like.
Overall, it is an album where many of Philadelphia International’s artists, musicians, arrangers and songwriters play their part in what’s a fitting farewell to Philadelphia International Records. After Time Is Slipping Away didn’t build on the relative success of Voyager, Dexter Wansel became disheartened, deciding that for the time being, he stick to writing, arranging and producing other artist’s music. After that, Dexter Wansel released just two albums, 1986s Captured and 2004s Digital Groove.
However, throughout his career, Dexter was an innovator, pushing the musical boundaries as alums like Life On Mars, Voyager and Time Is Slipping Away demonstrate. Standout Tracks: I’ll Never Forget (My Favorite Disco), The Sweetest Pain, Let Me Rock You and New Beginning.
Don’t miss his brilliant debut “Life on Mars here