Blue Magic's 1981 Capitol release, Welcome Back
, arrived at a time when soul and R&B music had resurfaced as a popular genre yet in a different manner. While heavy funk grooves & well-crafted ballads driven by rhythm sections/horns/strings were the norm in the 1970s, the rise of synthesizers & drum machines in the 80s resulted in light pop-driven arrangements - evident in hits by Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio (A Woman Needs Love
) and the Four Tops (When She Was My Girl
). Instead of following this trend, Blue Magic (lead singer Ted 'Wizard' Mills, Keith Beaton, Vernon Sawyer & Wendell Sawyer) as well as producer Norman Harris & his crew of session musicians (members of MFSB) stuck with the winning formula that made the group successful - and met with resistance from the industry.
After several years of hit singles & albums on Atlantic/Atco/WMOT Records, like many great soul acts, Blue Magic was blind-sided by the rise of disco. This prompted radio programmers to almost dump R&B music from the playlists - no airplay, no record sales. When disco finally wore out its welcome and the excesses were sharply felt by many (see Casablanca Records), the record industry faced its first recession in several years with Philly soul being one of many casualties. ''It was like the Titanic after it hit the iceberg,'' explained legendary songwriter/producer/session guitarist Bobby Eli (the man who - along with collaborator Vinnie Barrett - gave Blue Magic its first #1 hit, Sideshow, in 1974). ''Those of us who were lucky to have survived the music biz recession had to take whatever gigs came our way to make ends meet. So, when Capitol signed Blue Magic, it meant work for me and the crew - Vince Montana, Kenny Washington, Ron Kersey and, of course, Norman Harris.''
Back to work, yes - but not at Joe Tarsia's Sigma Sound Studios, where Blue Magic cut the bulk of their 70s classics. Eli - ''The Welcome Back album was recorded at Alpha International Studios. I felt that the engineers who manned the sessions really didn't know how to capture the sound of our music. If we had access to Sigma, the recording would have been consistent with Blue Magic's prior work.'' Nonetheless, engineer Gene Leone & Alpha's studio personnel did their best with the group, session players & producer. -Kevin L. Goins, Amery, Wisconsin
This CD reissue of the original album is remastered from the Original Studio master tapes.