Caston & Majors
Band members Related acts
line up 1
- Leonard Caston (RIP) -- vocals, keyboards
- Carolyn Majors (aka Carolyn Caston) -- vocals
- Ray Brown -- upright bass
- Gary Coleman -- vibes
- Henry Davis -- bass
- Arni Eglisson -- upright bass
- King Errison -- percussion
- Ed Greene -- drums, percussion
- Jay Graydon -- guitar
- Alton Hendrickson -- percussion
- James Jamerson -- bass
- Neil Levang -- ukelel
- Mattie Lyricks
- Mike Melovin -- keyboards
- Abraham Mills -- drums, percussion
- Larry Muhoberac
- Earl Palmer -- drums, percussion
- Kenneth Rich --
- Kathy Wakefield -- vocals
- Fred White -- drums, percussion
- Syretta Wright
- The God Squad
- The Radiants (Leonard Caston)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: Caston & Majors
Country/State: Chicago, Illinois and Greenville, South Carolina
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: die cut; gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 1517
Having seen it on various Motown discographies, I've long known this album existed, but I'd never seen a copy until I stumbled across one this summer at a yard sale. The funny thing is that I initially put it back thinking it was a throwaway religious set. Luckily something about the cover struck a chord and when I actually focused on it, I knew what I was looking at.
Leonard Caston was born into a musical family (his father was blues singer Leonard "Baby Doc" Caston). Caston started his musical career as a member of Chicago's The Radiants, but by the mid-'60s had shifted his focus to writing and producing. Initially a member of the Chess staff, by the late-'60s he'd hooked up with Motown as a writer and producer where he enjoyed a string of successes working with The Four Tops, Eddie Kendricks, the post-Diana Ross Supremes, and Ross herself. Credited to The God Squad Featuring Leonard Caston, he'd also release an obscure album on Motown's Rare Earth subsidiary: 1972's "Jesus Christ' Greatest Hits".
catalog number R-531L
By the early-'70s Carolyn Majors was working as a Motown backing singer which saw her come into contact with Caston. The two apparently met while working with Eddie Kendrick. That led to an opportunity for the pair to record on their own (they also found time to marry.).
Released in 1974, in hindsight it is easy to see why the self-produced "Caston & Majors" never had a chance. Released in an era where the public was increasing looking for quick self-gratification, turning its attention to disposable pop and disco, a thoughtful, pseudo-religious collection like this one was simply ahead of its time. Exemplified by 'Child of Love', 'Let There Be Love'. and 'Iíll Keep My Light in My Window' Caston and various co-writers showed an unswerving knack for crafting melodies that snick into your head and wouldn't leave. Those melodies were more than enough to overcome any concerns one might have had about the pair's religious inclinations. Elsewhere, it was atypical, but 'Everything is All Right Now' demonstrated they could get funky (though with an uplifting lyric). Support form an all-star cast of Motown sessions players, including James Jamerson and Earl Palmer certainly didn't hurt. The set wasn't perfect, 'There's Fear' and 'Say You Love Me True' sounded like lost Broadway show tunes, but as you can tell, I'm a big fan of this album which is somewhat ironic given I'm not particularly religious. In addition to reflecting some great music (check out 'Child of Love' and the ballad 'Let There Be Love'), there was just something contagious in the Cantons' enthusiastic embrace of their beliefs. At the same time, the Cantons' were never smug, condescending, or in-your-face with their messages.
Maybe as a cost savings measure avoiding the die-cut original cover, the UK release featured an alternate cover:
UK Tamla/Motown catalog number STML 11284
& Majors" track listing:
1.) Child of Love (Leonard Caston - Kathy Wakefield) - 3:16 rating: ***** stars
First let me say 'Child of Love' has to be one of the finest things to come out of the Motown empire. There's just something majestic about the deep orchestral sound (I love the kettle drums), as well as something truly uplifting in the lyrics which you can interpret as being deeply religious, or not. At the same time, listening to this tune I can see why Motown was clueless as to what to do with the duo. Probably about five years too early for popular tastes. Ironically, the tune was tapped as an English single:
- 1975's 'Child of Love' b/w 'No One Will Know' (Tamla/Motown catalog number TMG 938)
2.) There's Fear (Leonard Caston - Mattie Lynks) - 3:18 rating: ** stars
Showcasing Carolyn's''s big voice, 'There's Fear' sounded out of place on the album - imagine a Broadway cast tune that somehow got mixed into the album.
3.) Satisfied Mind (Sing) (Leonard Caston) - 3:25 rating: *** stars
The Cantons' take a stab at pop and while initially disappointing, it quickly grows on you. Great bass (James Jamerson?) and the banjo backing was hysterical. With a slightly modified title, the tune was tapped as the second English single:
- 1975's 'Sing' b/w 'There's Fear' (Tamla/Motown catalog TMG 951)
4.) Let There Be Love (Leonard Caston) - 7:26 rating: ***** stars
Leonard may not have had the most impressive voice you've ever heard, but he knew how to use his limited gifts. In contrast, Carolyn was simply awe inspiring and when she took over starting in the second verse, there was no going back. I'll admit 'Let There Be Love' was a bit heavy on the religious overtones, but by the time Carolyn started singing, you simply didn't care.
Thanks to covers by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross,, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and The Mighty Clouds of Joy, this is probably the pair's best know tune. And as good as some of those covers were (The Mighty Clouds of Joy won a Grammy for their version), The Cantons' turned in the standard to measure all others by. A near perfect mix of soul and Gospel influences, the tune also served as the album's best example of how good the couple sounded when they blended their voices together. The tune was also tapped as a UK single:
- 1975's 'Iíll Keep My Light in My Window' b/w Say You Love Me True'' (Tamla/Motown catalog number TMG 1005)
2.) No One Will Know (Leonard Caston) - 5:00 rating: *** stars
Sweet, blues-tinged ballad that would have been even better had they scaled back the heavy orchestration. The unexpected Beach Boys-styled harmony arrangement was wonderful.
3.) Say You Love Me True (Leonard Caston) - 5:14 rating: *** stars
Featuring Syretta Wright, 'Say You Love Me True' was another unexpected turn towards Broadway show tune-meets Burt Bacharach. Big, bold, and kind of overwhelming.
4.) Everything is All Right Now (Leonard Caston - Errol - Sober) - 3:23 rating: ***** stars
What's going on here ? Caston & Majors getting downright funky !!! But then when you remember this guy wrote and produced Eddie Kendricks hits like 'Keep On Truckin' and 'Boogie Down' it all made sense. Backed by some of the most amazing pounding bass you'll ever hear (damn wish I could play that pattern), and a Norman Whitfield-styled arrangement, this was a fantastic slice of music that captured that unique Motown feel. Add in the self-empowerment lyric and this should have been a massive hit for the pair.
Berry Gordy was reported to have hated the album and Motown marketing had no idea what to do with the collection, making no effort to promote it in the States, though it attracted some attention in the UK.
Ironically, The Cantons' actually recorded a follow-up album, tentatively titled "Canton & Majors 2", but feeling the set was too un-commercial, Motown shelved the project. Those unreleased tracks finally saw daylight when they were included in Big Break Records 2013 reissue of the debut album (catalog number CDBBR 0217). The bonus tracks were:
1.) Mother's Son
2.) What About the Price
3.) Melody (This Is Hell(
4.) I'm Flying Your Sky
5.) Carolyn Ann
6.) If I Can
7.) We're Together
8.) Don't Let
9.) I've Got To Fly
By the mid-'80s The Castons had abandoned secular music, focusing on their religious callings. They spend several years living in Los Angeles, working as pastors with the Christian Life Assembly. In the late-'90s they moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where Leonard became the Minister of Music at a local church. He also set up his own secular label - My-Lyn Music and began producing secular artists including Kate Ceberano and Dana Fields.
Still together after four decades. The Castons seem to be extremely private and this is the only photo I've ever seen of the pair.
For anyone interested, Leonard Caston has a web presence on my My Space: https://myspace.com/lcaston
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