Saturday, March 15, 2008

Major Harris - Jealousy

Sorry this one's a little late folks. I was holdin' off posting it until I could clean up the vinyl a bit. Never got around it, but no matter.
Born on February 9, 1947 in Richmond, VA, Major Harris III (yup, that IS his birth name) represents the continuation of a long musical legacy, with vaudeville-performing grandparents, a professional guitarist father, choir-directing mother, and talented sibling (Joe Jefferson, Philly songsmith who penned major hits for the Detroit Spinners) and cousin (legendary guitarist, songwriter, and super-producer Norman Harris). With a lineage like that, it was pretty much predestined for Major to make his mark on the music world. It would, however be twenty-eight long years of dues paying before he'd make that mark.

Major started out, like so many other soul legends, singing in church and later in junior high school, where he'd sing in the bathroom, "cause you know, it had that sound in there," he explained in a 2001 chat session over at (you can read the complete transcript here).

In following years, Harris performed with numerous R&B groups, including The Charmers, Frankie Lymon's Teenagers, and The Jarmels. He recorded as the lead with Philly group The Nat Turner Rebellion, and released a few solo sides for both Okeh and Laurie labels; none of these efforts, however, garnered much success. In 1970, Major joined The Delfonics as a replacement for Randy Cain (who would later go on to help form the group Blue Magic).

In 1974 he left the group and put together his own band [in an effort] to try his hand as the frontman for a new act. He successfully landed a deal with WMOT (We Men Of Talent) Productions, which in turn quickly led to a label signing with Atlantic records, and release of the single "Each Morning I Wake Up," credited to The Major Harris Boogie Blues Band. The outfit, comprised of Harris, Allison Hobbs, Phyllis Newman & Karen Dempsey, enjoyed minimal success with the single, but it was to be Harris's next release as a solo act that would become his first big hit.

Pulled from on his '75 debut album My Way, the timeless ballad, "Love Won't Let Me Wait," penned by guitarist Bobby Eli, skyrocketed to the top spot on the R&B chart and climbed as high as number five on Billboard's pop chart. The song would go on to sell 8 million copies worldwide.

The following year, Major released his second LP for Atlantic. Sticking to the formula that created his first album, Jealousy was loaded with the usual Philly soul ingredients, lush orchestration by MFSB, arrangements by Norman Harris, Ron Kersey, and Bobby Eli, and background vocals by "The Sweethearts of Sigma," a trio of made up of Barbara Ingram, Carla & Yvette Benson, also known as "The Sweeties," (basically Philly soul's equivalent of the southern soul's Sweet Inspirations) all cooked down at Joe Tarisa's Sigma Sound Studio for that signature, silky-smooth, slick sound. [How's that for alliteration?]

Still, with all that going for it, the album stalled on the charts. The same year, Major hit the stage with labelmates Blue Magic and Margie Joseph at New Jersey's Latin Casino; the end result was the 2-LP set, Live.

In 1978, Major signed with RCA records, where he teamed up with producer Jerry Ragavoy for his next solo lp, How Do You Take Your Love. After the solo hits stopped coming, Harris reunited with the The Delfonics and enjoyed a busy touring schedule.

In 1984, Harris took another break from the group and went back into the studio as a soloist, this time with Butch Ingram (brother to Barbara (see above)). Butch, former lead member of the family group The Ingram Kingdom (later redubbed Ingram), took the helm as the project's sole producer and arranger. The end result was the Streetwave records release, I Believe In Love.

Throughout the next two decades, Harris reunited with The Delfonics several times and was featured on the group's 1999 album, Forever New. As of this writing, he continues to tour both as a solo act, as well as part of The Delfonics with original members William Hart & Randy Cain.

If you're looking for Major Harris reissue material, the best place to go iz 'zon or Dusty Groove-- at either you can track down his first solo LP, My Way, as a Japanese import and the WMOT Live album with Margie Joseph & Blue Magic as an affordable US reissue on Collectables. As for Jealousy... sorry this one's still in the vaults. On the bright side, you can easily find low-cost original vinyl pressings of it and most of Major's other albums on the bay or GEMM pretty easily.

Featured cut: "Jealousy"
Help yourself to my vinyl rip here. [Note: this one's a li'l dusty in spots, but who cares; if you're really into this kinda stuff, a little needle noise shouldn't matter right? It comes with the territory.] Anyway, judge for yourself. The audio is more than good enough to decide whether or not you wanna drop coin on yer own copy. Who knows... if time allows, maybe I'll re-rip it after a good scrubbing.

[Sidebar: It's a long story with more than I care to get into but I'll boil it down and try not to bore y'all with the details. It goes like this....

I'd been putting it off for years because of the ridiculous price tag, but a flooded basement and a few crates of mildew-ridden vinyl made it a necessity, so I gave in and nabbed one of those pricey record cleaning machines for a steal on a certain auction site. Great right? Wrong!! The seller pulled a fast one on me and I wound up gettin' got. Well... kinda. . He had a high enough positive rating for selling high-end audio gear, so I didn't balk when, after shellin' out my hard-earned shekels, 2 weeks pass by with no deliveries from my friendly neighborhood postal carrier. It looked like he was playing some kinda waiting game that stretched on for about four weeks. When I finally spoke up, he claimed stories like he was out of town, missed the end of the auction then had a friend ship it; then the friend went on holiday and couldn't be reached for info. Really?? All the while he maintained he had no idea where it could be and that I should keep waiting for it to arrive. After a few more letters from me, he offered me a refund and said if it showed up we'd deal with it later. Now lemme get this straight, you sell something worth almost $400, have no idea where it is and cheerfully offer to give up the only thing you have to show for it?? That's so nice.....too nice. Maybe I'm wrong, but something just doesn't sound right about that. I have absolutely no way of proving it, but my conspiratorial gut tells me he probably wanted a bigger fish and decided to throw me back. I guess I have no real beef since I did get my dough back. But still...]

1 comment:

soulbrotha said...

FRIGGIN' SWEET! Thanks man! :)

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