The Dynamic Superiors

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1963-77)

- Michael McCalpin (RIP) -- baritone vocals

- George Wesley Peterbark Jr. (RIP) -- tenor vocals 

- George Spann -- tenor vocals 

- Maurice Washington (RIP) -- bass vocals 

- Tony Washington (aka Toni Washington) (RIP ) -- lead vocals 


  supporting musicians (1977)

- John Barnes -- keyboards

- Ben Benay -- guitar

- Gary Coleman -- percussion

- Henry Davis -- bass

- Sean Edwards -- bass

- James Gdason -- drums, percussion

- Jay Graydon -- guitar

- Tony Newman -- bass

- James Hechtler -- percussion

- Ray Parker Jr. -- guitar

- Bobbye Hall Porter -- congas

- Sylvester Rivers -- keyboards

- Bob Zemmitti -- percussion





- The Flamingos (George Spann)

- The Orioles (George Spann)

- The Superiors





Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  The Dynamic Superiors

Company: Motown

Catalog: M6-822S1

Country/State: Washington, D.C.

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap

Available: 3

Catalog ID: 5611

Price: $40.00


Michael McCalpin, George Wesley Peterbark Jr., George Spann and brothers Maurice and Toni Washington grew up in the same Washington, D.C. housing project.  The five went to school together, singing on street corners and playing in various talent contests along the way.  By the time they were in high school they'd formed The Superiors and were lying about their ages in order to play D.C. nightclubs.








Signed by the Sue label, they made their recording debut with an instantly obscure 1969 single. Featuring Toni Washington on lead, the "A" side ballad had a disctinctive '50s doo-wop flavor.


- 'Heavenly Angel' b/w 'I'd rather Die' (Sue catalog number 12)






Two years later they got their big break when they were discovered Motown executive Ewart Abner at a 1972 dj convention in Atlanta and signed to the label.  It apparently took Motown management awhile to figure out how to deal with the group, eventually teaming them with the writing and production team of Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.  To Motown's credit the label made no attempt to hide lead singer Tony Washington's openly gay lifestyle - a fact underscored by one quick look at "The Dynamic Superiors" cover art.  Not that it mattered ...  Washington may have worn false eye lashes, rouge, lipstick, and occasionally performed in drag, but he had a killer voice.  On tracks like 'Shoe Shine Shine' and 'Star of My Life' he was more than capable of hitting high notes a-la Russell Tompkins Jr..  At the other end of the spectrum Washington's falsetto was nicely offset by tenors Peterbark Jr. and Spann. With Ashford and Simpson bringing their top-shelf material to the recording sessions (they were responsible for nine of the ten songs with the one exception being penned by Valerie's brother Raymond Simpson of future Village People fame), this was simply one of the best old school vocal group LPs I've ever heard.   With the exception of the overly sensitive 'Cry When You Want To' virtually every one of these songs would have made a dandy single and was worth hearing.  With so many standout tracks highlights were hard to pick up, but included 'Leave It Alone', the blazing 'Don't Send Nobody Else' and 'I Got Away'.   One of my favorite Washington, D.C. soul group albums ...




"The Dynamic Superiors" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Shoe Shoe Shine   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:45    rating: **** stars

A near perfect slice of old school soul, the opening ballad 'Shoe Shoe Shine' had it all including Washington's heartbreaking falsetto, pretty melody, killer chorus, and wonderful harmony vocals.  Easy to see why Motown tapped it as the lead-off single.  YouTube has a clip of the group lip synching the tune on a 1974 Soul Train segment:





1974's 'Shoe Shine Shine' b/w 'Release Me' (Motown catalog number M 1324F) # 6 pop; # 16 R&B







2.) Soon   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:44    rating: **** stars

Washington may have attracted most of the attention, but as demonstrated by 'Soon', Peterbark Jr. was an equally talented singer.  In fact, I'd be tempted to argue that he was even better given his ability to effortlessly glide between raspy R&B moves and a falsetto.  Great up-tempo number that would have made a nice single.   

3.) Leave It Alone  (Richard Tee) - 3:19    rating: **** stars

Ballad heavy albums have a tendency to bore me since the genre starts to sound the same when you hear one after the other.  Not the case here.  While it was a ballad, 'Leave It Alone' saw Peterbark Jr. injecting a nifty Gospel feel into the mix.   





- 1975's 'Leave It Alone' b/w 'One-Nighter' (Motown catalog number M 1342F) # 102 pop; # 13 R&B







4.) Don't Send Nobody Else   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:39    rating: **** stars

An up tempo, dance floor number and one of my favorite performances, 'Don't Send Nobody Else' found Washington and Spann (?) sharing lead vocals.  Fantastic and hard to believe it wasn't tapped as a single.  

5.) Romeo   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:45    rating: **** stars

The least commercial song on the first side, 'Romeo' was also the most interesting.  A slow groove grinder, it took awhile to kick into gear but served as a nice showcase for the group and unveiled one of the album's best hooks, though it didn't appear until the tail end of the song.  I think this one also showcased Spann and Washington on lead vocals.   


(side 2)
1.) Star of My Life   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:44    rating: ** stars 

Side two started off with the first disappointing performance.  Powered by Washington at his shrillest, at least to my ears 'Star of My Life' was simply too cocktail jazzy for my ears.     

2.) Cry When You Want To   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:17    rating: ** stars 

Hard in isolation 'Cry When You Want To' was a pleasant old school ballad, but stacked up against the rest of the album it came off as little more than pleasant.  Washington handled lead vocals, but this time out he sounded like he was simply trying too hard, giving the song a screechy edge.

3.) I Got Away   (Raymond Simpson) - 2:18    rating: ***** stars

The lone non-Ashford and Simpson track (as mentioned Simpson's brother wrote it), 'I Got Away' was also one of the standout performances.  Boasting a fantastic melody and bright hook, this up tempo should have been a single.    

4,) One-Nighter   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:00     rating: *** stars 

Given the voice didn't sound like any of the other performances, I've always wondered who handled the lead on this one.  While it started out as a typical 'life on the road is tough' number, it opened up into a breezy, mid-tempo number that benefited from sounding completely unlike the rest of the album.

5.) Release Me   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:29    rating: **** stars

I remember playing 'Release Me' time after time when I got this album.  Easily the album's highlight, it was simply a classic slice of mid-1970s soul.  Washington's falsetto was never as effective and coupled with a killer song, an instantly memorable hook, and fantastic backing vocals, this one was impossible to overlook.  You just had to scratch your head and wonder how Motown managed to overlook it as a potential single. 








Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  You Name It

Company: Motown

Catalog: M6-875S1

Country/State: Washington, D.C.

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1751

Price: $15.00


If you ever wanted to hear an example of the impact a producer can have on a group, then check out 1976's "You Name It".   Like most non-writing groups, The Dynamic Superiors were totally dependent on producers.  As exemplified by 1974's "The Dynamic Superiors", when the chemistry between the group and their producers was good, these guys were capable of some first -rate '70s soul performances.   In contrast, this release was a major disappointment.  A major part of the problem lay in the fact Motown seems to have lost interest in the group, saddling them with four separate production teams - Hal Davis, Don Daniels, Michael Sutton, and Pam Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod.  The result was a set that came off as ill-focused, almost desperate as the group searched around for a sound that would update their sound while pleasing their fading audience.   With less than stellar results, 'Looking Away' and 'Many Many Changes' attempted to add light disco touches to standard Motown melodies.   'Stay Away' and 'I Can't Stay Away (From Someone I Love)' were blatant stabs at mindless disco.


"You Name It" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Stay Away    (June Gatlin - Josef Powell) - 5;39   rating: ** stars

Tony Washington sounded shrill and irritating while most of 'Stay Away was way too disco-ish for the group's own good.  The mid-song spoken word segment simply came off as being campy and desperate.   The fact that it seemed to go on and on and on, didn't exactly help things.  Disappointing way to start the album.

2.) Looking Away   (Michael B. Sutton - Brenda Sutton) - 5:01      rating: *** stars

Better tune, but still not great.   'Looking Away' at least had a stronger melody, a more traditional Motown feel, and showcased some of the group's impressive harmony work.  Some of the lyrics were certain risque for the timeframe ...    rating: *** stars

3.) Many Many Changes   (Pam Sawyer - Marilyn McLeod) - 3:09   rating: **** stars

Big, old-school ballad with a pretty melody, slight disco-flavor, and a nice hook in the form of the title track refrain.   Always liked the horn charts on this one.

4.) Before the Street Lights Come On    (Art Posey - Josef Powell) - 4:52      rating: *** stars

If it had been one one of their first two studio albums 'Before the Street Lights Come On' would have been an also ran tune, but amidst this batch of material, it wasn't half bad.  Kind of a nice bouncy pop-soul tune with some commercial potential.    


(side 2)

1.) I Can't Stay Away (From Someone I Love)   (Don Daniels - Kathy Wakefield) - 7:11      rating: *** stars

Standard '70s group soul tune that sounded like a second tier Philly International offering. Another tiune stretched out beyond the breaking point.  Not sure why, but the tune was also tapped as a single:

- 1977's 'I Can't Stay Away (From Someone I Love)' b/w '' (Motown catalog number M 1413F)   

2.) Supersensuousensation (Try Some Love)    (Art Posey - Josef Powell) - 4:45          rating: *** stars 

Another light hearted ballad, the title alone made this one worth a spin ...  

3.) If I Could Meet You  (Pam Sawyer - Marilyn McLeod) - 4:35      rating: *** stars

Another ballad, but one of the nicer vocal arrangements with Washington sharing the spotlight with Michael McCalpin (?).

4.) I Can't Afford To Be Poor  (Pam Sawyer - Marilyn McLeod) - 4:24   rating: **** stars

You have to smile at the title ...  A slinky bluesy tune, it was probably the album's best performance (it certainly had the best guitar solo), with all of the members getting a shot at lead.



Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Pure Pleasure

Company: Motown

Catalog: M6-841S1

Country/State: Washington, D.C.

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: 5612

Price: SOLD $20.00


1975's "Pure Pleasure" found The Dynamic Superiors continuing their collaboration with producers/writers Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.  Like the debut, Ashford and Simpson wrote nine of the ten songs which meant the group was 100% dependent on the quality of the material being brought to them.  In most cases that spells bad news for non-writing acts and the first couple of times I listened to this set I felt it was very good, but a shade below the debut.  Pulling it out for the first time in a couple of years I'll tell you I was just plain wrong and their sophomore album was every bit as good as the debut.  Side one was near perfect.  Four great songs with great arrangements, courtesy of Horace Ott, Al Gorgonia and William Eaton, and a series of great performances.


"Pure Pleasure" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Deception   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:49

With Toni Washington and George Spann sharing lead vocals 'Deception' was a great dance number (every bit as good as anything on the debut) that should have been a massive radio hit - always loved the snorts scattered across the track.  rating: **** stars

2.) Pleasure   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:19

With a easy going, lilting hook 'Pleasure' would've made another great single   .rating: **** stars

3.) Nobody's Gonna Change Me   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 5:30

Clearly inspired by Toni Washington's alternative lifestyle 'Nobody's Gonna Change Me' had an anguished delivery, fantastic vocal chorus, and a driving beat.  Wonder how many folks bought the single not realizing that it was a statement for gay rights.   There was also a great bass segment in the middle of the song.   rating: **** stars

4.) Feeling Mellow   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:13

The first couple of times I heard 'Feeling Mellow' it didn't do much for me. The song was okay, but Toni Washington's piercing falsetto made it hard for me to recognize what a great song it really was.  One of the prettiest ballads Ashford and Simpson ever wrote and one of the few songs that actually benefited from a clarinet solo ...   rating: *** stars


Side two wasn't quite as good.


(side 2)
1.) Face the Music   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:09

Ashford and Simpson don't write many turkeys, but one like the mindless disco crappola 'Face the Music' was bound to occasionally sneak in.  No matter how much Washington kicked into overdrive, this one simply couldn't be salvaged.  rating: ** stars

2.) Hit and Run Lovers   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:06

Kicked along by a nice poppin' bass line 'Hit and Run Lovers' sported a nice groove that would have sounded great on top-40 radio.   rating: *** stars

3.) A Better Way   (Bobby Gene Hall - Raymond Simpson) - 3:38

Penned by Valerie Simpson's brother Raymond, 'A Better Way' was the only outside selection on the album.  The result was a pretty, but ultimately forgettable ballad.    rating: ** stars

4.) Don't Give Up On Me Baby   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 3:03

Kind of a MOR effort, but the chorus salvages 'Don't Give Up On Me Baby' from complete oblivion.  rating: ** stars

5.) Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing   (Nicholas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 4:13

The only explanation I could come up with for the lame, dirge-tempoed cover of 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing' was that Ashford and Simpson must have run out of new material and needed to round out the running time.  Stick with the Tammi Terrell/Marvin Gaye original.   rating: ** stars


Still any album batting 66% (six out of nine selections) was doing darned good.  In fact the only negative thing I can say is that the album sported one of the year's ugliest covers (it made my list of bad album art).  Motown also tapped the album for a pair of singles:


- 1975's 'Nobody's Gonna Change Me' b/w 'I Got Away' (Motown catalog number M 1359F)

- 1975's 'Deception' b/w 'One-Nighter' (Motown catalog number M 1365F)


In the mid-1990s George Spann joined The Orioles, followed by a stint with The Flamingos.  Apparently the last remaining original member of The Dynamic Superiors, in 2006 Spann reactivated the nameplate, recruiting former late inning Flamingos Earnest Gilbert, James Faison, and Larry Jordan for club work.





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Give & Take

Company: Motown

Catalog: M6-879S1

Country/State: Washington, D.C.

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1520

Price: $10.00


Produced by Brian Holland with Eddie Holland serving as executive producer, 1977's "Give & Take" sought to update the group's sound with an unconvincing mixture of disco-flavored tunes and more conventional soul material.  The big problem was that as non-writers The Superior Dynamics were completely at the mercy of their producers.   For their part Holland-Holland seemed uncertain what to do with the group.  An extended remake of the old Martha and the Vandellas hit 'Nowhere To Run' and the closer 'Once I Just Not Enough' were clearly meant to appeal to the disco crowd.  'Give It All Up' was an atypical old-school number, while the ballad 'Happy Song' fell somewhere in the middle.  The end result was an album that sounded like if was trying to cover all of the bases without coming off particularly convincing in any genre.   The good news was that as front man and focal point, Tony Washington remained an interesting lead singer, though his occasionally sharp and clipped voice was an acquired taste.  


back cover photo

"Give & Take" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Happy Song    (R. Davis - R.A. Brown -  S.M. Floyd) - 6:07  rating: *** stars

Disco-tinged slow-burn ballad that took while to grow on me, but was ultimately saved from oblivion by Tony Washington's piercing lead vocals and the cheesy synthesizers that kicked in towards the end. 

2.) Give It All Up   (Eddie Holland - Brian Holland - Jamie Bradford) - 2:51    rating: **** stars

An atypical hardcore soul tune, 'Give It All Up; has always been one of my favorite Dynamic Superior tunes.  Imagine a tune that the early O'Jays might have recorded and you'll have a feel for this one.  Washington shared lead vocals and as much as I liked his voice, this time around his shrill delivery was blown out of the water by the other vocalist (Michael McCalpin?).   

3.) Nowhere To Run    Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 9:07  rating: *** stars

Well Holland and Holland produced the album so I guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise they would have the group record some of their material.  Unfortunately, this extended disco-meets-Norman Whitfield arrangement was pretty horrendous.  I guess if you were spinning on a dance floor in an ecstasy induced frenzy this wasn't too bad, but sober it was long, long, long ...  Motown tapped it as the leadoff single:

   7" single

- 1977's 'Nowhere To Run' (Pt 1) b/w 'Nowhere To Run' (Pt 2) (Motown catalog number M 1419F) 

  12" disco single

- 1977's 'Nowhere To Run' (Pt 1) b/w 'Nowhere To Run' (Pt 2)(Motown catalog number PR 28)   


(side 2)
1.) You're What I Need   (R. Davis - R.A. Brown -  S.M. Floyd)  - 4:47    rating: **** stars

Probably the best all-around performance on the album, 'You're What I Need' managed to find the sweet spot between old-school soul and disco.   Washington literally made this one fly.   The track was tapped as the second single: 





1977's 'You're What I Need' b/w 'Here Comes That Feeling Again' (Motown catalog number M 1428F)  






2.) All In Love Is Fair    (Stevie Wonder) - 4:31

Dull and plodding ballad.  If anything it's even worse than the Barbara Mason cover.   rating: * star

3.) All You Can Do with Love    (Harold Beatty - Brian Holland - Eddie Holland) - 3:33

Geez, 'All You Can Do with Love' sounded like a bad Loe Sayer song.  Horrible.  rating: ** stars

4.) Here Comes That Feeling Again   (Brian Holland - Eddie Holland - Harold Beatty - M. Woods) - 4:22  rating: *** stars

Most folks seem to think Mariah Carey "owns" the song via her cover (re-titled 'I Feel It').  Her remake was intended for inclusion on "'The Emancipation Of Mimi" but ran into legal problems and was dropped from the album, though you can hear it on the internet.  Her cover wasn't a major change from the original arrangement; chiefly notable as being one of the few performances where she didn't go too over-the-top.  That said, I'd suggest this Washington-lead version was actually better.  Nice backing vocals from the rest of the group. 

5.) Once I Just Not Enough    (Eddie Holland - M. Wood  - R.A. Brown -  S.M. Floyd) - 5:03    rating: **** stars

Another stab at the disco market that was saved by some wonderful slap bass and O'Jays-styled deep soul vocals.  Anyone know who handled the lead vocals on this one?