Friday, May 19, 2006

Family affair

Today’s offering is prompted by my previous post that featured Earth, Wind & Fire. (Incidentally, when I selected “Mom” as a featured track I wasn’t aware that it coincided with Mother’s Day weekend in the USA – spooky!). Looking again at the credits on “Last Days And Time” reminded me that Ronald (Ronnie) Laws was the saxophone player on that album, and it was to be the only EWF album he featured on. I say reminded, but I’m not sure whether that fact had ever sunk in before.

Hailing originally from Houston, Texas the family Laws have been musically gifted. Of eight Laws siblings no less than four – Hubert, Eloise, Ronnie and Debra - have been prominent on the music scene. Hubert (second eldest of the eight siblings) was classically trained. The flute is his main instrument and he is still very active on the jazz circuit as both a performer and producer.
Both Eloise and Ronnie (born 1949 and 1950 respectively) started their recording careers in the 70s. Ronnie has been the most commercially successful of the four - probably his most famous track is seemingly all pervasive “Always There” which came from his first album as a solo artist “Pressure Sensitive”. It’s of course a jazz-funk classic and a favourite with many other artists – there are great versions by Willie Bobo, Side Effect, and Incognito to name just three. Ronnie has released over 20 albums in his career (as has Hubert). His initial albums were planted fair and square in the jazz-funk/jazz fusion scene, but by 1980 and the “Every Generation” album, there was a perceptible shift towards a more sophisticated soul-jazz feel, with more vocal tracks featured. Eloise has been less prolific recording wise. A few singles appeared in the early 70s, then a handful of under promoted albums in the period ‘76-‘82. For a while after that music took something of a back seat as she raised a family. In recent years she has made a number of appearances as both singer and actress on stage, and also released two more albums, the most recent being in 2004.

The baby of the four, Debra burst onto the scene in 1981 with the album “Very Special”. Her recording career didn’t really take off from there though, but she continues to make live appearances backing any number of black music luminaries. She has also broken into acting in films and television.

So Laws rule today and you will find three tracks here. Nothing per se from Hubert although he is present on at least one of the tracks here (and undoubtedly his family spirit is present on all). “On My Own” is a glorious piece of sophisticated dance music (sung by Debra, written by Ronnie and with him on sax, produced by Ronnie & Hubert), it’s from Debra’s 1981 album “Very Special”. “Love’s Victory” comes from Ronnie’s 1980 album “Every Generation” (Eloise on background vocal shenanigans - I think, Hubert on flute). It was difficult to pick a track from this album, there isn’t a dud on it, a great mix of uptempo jazz-funk and mellower quiet storm soul-jazz.

Eloise strikes me as having a more independent streak and her early output was produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland so I don’t know of any other Laws family connections on “Love Goes Deeper Than That”. This was included on her first album 1976/7’s “Ain’t It Good Feeling Good” and is hustling slab of disco with a hard edge and Eloise’s vocals shining through.

Bringing the link with my EWF post full circle, Roland Bautista, who was with EWF in the early 70s period that included “Last Days And Time”, is on guitar on “On My Own”, and long time EWF member Larry Dunn appears on both the “Every Generation” and “Very Special” albums. So lots of mutual respect there too methinks.

Buy Family Laws music here.

Debra Laws – On My Own 1981>
Ronnie Laws – Love’s Victory 1980
Eloise Laws – Love Goes Deeper Than That 1977


MadPriest said...

Thanks for the Debra Laws, Darcy. Brings back great memories. Sometimes I forget how much great music there was in, at least the first half, of the 80s. It wasn't all wicki wicki wicki and human beatboxes. I was living in the Smoke at that time. Great acts would come over from the States and fill the Odeon. Wonderful days.

Tuwa said...

Debra and Eloise are some good tracks. The middle one doesn't download, though.

I'm fond of the wicki wicki wicki tracks too. I remember thinking, way back when, that it couldn't possibly be hard to do all that, so then I tried it. That changed my opinion a bit.

Darcy said...

Ronnie link is fixed. Sorry 'bout that.

As far as wicki wicki wicki is concerned
I'm sure it's a skill but don't ask me to listen to (much) of it. I'll stick with Wicki Wacki thanks (he says, showing his age).

Daz said...

Thanks for the Debra track, I`d forgotten how good it was, even what it was called. Pure class.