Before we get down to the sensual sounds of this week's Summer Slow Jams, a brief background story:
When we moved to the colorful Sonora Desert from the beige Midwest in August 1981, it was difficult for me leaving friends and changing schools as this would be my sixth school in 10 years. No bueno. Imagine my surprise that Tucson was more like suburban California than some dusty old Wild West town. Because I was a Base kid (we eventually moved into Base housing after living in a tent on a campground twenty minutes outside of the city), I was bussed to a downtown high school in accordance with desegregation policies. The high school campus actually had two distinct schools: Tucson High School and University High School. I tested into UHS but preferred to take the exact same classes they offered at the shared facilities as a bona fide Tucson High School student; a Badger for life. Every morning and afternoon, six school buses pulled up beside the school grounds: three of them for the Base kids like me and three of them from all across Tucson busing students in to attend UHS. So while most of my classes were sadly lily-white, I was fortunate enough to have physical education, Biology 101 and Chemistry 101 with the general student body of THS my sophomore year.
I learned all the Mexican slang, especially as it pertained to pinchi gringos like me (and unlike a lot I learned in high school, this still comes in handy today), discovered the joys of Low Rider magazine and despite our many differences, I actually made friends with several homies, neighborhood car club/gang members and cool as hell chollos, including Roberto (Bobby J), Ricardo (Enrique), Jorje (Eeyore) and Tiny, all of whom I have not seen or heard from since Graduation. The CDs we are featuring today are/were marketed towards those Hispanic and Latino males and were advertised in Low Rider magazine - I know because I was a subscriber for a few years, enjoying both the beautiful cars and the gorgeous women. Thump's Old School Love Songs was released in 1995. Two more volumes quickly followed that same year and then Vol. 4 came out in 1997, Vol. 5 in 1999 and Vol. 6 in 2001. The seventh and final volume came out in 2005, ten years after the first hit the market. Usually, I listen to one disc and then write about it but I made the "mistake" today of listening to all the discs at once. Taken together as a set, one big collection of almost 100 songs, Old School Love Songs is damn near perfect. While I didn't keep track while listening initially, I think a great deal of the songs from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever! are featured throughout these seven discs. As I listen again to write them up, I'll keep track and post a tally.
Things get started in the best possible way on the first volume in the series with quite possibly the greatest slow of all time, Heatwave's immortal "Always and Forever" in its full-length six minutes plus album version. And things go from hot to simmer over the next four tracks before the ubiquitous "Sexual Healing" pops up, throwing my groove off. "Love Land" helps me get back into it as do The Intruders and Blue Magic before "Shake You Down" once again trips me up as does the disc's Isley Brothers disc closer. The problem? The three songs from the Eighties with their drum machines do not go well with the smooth Seventies slow jam groove established from the git go. And while I am a fan of Lisa Lisa, the song included on this disc is lame. Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: One.
Rose Royce, the group behind my favorite slow jam of all-time, kicks off Old School Love Songs Volume 2 with another beautiful ballad, "Wishing On A Star". The disc's second track is recognized as the first rap ballad - I recognized it as a song I would rather not hear at this moment and skipped to the next track. The beautiful "Very Special" came on and all was forgiven. Great songs came in a five song block, ending with the ten plus minute mix of Art Of Noise's "Moments In Love". Then my favorite slow jam of all-time "I Wanna Get Next To You" comes on and it is game over, I win. The three following songs were also top-notch, beginning with Peaches & Herb's "Close Your Eyes". A total of fourteen songs on each disc in the series with at least twelve winners on Volume 2. Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: Three. Total so far: 4 of 18.
Volume Three was less consistent than the previous two volumes with deeper cuts from The Delfonics ("Hey! Love"), Deniece Williams ("Silly") and The Emotions ("Flowers") that made a great first impression on me. The Rose Royce fest continues with "Ooh Boy" and Teddy Pendergrass lays it all out there on "If You Don't Know Me By Now". Bobby Caldwell adds a touch of class to the proceedings before Major Harris takes us behind closed doors as we listen in on his confession. Champaign pops up as the penultimate track on the disc before special super surprise guests Tommy James and the Shondells chill things way down with "Crystal Blue Persuasion." Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: Two. Total so far: 6 of 18.
The fourth volume is inconsistent as well and I have to protest the inclusion of "The Rain" as a love song when it is clearly a break up or dis song. Still I played it a few times, remembering a few good times listening to it back in 1986. And Santana's beautiful "Europa" has never crossed my mind as a slow jam - its always been a chill-out song, something to listen to under the stars out by the pool after a hard day. Other odd choices I may or may not be cool with are the full-length twelve minute pick-up line that is The Floaters' "Float On" and "Fopp" by the Ohio Players. They get the Lisa Lisa song selection right this time with "All Cried Out" and appearances by Bill Withers, Billy Paul and Peaches & Herb more than make up for any missteps early on. Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: One. Total so far: 7 of 18.
One of my biggest gripes with a slow jams disc is when they include up-tempo stuff which by definition cannot be a slow jam. Volume 5 kicks off with the delightful "Best of My Love", a delightful jam for sure but not a slow jam. The Manhattans take things down to the appropriate tempo on the very next track but then Jeffrey Osborne kicks the beats per minute back up on the third track, "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again" which is one of my all-time favorite disco funk jams but again not a slow jam. Have to remind myself that the series makes no slow jam promises only Old School Love Songs. And then Bill Withers comes riding in with "Lovely Day", another all-time favorite tune. More good tunes follow and then The Fuzz shows up with the slow jam classic "I Love You For All Seasons" and all my gripes and grumps dissipate and the disc is halfway over. The Three Degrees kick it up a notch with "When Will I See You Again" and their labelmates The O'Jays come in with one of the finest examples of The Philly Soul sound ever committed to magnetic tape, "Back Stabbers." KC shows up with a junior high prom bomb that I have always enjoyed and later on the disc closes out with the very first song I recall hearing on the radio, Al Wilson's soulful and romantic beyond words classic "Show And Tell". Is it a slow jam? With a BPM of 88, I'm counting it. Definitely on my ultimate slow jams list. Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: One. Total so far: 8 of 18.
Old School Love Songs Volume 6 kicks off with yet another high flying love jam, this time out its The Isley Brothers and "That Lady" from 1973. The entire seven disc series is probably 95% music from the Seventies and I got no qualms with that. The disc is pretty solid after that first track and my favorite songs on the album are the last two, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" and "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right". Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: None. Total so far: 8 of 18.
Which brings us to the final disc today. It kicks off with the studio version of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Reasons" - a live version was included back on Volume 2. That five minute song is followed by four consecutive six minute slow jams from masters like Commodores, The Isleys, Rev. Al Green and Teena Marie. Bill Withers takes things way down with "Ain't No Sunshine" but things get back up in that smooth slow jams mode soon enough. The track I kept going back to on this disc was Kool & the Gang's ultimate smooth mellow "Summer Madness" which was not heard as much this Summer as it usually is here at The Hideaway. Tunes from The Greatest Slow Jams Mix Ever!: None (I counted "Reasons" earlier). Total for the series: 8 of 18.