By the mid-70s, Motown had successfully transformed the label from a singles powerhouse to a company that also made great albums. The 60s and 70s were decades of powerful social change. The sexual revolution, the black power movement and the gay liberation movement all were extensions from the massive social changes occurring across the country and the world for that matter. These changes sometimes overlapped and culminated into something different and new. The Dynamic Superiors were a Washington D.C. Based group that was signed to Motown in 1974. The group was a soulful quartet whose lead vocalist was often an openly gay man, Tony Washington, the first known lead singer of a black male vocal group to be completely 'out' in regard his sexuality. This was a bold signing by Motown and one that was further underscored by employing the talents of Ashford & Simpson to write and produce their first two albums, one self titled debut and its succesor, “Pure Pleasure”. (The label would also make another adventurous move by releasing, one became a hit gay anthem by Carl Bean, “I Was Born This Way” in 1977).
Soul Music.com Records has licensed their first two albums from Motown via Universal Music in the UK. Soon as the first notes begin to play, the listener is transported back to the innocence of the mid-70s as the Motown sound interfaced with the Sound of Philadelphia. The first two Dynamic Superior albums were a perfect example of silky soul at its best. The album kicks off with three classically authentic Ashford & Simpson songs. They all are dripping with romance and sensuality. “Shoe, Shoe Shine”, the first single, is a beautifully written, moody ballad that further enhanced with a dramatic vocal performance by the lead singer, Tony Washington... Recalling Russell Thompkins (The Sylistics) and Eddie Kendricks (The Temptations), Washington's falsetto possessed all the gospel fire and flamboyance flare one would come to expect from good soul singing. When he sings in the chorus, “I may not have much to speak of, but, there'll always be plenty of love”, it has to be one of the classic Ashford and Simpson lines.
Though in classic Ashford & Simpson styling, the two-on-one CD is dominated by gorgeous ballads, but, then a song like “Deception” (from the second album, "Pure Pleasure") comes along and it shows that they were not unfamiliar with what works best on the dancefloor. As Washington ad libs at the end of the song, it reminds one of the euphoric sense that the team accomplished with “The Boss” a few years later. “Don't Give Up on Me” has all the elements that should have made it a staple at Top 40, as well as, R&B radio. Filled with great harmonies and choruses, the group hits a pinnacle with this one.
There are many grand production numbers that are signature Ashford & Simpson. But the group is not overwhelmed by the production, just aptly complimented. “Nobody's Gonna Change” exemplifies how effortlessly this is accomplished. In some ways the album takes you back to the final days of when juke joints were still dominated by a jukebox player. The songs play like a well thought out player looking to entertain a wide audience.
It is hard to know why Dynamic Superiors never experienced a deserved degree of mainstream success. They were given platforms like opening for Motown's most dynamic superstars including The Jackson Five and Diana Ross. But one dedicated listen to this combo of albums, and this one has to go down as one of the sweetest, missed opportunities.
About the Writer
K. Bonin has worked in the music industry for the last three decades. He describes himself as "a child of Motown and the classic rock era." Having spent the balance of his career at Arista Records, his experience and passion gives him a unique perspective on music and the music industry.