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Spyder Turner: Is It Love You’re After: The Whitfield Records Years (1978-1980) (Big Break Records) 5th May 2017


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



Spyder Turner. An often-overlooked soulful singer who deserves re-appraisal and respect. Spyder Turner’s output has covered doo wop, soul, funk, R&B and disco material from the mid-60s. Spyder aka Dwight David Turner, honed his vocal skills with various choirs, doo wop and R&B groups around Detroit. He began recording after winning a talent contest at the famed Harlem Apollo in New York, cutting some solo stuff and singing backing vocals for two groups; The Stereophonics and The Fabulous Counts.

In 1966, one of the groups Turner sang with went into the studio with producer Clay McMurray, and soon after Turner signed to MGM Records and released his show stopping version of the Ben E King classic “Stand By Me”. His recorded version peaked at number three on the US Billboard black singles chart, #12 in the US R&B chart and also # 12 on the main Hot 100 chart in early 1967.

Soon after the success with the single, he released an LP of the same name which got to number 14 on the black albums chart and also dented the main chart at # 158. He followed up his first single with, “I Can’t Make it Anymore”, which scraped into the chart at # 95.

After moving away from his management and leaving MGM as his record label, he focused more on performing around the US South in the early 1970s, building up a strong and loyal following from the fame of his single “Stand By Me”, and his ability to imitate his influences Ben E. King, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Chuck Jackson and Billy Stewart.

A decade later, Motown production legend Norman Whitfield signed the expressive singer, and Turner wrote the hit single “Do Your Dance” for Rose Royce.  Whitfield  produced Turner’s 1978’s “Music Web” album, utilising his pool of song writers and a stellar cast of session musicians to inject equal parts disco, funk, soul and R&B. Making sure Turner’s charismatic voice was the focal point. The singles “I’ve Been Waitin”, and “Get Down”, more than matched contemporary hit releases. Turner also cut a cracking a jazzier recording of ‘Is It Love You’re After’, later made famous by label mates Rose Royce, the ballad ‘Tomorrow’s Only Yesterday’ and ‘I’ve Changed’, Turner’s sole song-writing contribution.

Two years later, Turner took control of his music from Whitfield, to make an even more cohesive LP with 1980’s  “Only Love”. Almost entirely written, produced and arranged by Turner. Motown star Junior Walker played in Turner’s assembled session group. The title track was released as a single. Also worthy of attention is the disco stomp of ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’, the orchestral funk of ‘Let’s Rock (Until We’re Satisfied)’ and the R&B ballad ‘Sunshine’, written by Norman Whitfield.

The majority of the material here on these 16 tracks re-issued by BBR – eight from “Music Web” and eight from “Only Love” – is released for the first time on CD. Featuring comprehensive liner notes, including a new interview with Spyder Turner, now 70-years-old, who is still performing in the US and released his most recent  album in 2006. After his two albums for Whitfield in 1978 and 1980, Spyder cut a song for the movie The Last Dragon, which was credited to Dwight David. He did some acting too.

In March 2008 he guested on a recording session in Detroit for UK songwriter, singer, producer and label owner Carl Dixon, a session to cut four songs, arranged by ex-Motown arranger David J. Van De Pitte. Spyder provided vocals and writing contributions to finish the songs.

Motown session legend Dennis Coffey was co-producer and members of the Funk Brothers were in on the session. (He also made the pilgrimage to Philladelphia, and roped in some members of MFSB for another four tracks). Six tracks from the two sessions were released, all four from the Detroit adventures – two pressed to seven inch vinyl in Detroit, shipped to the UK and sold on the ‘net and at specialist record shops. Available for download too.  

Dixon and Turner co-wrote the fabulous Northern Soul track, ‘Tell Me (Crying Over You)’ for the 2008 Detroit session, and it has been re-worked by The Delgonives as an instrumental, for a current release. Spyder performed the song live at the Prestatyn Soul Weekender in Wales a couple of years ago, and has just been to the UK in April 2017 to perform at a soul event in the Midlands. In June 2017, he is one of the hosts of the star studded R&B Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Detroit – Spyder was inducted a few years ago.


By Simon Redley


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