(5 / 5)
One of my all time favourite guitarists. Back in the 1970s, I wore out the vinyl LPs by the New York-based session player supergroup Stuff. Eric Gale was one of the two ace guitarists in that band; Cornell Dupree being the other. Richard Tee on keyboards, Chris Parker drums before he left and Steve Gadd took over, and Gordon Edwards on bass.
As a top session man, Eric played on at least 500 albums, and he played with most of the big stars of the 70s and 80s. Among the many artists he recorded with were Aretha Franklin, John Lennon, Bob James, Paul Simon (Gale plays a supporting role in the 1980 film One-Trick Pony, written by and starring Simon), Lena Horne, Quincy Jones, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Peter Tosh, Grover Washington, Jr., Herbie Mann, Esther Phillips, Joe Cocker, Carly Simon, Van Morrison, Al Jarreau, Dave Grusin, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Billy Joel. He also had played in Aretha Franklin’s stage band.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gale began playing guitar at the age of 12. He studied chemistry at Niagara University, but he was determined to pursue a musical career, and began contributing to accompaniments for such stars as Maxine Brown and the Drifters. He attracted the attention of King Curtis and Jimmy Smith, who recommended him for studio work. He began session work in the 1960s.
In the 1970s, Eric joined The Encyclopedia of Soul, formed by session bass man Gordon Edwards and guitarist Cornell Dupree. Queen Esther Marrow took her studio band with her on a club gig in New York. After parting ways with Esther, the band returned to play there every week and filled the place. Keyboard player Richard Tee stopped by one time and he started coming every night. Steve Gadd sat in one night as did Eric Gale, and they both became a part of the band.
The guy who staged the famed Woodstock Festival said he was sure he could get the band a record deal and got Warner Bros A&R guys to fly in from California to see them perform. They dug the band, but wanted a new name, so Stuff was born. Stuff developed a groove-soaked, danceable rhythm and blues and funk sound of their own. Individually and collectively, the members of Stuff became some of the most sought after session musicians of that era, playing with a stellar array of artists.
They backed Joe Cocker during his world tour to promote his “Stingray” album, performing with Cocker on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in its second season. Stuff released five albums between 1975 and 1980, all of which went Gold; “More Stuff” earned a Grammy nomination. Stuff’s first album was produced by Herb Lovelle in 1976 and went platinum in Japan.
On this gem of a collection, we get two discs and 26 tracks in total, 14 on disc one and 13 on disc two. Track six on the first CD is a sparkling jewel; Stuff and their fabulous and timeless cut, “Foots”, followed by their track “My Sweetness”. Only two from Stuff among this set, but both tracks are well worth hearing for the first time if you are yet to discover the band Stuff, or to be reminded of just how great this outfit was. Let’s hope someone re-issues all the Stuff albums on CD and soon……….
Sadly, Eric Gale died of lung cancer in 1994, at 55-years-old. I never got to see or meet him, but I did meet and photograph Cornell Dupree and Gordon Edwards backstage at the Montreux Jazz festival about 16 years ago, and told them both how brilliant their work with Stuff was. Both really nice guys. I did shoot pix of Mr Gadd a couple of times, but never got to speak to him. All but Gordon and Stuff’s original drummer Chris Parker are now deceased, sadly.
This is the first time Eric Gale’s CTI, Columbia and Warner Brothers repertoire has been compiled together in one package. He recorded 11 solo albums. This set includes four tracks from his only CTI album “Forecast”, which features jazz heavyweights Bob James on piano, Idris Muhammad on drums and Hubert Laws on flute.
After the CTI deal, Eric signed with Columbia and released the acclaimed albums “Ginseng Woman” and “Multiplication”. The Hall and Oates classic “Sara Smile” is given the Gale treatment on the album “Ginseng Woman”, in a reggae meets jazz style and is found here. Track seven on the second disc is a real cracker; “Tell It Like It Is”, Richard Tee featuring Eric Gale.
After he left Columbia, Eric signed with Warner Brothers and released the albums “Blue Horizon” and “Island Breeze”, tracks from those two releases are included here. “Eric Gale The Definitive Collection” features sleeve notes by Lois Wilson, which give a good insight into the guitar legend’s life and career.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’