THE BEST word to describe the reaction of the five brothers Tavares on hearing the news that they'd been voted by as Top Group for 1976 in Britain’s premier black music magazine is simply "jubilant". Just prior to their departure for Europe, Ralph Tavares took a few minutes out of one of the rare trips to his home outside Boston to elaborate on the group's feelings about what's happening with them right now.
"Well, getting this award was like an answer to our prayers! You see, we were very disappointed that we didn't get a Grammy this year. After all, 1976 was easily our biggest year to date, so we figured that if we were going to get an award it would be for '76.
"But, you know, the Grammies are really something else: we would not have minded just being nominated — that in itself would have been fine. But it's all politics, and we feel that the judges and committees are all subject to outright favouritism.
"We think that they should let the people vote, after all they buy the records! And that's why we were so happy with Blues and Soul."
The group have just finished a very successful tour of Mexico (their first) and met with "incredible reaction, everywhere we went. The dates were sold out and the people really loved our shows.
"The only problem was the lack of organisation but the public more than made up for that!"
Prior to that, they'd been in the studios finishing off a new album with producer Freddie Perren.
"We're not sure what it will be called yet but one of the titles suggested is 'Love Storm'. Anyway, the album has basically three up-tempo cuts on it including our newest single, 'Whodunit'.
"We've included some nice ballads in there too — there's a revival of the old Jesse Belvin hit, 'Goodnight My Love' which I personally felt could have been the new single. But it will probably be the next single from the group.
"In between, we'll probably release another cut from the album — a duet we did with Freda Payne. Freda recently signed with Capitol, you know.
"What happened was that we had a song, 'I Want To See You Soon' and we tried it with Tiny, myself and Butch but somehow we didn't seem to hit upon the right interpretation. Well, Freda had been visiting the sessions along with Minnie Ripperton and Brenda Lee Leager, and she said that she'd wanted to cut a song with us — I guess along the lines of the duet that Dionne Warwick did with The Spinners, which worked out so well. The opportunity came with this song and we all agreed, so we went ahead and did it.
"It came out very well and it will definitely be released as a separate item. We'll probably do a few television spots with Freda but I don't know whether we'll be actually travelling together."
Ralph's very happy about the album, he says. "It's something different for us — because it really shows us off in different lights. Butch has a song on there, 'Fool Of The Year' and then there's a Latin-flavoured tune, 'Watching The Woman's Movement' which is kinda cute.
"We also did a version of a song on one of Gladys Knight's albums — a Jim Weatherley song, 'Ups and Downs' with Butch doing the lead. All in all, we're happy with the album but we don't anticipate releasing it at least until we see how the single is doing.
"You see, with our last album, the problem was that stations, the r&b stations, were playing 'Don't Take Away The Music' after 'Heaven' had crossed 'pop! So when the pop stations went to look to see how the song was doing (because that's the way it works!) they didn't find 'Don't Take Away The Music' on there, because the r&b people had stopped playing it by then.
"We want to avoid that happening again so we're holding off on the album till the single starts to really move and we may even wait till the Freda duet record comes out."
Tavares' immediate plans upon return from Europe include working on a film soundtrack and appearing in the movie. "I don't know the name of the movie," states Ralph, "but we will record the title track before we go to Europe and when we come back, we'll finish off anything else we have to record for the film as well as doing our part as actors.
"Freddie (Perren) cut the tracks and I believe the movie's about discos, though I'm not sure."
After that, the five brothers will be embarking on some dates with the Kool Jazz Festival, an annual event which usually takes big packages (last year's included Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Al Green and The Staples, to name but a few) across the States. This will be Tavares' first year doing the shows and they're looking forward to it.
"After that, we'll be off to Japan and back for some more dates with the Festival, before we take a short two-week vacation and go back in the studios!" Not too much rest for the guys, but Ralph says he dosn't see them curtailing their activities any time soon, "We've still got a long ways to go!" he laughs.
One of the things that seems definite for the future, however, is that Tavares will be spending more time abroad. "Frankly, we almost have a bigger following outside the States than we do here at home. In fact, we predict that it's going to be international overseas markets that really keep us going, keep our career on top.
"I can tell you now that unless we continue to achieve a degree of consistency with our record success in this country, we're seriously considering just doing selected dates here at home in the States and spending more time overseas.
"One of the things we dig the most about our audiences abroad is that they seem to be loyal, they're nowhere near as fickle as the folks back home.
"Sure, it's stange but right now, we're not complaining because our total overseas sales for 1976 have been really fantastic. I mean, we got three gold records in England for singles and our 'Sky High' album didn't even make gold yet although the company have been telling us for the last two months that it was "just about to"! Naturally, we want the recognition here but if the people want us in the other countries, you know we're gonna go!"
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.