Reviews Zone

Norman Connors: Valentine Love * The Buddah/Arista Anthology (SoulMusic Records) 10th March



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



Fabulous release from SoulMusic Records of the also fabulous Norman Connors; the American jazz drummer, composer, arranger, and producer who led some of the most influential jazz and R&B groups. Also having several big R&B hits of the day, especially with love ballads. Best known for the 1976 hit, “You Are My Starship”- sung by Michael Henderson.

This two disc set by the renowned musician and producer, covers almost a decade – 1972-198. The 34 tracks include all of Norman’s 10 US charted singles; a rare 12” mix of the 1977 cut, ‘Captain Connors’; two tracks from the album, “Norman Connors Presents Aquarian Dream” (including ‘Once Again,’ featuring Gloria Jones); key album cuts, ‘Dindi’ and ‘Maiden Voyage’ and cuts which feature artists who first gained prominence through their recordings with Norman. This includes the incomparable Jean Carn, Michael Henderson, Phyllis Hyman, Prince Phillip Mitchell, Eleanore Mills, Al Johnson, Adaritha, Glenn Jones and Beau Williams.

Before he became known as the man with ‘golden ears’ for his discovery of so many great vocalists, the Philadelphia drummer – who lived four doors down from Bill Cosby – served his musical apprenticeship with John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, before embarking on his own recording career in 1972.

He first met his idol, Miles Davis, aged just 13 in 1960. He once sat in for Elvin Jones at a John Coltrane performance he attended while in middle school. His first recording was on Archie Shepp‘s 1967 release, Magic of JuJu. He played with Pharoah Sanders for the next few years until signing in 1972 with jazz label, Cobblestone Records, a division of Buddah Records, and releasing his first record as a bandleader.

After signing with Buddah, he foused more on R&B, and became their A&R guy. By 1975, Connors had achieved his first chart breakthrough thanks to the soulful pairing of Carn and Henderson on the now-classic “Valentine Love”. Connors switched to the Arista label when Buddah was bought out in 1978 and achieved a crossover to the disco scene in 1980 when he had the hit ‘Take it to the Limit’, which was released on 12″ single. The B side, “Black Cow” (an instrumental) was written by Steely Dan‘s Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. 

Connors gave a then-unknown Phyllis Hyman her first taste of international success with her recording of “Betcha By Golly Wow,” as well as giving R&B vocalist Glenn Jones his initial hit in 1980 with “Melancholy Fire”.

Other standouts on this superb 2-CD set include Connors’ favourites such as “You Are My Starship” (Michael Henderson’s first solo hit), “Once I’ve Been There”, “This Is Your Life,’ ‘Wouldn’t You Like To See’ “ and “I Don’t Need Nobody Else.”

The extensive liner notes include numerous quotes from Norman himself, long-time band members Jacques Burvick and Kenneth Nash and others. His most recent work, “Star Power”, features smooth jazz and urban crossover music.



By Sally Fox




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