Leo’s Sunshipp - 1978 – We Need Each Other
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A really great underground groover from the 70s – an album that hardly got any circulation at the time, but which has gone onto become the stuff of legend over the years! The album’s a bit unusual, in that it almost feels like an expanded package of 12″ singles – as the a-side features four vocal tracks that are all great club numbers – then the b-side has all the same songs, but presented as instrumentals! There’s a nicely sophisticated feel to most numbers – almost in the Roy Ayers or Leroy Hutson side of the spectrum – more midtempo mellow club than any sort of disco – and the set includes the classic cut “Give Me the Sunshine“, and the original recording of “I’m Back for More“, which was the big hit for Al Johnson a few years later.
A1 Give Me the Sunshine (Vocal) 6:32
A2 Im Back for More (Vocal) 5:19
A3 Down People (Vocal) 4:16
A4 Madame Butterfly 4:58
B1 Madame Butterfly (Vocal)4:47
B2 Im Back for More 5:25
B3 Give Me the Sunshine 6:32
B4 Get Down People 4:39
Don’t let the extraterrestrial name fool you — Leo’s Sunshipp played funky soul music and would have been around much longer if tragedy hadn’t struck. The band revolved around singers Kenny Stover, Johnny Simone, and Alvin Few; all were born under the astrological sign of Leo, thus the name. Stoveris the brother of Elgie Stover, who contributed to some Marvin Gaye songs and “The Bells” by the Originals; the Stovers are cousins of Harvey Fuqua (Moonglows and later Motown’s A&R director).Kenny is from Cleveland, OH, and grew up in the Hough area on 66th and Belvedere. He moved to Detroit with big brother Elgie and both did odd jobs for Harvey and Motown.
When the company moved to Los Angeles, the Stovers followed and Kenny landed a staff songwriting job, as did Elgie. He met Johnny Simone and the two, along with Barbara Thompson and Doria Glass, toured as backing singers for Marvin Gaye; that’s Simone and Stover you hear on Gaye’s Here, My Dear album. Simone migrated from Atlanta, GA, to L.A. to tour with Stevie Wonder. He was an original member of the Wallace Brothers, who — as high-school teens — made some crude but charming records for Sims Records and other labels. After the Wallace Brothers disbanded, Simone toiled withthe Naturals, who cut singles on Quadran, Calla, and Shout Records. After the Naturals, he relocated to Los Angeles, befriended Stover, and landed a gig backing Marvin Gaye on tour.
An exciting showman with a vocal range from falsetto to a tough as nails, Marvin Gaye-ish tenor Simone sought the spotlight and was eager to get involved with another group. The two met Few, who little is known about, and formed Leo’s Sunshipp. In 1977, Leo’s Sunshipp had recorded four songs for a proposed album when Simone took ill; he never recovered and died of cancer in his early thirties. Lyons Records eventually finished and released We Need Each Other with eight songs, but four of the eight were simply alternate mixes of “Give Me the Sunshine“,”I’m Back for More“, “Get Down People” and “Madam Butterfly” with “Leo’s Sunshipp” the only non-repeating track. “Give Me the Sunshine” was a minor hit, but with the heart and soul of Leo’s Sunshipp gone, they disbanded. Stover joinedFinished Touch in 1978.