Tavares - Love Uprising (reissue) (2013)

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Tavares - Love Uprising

Tavares - Love Uprising

The is an arc to virtually every musical career. The length of that arc may vary from artist to artist, but most R&B artists enjoy a relatively brief commercial peak before beginning a ride downward that continues for the remainder of their career. The five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts known as Tavares had more than their share of success, culminating with a 1976-77 crest that included charttoppers like "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" and "Whodunit," before their slow slide began. Ironically, that slide didn't come because the quintet hung on to tired musical trends too long. Instead, they were usually ahead of the curve, changing styles often -- arguably too often -- and sometimes moving in directions that radio simply didn't follow. They achieved their biggest success when they smartly jumped on the early end of the disco era and they just as smartly jumped off in 1979 for classic R&B-sounding 's Madam Butterfly, nearly a year before major disco backlash hit. However, their continuous style shifting over the following years (traditional R&B to heavily produced pop/rock to acid jazz to electronic funk), while yielding consistently high quality results, left them an enigma to R&B radio and a group without an identifiable musical identity.

For their second release of 1980, following the uncharacteristically big, bombastic production of the early 1980 release Supercharged, the quintet teamed with veteran R&B producer Benjamin Wright for Love Uprising, one of their most exciting, but unfortunately underappreciated, releases. It bore a glossy sheen that was the sonic opposite of the heavily produced Supercharged. Wright's approach at times borrowed from the then-hot sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire (even using that group's Phoenix Horns), but also took Tavares in an original direction that sounded absolutely fresh -- and still does more than three decades later on the new reissue of the disc by Soul Music Records.

The first noticeable changes on Love Uprising involve the group's vocals. Tavares always boasted harmonies that were tight but rather traditional. On Uprising their harmonies may be even tighter but they are also crisp and precisely cadenced, taking the role of instruments amidst Wright's uniformly breathless arrangements.  Songs like "Hot Love" and "Do You Believe In Love" smoke with killer horns, string sections and synthesizers swirling around punched harmonies by group members who are intentionally pushing the upper end of their registers. And they simply sound terrific, as do "She Can Wait Forever," "Lifetime of Love," and the Tavares composition "Break Down For Love."

That radio didn't love the album's title track, written by future stars Rene & Angela, is a crime; it is one of the five greatest recordings of the group's career, a wonderful combination of song, wall-of-sound production and great vocals. And it's failure to crack the top ten doomed the success of the album's second single, "Loneliness," the most traditional cut on the album and a ballad worthy of the Manhattans, circa 1976.

Love Uprising was a bold departure by a group that sought to remain relevant during a difficult time for R&B. But because, by the time of the album's release, Tavares had faded from the A-list of R&B acts and Capitol Records' eyes had begun to wander toward new, self-contained funk bands, this unusual album never had a chance to achieve the attention it deserved. It's too bad, because Love Uprising was the freshest, most exciting release the group had issued since the 1976 blockbuster, Skyhigh. The album was out of print within a few years of its original release and only the most devoted Tavares fans had the chance to relish its brilliance...until now.  In a year that has seen reissues of so many overlooked albums of the 80s, this is one of the most welcome.  Highly Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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