The Dells

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1953-54) as The El-Rays

- Verne Allison -- second tenor 

- Chuck Barksdale -- bass vocals 

Johnny "Junior" Funches -- tenor 

- Marvin Junior -- lead vocals, baritone 

- Lucias McGill -- vocals

- Mickey McGill -- baritone 


  line up 2 (1954-60) as The Dells

- Verne Allison -- second tenor 

- Chuck Barksdale -- bass vocals 

Johnny "Junior" Funches -- tenor 

- Marvin Junior -- lead vocals, baritone 

- Lucias McGill -- vocals

- Mickey McGill -- baritone 


  line up 3 (1960-)

- Verne Allison -- second tenor

- Chuck Barksdale -- bass vocals

NEW - Johnny Carter -- lead and first tenor (replaced

  Johnny Funches)

- Marvin Junior -- lead vocals, baritone 

- Mickey McGill -- baritone 




- The El Rays

- The Flamingos (Johnny Carter)

- The Moonglows (Chuck Barksdale)





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:   Musical Menu

Company: Cadet

Catalog: LPS 822

Country/State: Harvey, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1 

Catalog ID: 6392

Price: $20.00


You wouldn't buy a Dells album to hear something cutting edge (or if you did you were liable to be in for a major disappointment).  Instead, you bought a Dells album to hear a Marvin Junior's instantly recognizable voice on a ballad heavy collection of old school soul.  With that said, 1969's "Musical Menu" captured the quartet at their prime.  Produced by Bobby Miller, who also wrote most of the material (and came up with the hideous cover art showing the group pouring out of salt and pepper shakers on to someone's breakfast - you had to see the LP cover to get the fill impact), this was a prime Dells album, though coming on the heels of their breakthrough "There Is", pop audiences seemed to have missed it.  What makes this one stand apart from most Dells releases is the set's surprisingly diversity.  True, there were more than enough heavy handed ballads ('Always Together', 'Agatha Van Thurgood' and 'Does Anybody Know I'm Here'), but this time around Miller and Stepney broadened their aperture, allowing the group to recorded several up tempo numbers and even one track that was borderline funky ('I Want My Momma').


"Musical Menu" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Always Together   (Bobby Miller) - 3:04   rating: **** stars

'Always Together' opened the album with a typical Dells ballad - the song was actually one of the better efforts with a beautiful Marvin Junior lead vocal and even better group harmony vocals.  Very effective.   

2.) Hallways of My Mind   (Bobby Miller) - 3:05   rating: *** stars

Showcasing an up tempo number with a clever lyrics, 'Hallways of My Mind' was a bit of a change in direction for the group.  Just my opinion, but I'd argue the song would have been better with a stripped down arrangement, but given the great melody and the pounding rhythms it was still very commercial.   Cadet clearly thought so, releasing it as a single. 


- 1969's 'Hallways of My Mind' b/w 'I Can't Do Enough' (Cadet catalog number 5636)  A side # 82 pop; # 44 R&B; B side # 98 pop, # 20 R&B  

3.) Believe Me   (Bobby Miller) - 2:58  rating: **** stars

With swooning harmony vocals, 'Believe Me' started out sounding like a Fifth Dimension throwaway, but once  Junior's vocals kicked in the song was transformed into a pounding soul number.  Again, Stepney's arrangements were heavy handed and the chorus was too MOR, but Junior saved this one all by himself. 

4.) I Want My Momma   (Bobby Miller) - 2:29   rating: ** stars

Yeah the title was somewhat disconcerting, but 'I Want My Momma' opened up with some nice bass work that sounded like it might be going the Norman Whitfield psych-soul direction.  Didn't happen.  Instead the song morphed into an all-too-cute homage to moms, but managed to then turn into one of the funkiest things The Dells ever recorded/.  Hum, don't think of The Dells and funk very often.  Charley Stepney's cluttered arrangement didn't help this one.

5.) Agatha Van Thurgood   (Bobby Miller - Barnes) - 2:40  rating: **** stars

I remember wondering why The Dells would be singing a composition with a title like 'Agatha Van Thurgood'. Based on the title it  certainly didn't seem like the type of stuff their fan base was likely to get off on.  I'm still not entirely sure why it was recorded, but seemingly written as an homage to a has-been starlet, this one sounded like a Richard Harris outcast (remember the British actor who recorded some of the most overblown, pompous pop ever heard - 'McArthur Park').  With Johnny Carter (?) handling lead vocals, this was one strange, up tempo MOR track that probably didn't appeal to either soul or pop fans, but was sooooo weird it was actually worth hearing.  


(side 2)
1.) Hallelujah Baby   (Bobby Miller) - 2:48   rating: *** stars

An easy-going, breezy call and response number, with another nice Junior lead vocal, 'Hallelujah Baby' was actually a bit bluesier than your typical Dells number.  Nice sax break.

2.) Goodbye Mary Ann   (Wilkins - Burch - Wilson) - 2:19   rating: *** stars

With a distinctive '50s feel, 'Goodbye Mary Ann' harkened back to the group's roots.  Strange, but for some reason to my ears this one actually sounded like a classic Ray Charles number.   Not sure why I like this one so much, though it had a killer chorus/hook.  

3.) Does Anybody Know I'm Here   (Bobby Miller) - 3:15   rating: *** stars

Big ballads are what The Dells are known for and that penchant tends to kill many of their albums, reducing them to sound-alike slices of vinyl.  'Does Anybody Know I'm Here' was another stereotypical ballad, but given how diverse the rest of the album was, this one actually stood out.  Carter and Junior shared lead vocals with Verne Allison adding some nice harmony vocals.  Very pretty song.  

4.) Make Sure (You Have Someone Who Love You)   (Bobby Miller) - 2:34   rating: ** stars

It got better as it went along, but the mid-tempo ballad  'Make Sure (You Have Someone Who Love You)' simply ran out of time before it could make a real impression one way or the other.   

5.) I Can't Do Enough    (Bobby Miller) - 3:30   rating: ** stars

'I Can't Do Enough' ended the album with the first real disappointment; namely a bland, heavily orchestrated '50s tinged ballad.  Carter and Junior traded verses, but this one just never kicked into gear.



Song for song one of their better releases, the album was a top-ten R&B hit, but on the pop charts it stalled out at # 146 (their prior release having hit # 29 pop). 






Genre: soul

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:   Love Is Blue

Company: Cadet

Catalog: LPS 829

Country/State: Harvey, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1 

Catalog ID: 457

Price: $20.00


I'm guessing the concept of having The Dells record a collection of middle of the road pop, rock, and soul hits made sense to at least some marketing folks at Cadet Records ...   I have not idea why, but quite a few folks seem to treasure 1969's Bobby Miller produced  "Love Is Blue".   I'm at a loss to explain that affection other  than maybe it has to do with pleasant memories associated with having heard the collection play at their grandparents home (or maybe their parent's home).  Not to be mean spirited, but to my ears, with the possible exception of their remake of 'Oh What a Night' and the old school ballad 'A Little Understanding', the choice of songs were horrible; the arrangements were lackluster, and

the performances were seldom more than perfunctory.    All told, it was an amazing waste of talent and forcing Junior Marvin and company to cover material like Procol Harum's 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' and Jimmy Webb songs was just short of criminal.   I'd go as far as saying their cover of Otis Redding's 'Dock of a Bay' was criminal.


"Love Is Blue" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Medley: I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue   (Bryan Blackburn / Andre Pop -Pierre Cour) -    rating: ** stars

Paul Mauriat's version of the song is actually one of my first musical memories, so I admittedly come to this one with a bit of bias.  I'll give The Dells credit for giving it a shot, but the convoluted, overly emotive arrangement never gave them a chance.  

2.) Oh What a Night  (Marvin Junior) -   rating: **** stars

Originally recorded in 1956, thanks to the Marvin Junior's devastating  lead vocal, this 1969 update managed to capture the group's soowop roots, but simply destroyed the original recording.  One of the album highlights.   For anyone interested, YouTube has a fascinating clip of the group performing the song on an unknown television program:   r

3.) Dock of the Bay   (Otis Redding - Steve Cropper) -    rating: ** stars

Um, as much as I hate to say it, their cover of 'Dock of the Bay' had to be the most bone-headed version ever recorded.   Given a hyper-speed arrangement with pounding drums, and a completely strange, pseudo-Baroque mid-section, this one was essentially an aural disaster.  I've never given a song anything less than one star, so here's a first ...  

4.) A Little Understanding   (MIchael McGill) -   rating: **** stars

While it may not have been the most creative ballad they ever recorded, I have to admit 'A Little Understanding' served as a wonderful platform for Marvin's amazing voice.   Killer performance. 

5.) One Mint Julip  (Toombes) -    rating: ** stars

I know retro is hip, but the '50s MOR sounding ballad 'One Mint Julip' just left me feeling cold and indifferent.  If I wanted to hear this kind of stuff I could have bought an Ink Spots LP.    


(side 2)
1.) A Whiter Shade of Pale  (Gary Brooker - Keith Reid) - 
  rating: ** stars

So who's brain fart was it to have them cover this Procol Harum classic ?   The song actually started out with an interesting arrangement, but then found the original melody and proceeded to set Marvin adrift as he struggled with the clumsy arrangement and heavy orchestration.  The freak-out guitar that just suddenly buzzed into the arrangement was a hysterical mess.   Actually, every Procol fan should hear this cover.     

2.) A Summer Place  (Steiner - Discant) -   rating: * star

Hum, The Dells mange to record a song that is as MOR and insipid as the Percy Faith and Andy Williams versions.  As much as I love Marvin and The Dells, this was hideous.    Cocktail music for people who don't drink. 

3.) The Glory of Love   (William Hill) -   rating: * star

Marvin gets the spotlight again, but it was wasted on a plodding, '50s-styled ballad, made even worse by a truly cheesy mid-song vamp.   Yeah, I'm sure lots of couples had their first slow dances to this one, but that doesn't detract from the fact the song sucked.  

4.) Honey   (Bobby Russell) -    rating: * star

Seriously, why would anyone subject a group to this hideous song ?   As bad as the Bobby Goldsboro version was, forcing Marvin and company to fight their way through this piece of aural crud was just this side of criminal. 

5.) Witchta Lineman/By the Time I Get To Phoenix   (Jimmy Webb) -    rating: * star

And just when you didn't think it could get much more depressing the group kicked you int he head with not one, but two Jimmy Webb tunes ...  C'mon, there's absolutely nothing you could do to make this medley of 'Witchita Lineman' and 'By the Time I Get To Phoenix' soulful.    Seriously bad ...   easy to imagine them performing this on some dreadful '70s variety television show.    For goodness sake, I think the Glen Cambell versions are actually better.  


As mentioned, the album spun off a couple of singles:


- 1969's 'I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue' b/w 'Hallelujah Baby' (Cadet catalog number 5641)

- 1969's 'Oh, What a Night' b/w 'Believe Me' (Cadet catalog number 5646)

- 1969's 'On the Dock of the Bay' b/w 'When I'm In Your Arms' (Cadet catalog number 5658)




Normally when I write a negative review I'll set he album aside for a couple of months and then give it another shot.   Everyone can have an off day and I've certainly trashed some albums that deserved better reviews.   Well, I put this one away for a couple of months and came back to it, only to discover I liked it even less.   My suggestion - if you're going to explore The Dells' catalog, don't start here.    




Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Freedom Means

Company: Cadet Concept

Catalog: 500004

Country/State: Harvey, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor edge wear


Catalog ID: 243

Price:  $15.00



I'll readily admit that The Dells are an acquired taste.  They've always seemed to straddle the line between old fashion pre-soul moves and a more contemporary soul sound.  That interest in appealing to both marketing demographics makes many of their album painful to navigate, which is certainly the case for 1971's "Freedom Means".  The group's first album without longtime producer Bobby Miller, "Freedom Means" saw former arranger Charles Stepney take over production was well as a major role in songwriting.  For his part Stepney was smart enough to bring in noted Chicago songwriter Terry Callier who was credited with co-writing six of the album's eleven tracks.  The changes didn't have a major impact on The Dells now-patented sound, though Callier injected some subtle updates to their repertoire ... hard to image The Dells recording the title track under Miller. Interestingly, today the title track sounds pretty mild, but I suspect the Gospel-influenced title track was pretty radical in 1971.  Sad to say that nearly forty years later those sentiments remained unrealized for so many people in this country.  There was no denying these guys had the chops - check out the stunning 'The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)'.  That said, my biggest complaint was way too much of the album has a contemporary, lounge act feel.  Sure, their vocals were impeccable, but tracks like 'Rather Be with You', 'One Less Bell To Answer' and their cover of Bread's 'Make It with You' were all simply dreadful. 


So what do you get here?  Pretty much a standard Dells album with a couple of classic tracks; a couple of okay numbers, and way too much chaff.


"Freedom Meads" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Freedom Means   (Terry Callier - Charles Stepney - Al Wade) - 4:12    rating: **** stars

'Freedom Means' started out with an extended Marvin Junior spoken word intro (which actually consumed about half of the song).  The sentiments were certainly heartfelt, but given today's cynical times, it came off as slightly naive and cheesy ("you know we're children of the sun and we're heading home again ...").  On the other and when Junior's gruff vocal actually kicked in the caliber of the song took a major jump in quality - one of their toughest performances.  Tapped as a single, the song provided the group with one of their biggest hits:






1971's 'Freedom Means' b/w 'The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)'  (Cadet catalog number CA 5683)





2.) Rather Be with You   (Terry Callier - Butler - Al Wade) - 4:00   rating: ** stars

'Rather Be with You' started out sounding like a Brooks Benton-styled MOR ballad, but took off in a nice soul direction when Johnny carter's tenor and the harmony chorus kicked in.  A touch too smooth and supper club for their own good, but still nice.   

3.) The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)   (Terry Callier - Al Wade) - 4:00    rating: **** stars

Okay, okay, I surrender to their old school charm.  A classic slow grind ballad with Junior and Carter switching leads throughout the song, 'The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)' was simply so intense and heartbreaking you simply couldn't resist its charms.  Easy to see why this became one of their biggest hits.   

4.) One Less Bell To Answer   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 4:48   rating: * star

I tried to think of something nice to say about their cover of 'One Less Bell To Answer'.  About the best I could come up with was the fact this MOR waste of time wasn't the longer song on the album ...   Pure supper club schmaltzy.  Even you grandparents would be bored by this one.  

5.) It's All Up To You   (Terry Callier - Al Wade) - 4:00    rating: **** stars

In the span of four minutes 'It's All Up To You' managed to aptly showcase the group's strengths and weaknesses.  Penned by Terry Callier and Al Ward the song managed to reflect some of the lamest MOR pop moves you've heard in awhile.  At the same time the group's harmonies were fantastic and when the chorus kicked in it made for a wonderful slice of commercial pop ... imagine the Free Design doing a soul song.  Talk about a dysfunction clash of genres and yet it was strangely attractive to my ears.  


(side 2)
1.) If You Go Away/Love Story   (Rod McKuen - Jacques Brell) - 6:48   rating: ** stars

I'd be hard pressed to name a sappier effort than their cover of Rod McKuen and Jacque Brell's hideous 'If You Go Away/Love Story'.  A bad song made worse by an over-the-top arrangement.  The only redeeming quality was getting to hear Junior spout a mouthful of French.  

2.) Make It with You   (David Gates) - 3:27   rating: * star

I've always disliked Bread's 'Make It with You' so it probably won't come as a major surprise when I tell you The Dell's 5th Dimension-styled super club cover of this soft rock nightmare was even lamer than the original.  Never thought it was possible, but Gates and company sounded positively soulful compared to this mess.  

3.) Free and Easy   (Terry Callier - Al Wade) - 4:58   rating: ** stars

Opening up with some nice jazz horns, 'Free and Easy' was another track that managed to straddle soul and MOR genres.  Junior did his best to save the song, but the lame arrangement eventually crushed him.

4.) Melody Man   (Terry Callier - Al Wade) - 3:10    rating: **** stars

'Melody Man' was a decent Gospel-influenced mid-tempo number with a nice Junior lead vocal.  Funny, but the song would have been even better if the backing harmonies had been toned down a bit.  

5.) Freedom Theme   (Charles Stepney) - 0:20

The liner notes indicated there was a 'Freedom Theme' reprise at the end.  It didn't appear on my copy of the LP ...








Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:   They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SRM-1-1145

Country/State: Harvey, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1 

Catalog ID: 234

Price: $15.00


By the time The Dells released their 16th studio set (an amazing accomplishment) 1977's "They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It"  they'd jumped whole heartedly into the disco fray.   Largely abandoning their Chicago roots, the album was recorded in Philadelphia's Sigma Studios with production from The Harris Machine (which I'm guessing consisted of Norman Harris, Allan Felder, and Ronald Tyson).  Harris and company reportedly wrote the eight tracks specifically for The Dells and the majority of  the collection pushed these guys into an up tempo, dance-oriented direction.  With that backdrop it probably shouldn't have come as a surprise to hear the results frequently recalled a slew of Philadelphia International acts.  Imagine The Dells patented sound infused with a touch of O'Jays, a bit of Harold Melvin and the Blues Notes, etc. and you'd get the general idea.  On the surface that probably didn't sound too promising, but the saving grace for The Dells was the combination of their immense talents (particularly Marvin Junior's instantly recognizable bear of a voice), and the fact they held on to their old school roots, which repeatedly showed through Harris and company's glossy dance moves.


"They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Teaser  (Allan Felder - Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 3:14 rating: *** stars

A taunt dance number, 'Teaser' probably didn't win the group any fans among hardcore feminists ("I want to be the one to fill your loving cup ...", but Marvin Junior sounded positively demonic on this one.  The song also showcased The Dells fantastic call and response capabilities - for goodness sakes, these guys had been together for 25 years when they recorded the song.    Great way to open an album.  Mercury tapped it for the album's third single. 

2.) Our Love  (Allan Felder - T.G. Connor - Ronald Tyson) - 5:01 rating: *** stars

Even though it sounded awfully similar to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (the Philadelphia International vibe was upfront and center on this one), the rollicking 'Our Love' was another stand out performances with some dazzling backing vocals - the chorus made a hook that was almost impossible to ignore.  Probably the album's most radio ready number, it was tapped as the second single.    

3.) Could It Be  (Bruce Gray -  Allan Felder - Ronald Tyson) - 6:40   rating: *** stars

Showcasing Junior's amazing voice, 'Could It Be' was a big, old-school ballad.  Very pretty and a nice change in direction, the only problem with this one is that it went on and on and on ...  A bit of judicious editing would have benefited this six minute plus opus.   

4.) Rich Man, Poor Man (Peace)  (Allan Felder - Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 5:49   rating: *** stars

 In standard Philly-International fashion, the pounding 'Rich Man, Poor Man (Peace)' surrounded the group with an activist lyric, including a surprisingly blunt anti-abortion lyric.   If Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and The O'Jays could get away with this kind of sermonizing, why not The Dells.  Again, the mix was a touch too long to hold your interest.  While I liked the Dennis Coffey-styled guitar, the extended instrumental section wasn't necessary.  Still kind of cool with Junior simply spitting out the lyrics. 


(side 2)
1.) They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It   (Allan Felder - Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 4:00   rating: *** stars

The bouncy title track was another effort that had the Philly International sound stamped into its soul.  With Junior and Johnny Carter sharing lead vocals, 'They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It' was also one of the album's most commercial outings.  As for the odd title, here's what the liner notes say: "Most of you are probably wondering why this album is entitled "'They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It!", So let me try my very best to explain The Dells ...   And the there were the lean yearsand other groups had passed them by.  People are still wondering what had happened to The Dells.   Has the 20th century lost a great, great group?   Are there any producers, writers and arrangers who could bring back the good sound of the mighty, mighty Dells?  Seeing that this was a big challenge, "The Harris Machine" decided to record The Dells' next album.  Everyone said The Dells could not make it again, but believe me Norman "The Harris Machine" and The Dells have done it ... "     

2.) Waiting for You  (Allan Felder - T.G. Connor - Ronald Tyson) - 6:21   rating: **** stars

Geez, if this one didn't sound like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes ...  A beautiful old school ballad, 'Waiting for You' had all of those magic Philly International styled touches - amazing melody, great orchestration; Gospel-styled testifying lead vocal, extended arrangement, vamping vocals ... Easily the best ballad on the album and good enough to give those classic Philly International acts a run for their money. 

3.) Get On Down   (Bruce Gray - T.G. Conner) - 4:11  rating: ** stars

Mindless dance fodder, 'Get On Down' didn't  do much for me - the first true disappointment on the set.  

4.) Betcha Never Been Loved (Like This Before)    (Ron Kersey - Allan Felder - Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 4:53   rating: *** stars

The set closed out with another old school ballad, 'Betcha Never Been Loved (Like This Before)' which gave Marvin the opportunity to do his best Teddy Pendergrass impersonation.  Seriously, with the extended arrangement, complete with vamping segment, this one could have easily been mistaken for Teddy and company.   Pretty, but ultimately derivative.  Mercury released it as the leadoff single.


The album spun off a series of three singles:



- 1977's 'Betcha Never Been Loved (Like This Before)' b/w 'Get On Down'     (Mercury catalog number 73901)  # 29 R&B

- 1977's 'Our Love' b/w 'Could It Be' (Mercury catalog number 73909)  # 20 R&B

- 1977's 'Teaser' b/w 'Private Property' (Mercury catalog number 73977) # 57 R&B


In spite of the successful singles, commercially the album was a mild disappointment, peaking at # 208 on the pop charts and # 40 on the R&B charts.  Certainly one of the year's overlooked soul albums and in The Dell's extensive catalog, a release that deserved far more recognition than it got.






Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Whatever Turns You On

Company: 20th Century

Catalog: T-633

Country/State: Harvey, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD 

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD


By the time 1981's "Whatever Turns You On" was released, Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Carter, Marvin Junior, and Mickey McGill had been together for more than two decades. They'd clearly found a musical groove and as a result you had to admire the fact they recognized the time had come to adjust their sound  to a changing audience.  Produced by Carl Davis and The Chi-Lites Eugene Record, the resulting album wasn't exactly a wholesale departure from The Dell's patented soul moves, but there were some subtle updates ranging from the pseudo-rap segment in 'Ain' It A Shame', to the decision to move beyond their ballad-heavy orientation with the inclusion of a couple of O'Jays-styled up tempo numbers ('Happy Song', 'Whatever Turns You On' and 'Is It It').  No matter what you thought of the album, the fact remained that Marvin Junior remained one of soul's most overlooked singers ... the guy simply had an amazing voice and with a little more care in the song selection department they would have been mega stars. 


"Whatever Turns You On" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Happy Song   (Lowell Simon - Jimmy Levine) - 4:15  rating: *** stars

'Happy Song' showcased the group's new direction with a bouncy, disco-tinged number.  Yeah, it was a bit on the anonymous side, but you could imagine it getting some radio and dance club play (which probably explains why it was tapped as the lead-off single).

2.) It Took a Woman Like You To Make a Man Out of Me   (Jesse Boyce) - 4:58  rating: *** stars

 In spite of the cumbersome title and the predictable lyrics, 'It Took a Woman Like You To Make a Man Out of Me' was the album's best ballad.  The classy refrain served as a great hook and saved the song from also-ran category.   

3.) Whatever Turns You On   (Ken Gold - Billy Ocean) - 4:49  rating: **** stars

Co-written by Billy Ocean, 'Whatever Turns You On' was a breezy, horn-powered, radio-friendly number with the kind of uplifting lyrics that were all the rage in the early-1980s.  Another one that reminded me a bit of The O'Jays, or maybe The Tramps it was major league cheesy and I'll admit to loving every minute of it.

4.) How Can We Find he Love We Lost When We Don't Know How It Got Away   (Bobby Whiteside - Richard Parker) - 4:49   rating: ** stars

Besides deserving some sort of award for the year's most cumbersome title, 'How Can We Find he Love We Lost When We Don't Know How It Got Away' didn't have a great deal going for it.   With Marvin Junior pouring out his heart, this was one of those big and overblown ballads that simply bogged down under its own weight.   


(side 2)

1.) Ain't It a Shame   (Walt Williams - Eddie Levert - Dennis Williams) - 4:56  rating: **** stars

I remember hearing 'Ain't It a Shame' on the radio and mistaking it for a Teddy Pendergass song ...  The lead vocal certainly resembled Pendergass' gospel-soul moves, though the inclusion of a funky refrain and an unexpected pseudo-rap segment was unexpected and pushed it into The O'Jays territory (fitting given it was penned by The O'Jays).  Easily one of the album highlights, wish this one had not faded out so early ...   rating: **** stars

2.) (Every Time I Hold You) Heaven's Just a Step Away   (Gloria Sklerov - Harry Lloyd - John Drurrull - Steven Dorff) - 3:13   rating: ** stars

'Every Time I Hold You Heaven's Just a Step Away' was a bland, old-school ballad that simply never kicked into gear.  Way too middle of the road for their own good ...

3.) Is It It   (Paul Slade - Mauro Melavasi) - 4:09  rating: **** stars

A bouncy, up tempo number that sounded a bit like something The O'Jays might have recorded, 'Is It It' was probably the most radio-friendly song on the album and I'll readily admit to loving the cheesy synthesizer touches ...   

4.) Stay In My Corner   (Bobby Mukker - Wayde Fiermons - Barrett Strong) - 6:24  rating: **** stars

Their remake of 'Stay In My Corner' seemingly didn't have a great deal going for it.  Opening up with an extended 'love man' vamp, by the time this big, old-school ballad actually started rolling, there was a good chance many listeners had lost their interest.  That was unfortunate since the song actually had a decent melody that convincingly blended some nice '50s crooner moves (Frankie Valli would have approved) with a bit of Teddy Pendergrass-styled gospel-influenced soul. Elsewhere, one of the song highlights came in the form of hearing Marvin Junior hold a note for what seemed to be an eternity ...    


As mentioned above, the album spun off a air of quickly obscure singles:


- 1981's 'Happy Song' b/w ''Look At Me Now' (20th Century catalog 2504)

- 1981's 'Happy Song' (stereo) b/w ''Happy Song' (mono)' (20th Century catalog TCD 131 DJ)  12" format

- 1982's 'Stay In My Corner' b/w 'Ain't It A Shame' (20th Century catalog number 2602)


With little backing from 20th Century marketing the album did little commercially, spelling the end of the group's relationship with the label.  Not exactly a classic Dells release, but still worth hearing ...