There was a period in the early-to-mid ‘80s when it seemed like the hands of Kashif touched every major R&B record. Melba Moore, Evelyn King, Lillo Thomas, Glenn Jones, Howard Johnson, George Benson and even Kenny G and Whitney Houston all scored huge R&B hits, with many crossing over to the pop charts, thanks in no small part to the man with the Midas touch.
A musician’s musician, Kashif made more guest appearances and had more writing and production credits then he had releases baring his own name, particularly when he formed his own production company, Mighty M Productions (with Paul Laurence Jones III and Morrie Brown). He rivaled the likes of Leon Sylvers and Dick Griffey’s Sound of Los Angeles Records that were helping shape the black musical landscape at the latter end of the ‘70s.
Born Michael Jones in Brooklyn in 1959, (he would later take the Islamic name Kashif Saleem), Kashif began his musical career as keyboardist with funk ensemble B.T. Express, circa 1976-79, leaving initially to work with the Four Tops before setting up his Mighty M Productions home. The hits quickly followed with Evelyn King’s “I’m In Love”, “Love Come Down” and “Get Loose” opus, Melba Moore’s “Love’s Comin’ At Cha” and her album ‘Other Side Of The Rainbow’, leading the charge.
Embracing the still embryonic synthesizer and sample technology of the day, the Mighty M sound was innovative, clean and crisp, with varying tempos and styles coming as a welcome alternative to the racing tempos and frantic styles of the disco era. As an artist, early 1983 saw Arista issue Kashif’s debut 45, “I Just Got To Have You (Lover Turn Me On)” – a career defining moment, although audiences at the time were hard pressed as they struggled valiantly not to sing the words of “Love Come Down” to this spacious number that actually sported vocal assistance from Evelyn King. The eponymous ‘Kashif’ album duly followed and was everything to be expected with the dancers “Stone Love” and “Help Yourself To My Love” released as singles, while the equally chunky “The Mood” and “Rumors” were standouts on a set that saturated urban radio and the pirate airwaves on each respective side of the Atlantic.
As a prequel to his sophomore set, “Baby Don’t Break Your Baby’s Heart” arrived twelve months later. Described at the time in the press as a cross between Michael Jackson and Al Green, Kashif once again showed just how versatile the multi-instrumentalist was as a singer, as the loosely mid-tempo number again found instant appeal. The parent album, ‘Send Me Your Love’, was really part two of his debut – another fine collection of shuffling soul grooves, catchy hooks and soul-infused melodies, with another all-star support cast. Lillo Thomas and Meli’sa Morgan (who he would later record a sublime version of Mothers Finest’s “Love Changes” with) worked their magic on “Ooh Love”, George Benson strummed on the funky “I’ve Been Missin’ You” and downbeat title track, Al Jarreau scatted on the ambiguously speedy “Edgartown Groove”, and a young Whitney Houston harmonised on the seductive slow jam, “Are You The Woman”. The release also signposted future production collaborations with Houston on her debut album, ‘Whitney Houston’, and Benson on his “Inside Love (So Personal)” opus.
Both albums earned the producer-cum-artist Grammy Award nominations, and rightly so, although he failed to win the prestigious honour. Despite being blessed with a strong, distinguished voice and impressive range, Kashif remained an unsung R&B talent after scattering a handful of hits and three further albums during the remainder of decade. He decided to hang up his headphones to pursue a career as a lecturer and eventual author, writing the definitive guide to making it in the music industry – Everything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry in 1995.
RATINGS: 9 and 8 respectively
Lewis Dene has been involved in the many facets of the music business for over 20 years. As a music journalist he has previously written for Blues & Soul, Record Collector, Music Week and DJ magazine. He currently consults for Media 2 Radio and is a resident DJ for Hed Kandi in America.
About the Writer
Lewis Dene has been involved in the many facets of music business for over 20 years. As a music journalist he has previously written for Blues & Soul, Record Collector, Music Week and the BBC, in the process compiling and/or writing liner notes for over 200 CDs (including a number for SoulMusic Records). Lewis currently consults for Kings Of Spins and is a resident DJ for Hed Kandi in America.