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Cherry Pop

Title - In The Name Of Love: The Elektra Years 1979-1984
Artist - Grover Washington Jr

SoulMusic Records (via Cherry Red Records UK) is about to release In The Name Of Love: The Elektra Years 1979-1984 (December 17th, 2021), a musically masterful collection of five albums by the incomparable Grover Washington Jr, specifically covering his tenure with Elektra Records from 1979-1984.

Rightfully considered a pioneer and one of the most influential musicians in the smooth jazz movement that began to emerge in the early ‘70s, Grover’s stellar work as a saxophonist hit a new plateau of popular acceptance with his recordings for Elektra, highlights of which include the million-selling Winelight LP featuring the timeless classic Just The Two Of Us (featuring renowned singer/songwriter Bill Withers) and The Best Is Yet To Come, the title track of which features special guest Patti LaBelle.

CD 1: Paradise (Expanded Edition) (1979)
1. Paradise
2. Icey
3. The Answer In Your Eyes
4. Asia’s Theme
5. Shana
6. Tell Me About It Now
7. Feel It Comin’
8. Tell Me About It Now (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
9. Feel It Comin’ (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]

Grover Washington Jr. made his mark early on with hit recordings for Kudu and Motown. After he switched to Elektra, the soulful saxophonist debuted on the label with Paradise, a decent and rather harmonious effort.

Washington (on soprano, tenor, flute and baritone) plays quite well as do the members of his septet (which include violinist John Blake, guitarist Richard Steacker and bassist Tyrone Brown), but the material (seven group originals) failed to include any really catchy melodies or strong hits.

This album is therefore more for Grover Washington completists than for general fans of the idiom although, as we all now know, Washington’s next project would be his best-selling Winelight.

CD 2: Winelight (Expanded Edition) (1980)
1. Winelight
2. Let It Flow (For Dr J)
3. In The Name Of Love
4. Take Me There
5. Just The Two Of Us (featuring Bill Withers)
6. Make Me A Memory (Sad Samba)
7. Let It Flow (For Dr J) (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
8. Winelight (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
9. Just The Two Of Us (featuring Bill Withers) (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. Make Me A Memory (Sad Samba) (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
11. Take Me There (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]

Having long been one of the leaders in what could be called rhythm & jazz, essentially R&B-influenced jazz, Washington’s Winelight is one of his finest albums, and not primarily because of the Bill Withers hit Just the Two of Us.

It is the five instrumentals that find Washington (on soprano, alto, and tenor) really stretching out. If he had been only interested in sales, Washington’s solos could have been half as long and he would have stuck closely to the melody.

Instead he really pushes himself on some of these selections, particularly the title cut to bring forth a highly memorable set of high-quality and danceable soul-jazz.

CD 3: Come Morning (Expanded Edition) (1980)
1. East River Drive
2. Come Morning
3. Be Mine (Tonight) (featuring Grady Tate)
4. Reaching Out
5. Jamming
6. Little Black Samba (featuring Grady Tate)
7. Making Love To You
8. I’m All Yours
9. Be Mine (Tonight) (featuring Grady Tate) (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. Reaching Out (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
11. Jamming (Single Edit) 12 East River Drive (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]

On this beautifully charismatic smooth soul-jazz album - one featuring Ralph MacDonald, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Richard Tee and Marcus Miller - sure, Come Morning delivered nothing new, but it’s pleasant throughout and perhaps Grover’s best release from the ’80s.

His soprano sax playing is exquisite and some of the tunes really get down and groove - such as East River Drive, Making Love To You and the title song - which all comes together to make this another Washington classic (on a par, in my humble opinion) with the brilliance of Winelight.

CD 4: The Best Is Yet To Come (Expanded Edition) (1982)
1. Can You Dig It
2. The Best Is Yet To Come (with Special Guest, Patti LaBelle)
3. More Than Meets The Eye
4. Things Are Getting Better
5. Mixty Motions
6. Brazilian Memories
7. I’ll Be With You
8. Cassie’s Theme (Theme From Cassie & Co.)
9. Brazilian Memories (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. I’ll Be With You (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
11. The Best Is Yet To Come (with Special Guest, Patti LaBelle) (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
12. More Than Meets The Eye (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]

Basking in the success brought to him by way of Winelight and it’s equally winning follow up release Come Morning, Washington kept Marcus Miller and Richard Tee into the fold (along with adding Philly’s Dexter Wansel) for The Best Is Yet To Come.

Long aware of how well the soul vocal duet worked with his kind of sax playing, Washington also had Patti Labelle come in and throw down one of her best performances ever on the title track.

Another notable creativity point is how a little reworking on the mixing console allows Patti’s wailing vocal cry to sound as if it’s leaping out of his wailing sax emotion!

We also get a couple of fast jams on this album, with Can You Dig It and Mixty Motions (with it’s cleverly misspelled title) both putting percussionist Ralph McDonald to full jazz-funk use.

With a few other tracks that can only be described as danceable and soulful, inclusive of a certain lightness and understatement from everyone involved, The Best Is Yet To Come is a quite wondrous album from start to finish.

CD 5: Inside Moves (Expanded Edition)
1. Inside Moves
2. Dawn Song
3. Watching You, Watching Me
4. Secret Sounds
5. Jet Stream
6. When I Look At You
7. Sassy Stew
8. When I Look At You (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
9. Secret Sounds (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. Inside Moves (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
11. Sassy Stew (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]

Although Washington Jr. (again on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone) puts on his usual strong effort, the forgettable material (which included no hits) and the emphasis on vocals (particularly those of Jon Lucien who is on five of the seven selections) makes this one of Washington’s weaker efforts and the least essential of his four Elektra recordings, in my humble opinion.

The background vocalists do not help much either and being that this was his only full-length album as a leader during the 1982-86 period, I was truly hoping for a better, perhaps more worthy effort myself; but it just wasn’t meant to be.

That said, and much like the equally great and much-missed Isaac Hayes, Washington was a musical visionary who defied both categorization and what the industry defied as proper or acceptable.

In other words, he was his own man and created his own music his way even if it meant having to defy so-called established rules or patterns. Hence this album portrays a man on a singular mission: to make music he likes to make, in the honest hope that everyone else does too.

This box set is a perfect companion to Sacred Kind Of Love, the 2019 SoulMusic Records’ anthology of Grover’s recordings for Columbia Records (SMCR5186BX).

Official 5CD Purchase Link