Interview recorded February 28, 2012
In 1971, three young men from Harlem cut their debut single "Don't Turn Around". 41 years and many classics later BLACK IVORY - Leroy Burgess, Stuart Bascombe and Russell Patterson - have a brand new album, CONTINUUM, their first in over 30 years. SoulMusic.com's resident "Soul Sleuth" KEVIN GOINS spoke with Leroy and Stuart about their music and their latest release.
This is Kevin Goins with SoulMusic.com and I’m with two of three members of a legendary group who came out of New York City. It’s been 40 years since they released their debut album on the Today label, DON’T TURN AROUND. I’ll tell you, fans did not turn around; they turned out to the stores, bought this record in mass amounts. The single, which was the title of their album, was a huge hit in late 1971. The album came out in early ’72, and had many jams. Now, lets fast forward to 2012. They’re back, brand new album called CONTINUUM. The three members of this group are as follows: there’s Russell Patterson, who is not with us today. He is busy with work, but we have Stuart Bascombe and Leroy Burgess. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to SoulMusic.com, Black Ivory.
KG: Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.
Leroy: Thank you, very much.
Stuart: Thank you Kevin; it’s our pleasure to be here.
KG: It’s our honor and pleasure to be speaking with you. And I’ll tell you, I was just going through in the notes--first of all, I want to congratulate you two, and Russell, for 40 years of creating great music, and I’m going to ask you the question that I asked Otis Williams of the Temptations, I asked Melissa Morgan--where has the time gone? It just seems as though 40 years just went by like that.
Stuart: Absolutely. Time does fly.
Leroy: When you’re having fun.
Stuart: Times does fly when you’re not having too much fun, too. I’ve found over the years that it seems like the older I get, the faster it goes. I mean, I know what used to seem to take a month’s time years ago--now it seems like it goes by in a week.
K: That’s the same thing that Otis Williams of the Temptations said to me back in October, that we’re just having fun, and I tell you, we had fun listening to your music. Now, we’re going to do a brief little back story, back history of Black Ivory, because one thing I noticed when I got assigned the interview, a lot of folks will say, “Black Ivory--isn’t that the group with Leroy Burgess?” Well, yes, Leroy Burgess was in the group, but there were two other guys there, hello! Russell and Stewart. Let’s go back to 1971, or before then, how did you three come together?
Stuart: Leroy, why don’t you go first, since you entered the group before I did.
Leroy: Okay, well, back in ’68 I met--while at a summer camp job--I met a gentleman named Larry Newkirk, who lived in the neighborhood, who was also doing summer counseling. We were just playing basketball on the court as a little transistor radio was playing, and a song came on the radio, “Here I Go Again” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
K: Oh My Goodness.
Leroy: And we both started singing along. And Larry sounded good, Larry had a great voice; he was hitting all the notes, and then I started singing, started hitting all the notes, too, and before I knew it, I was singing by myself and all these people was watching, including Larry. So, shortly after that, Larry invited me to come meet his vocal group, The Mellow Souls, and he lived in the complex not far from mine, called Esplanade Gardens. I met with the group, I met with Larry and the group, and I joined the group. They allowed me to join the group at that time.
I think, maybe about two weeks after that, or it could have been less or a little bit more time, but shortly after that, Larry told me about a new singer that he met that lived in his complex named Stuart Bascombe, and he asked me to come meet him. And we got together with Stuart, and Stuart sang and his voice was wonderful and so forth, so he was the fifth member of the Mellow Souls.
Then over a short amount of time, the other members said--just Larry Newkirk, Vito Ramirez, and Michael Harris--decided for various reasons to not pursue the music career, leaving myself and Stuart. So we went looking for additional members, and we came upon our dear friend Russell Patterson. We definitely made the trio from that point. Shortly after that, the name of the group changed from The Mellow Souls to Black Ivory. I think I covered it, right Stu?
Stuart: Yes. They tell me that there was some other dynamics in some of the ways that things occurred, but that’s basically the story.
KG: Okay, wonderful. So, as I mentioned to Leroy, Stuart, that Black Ivory--we saw three guys on the album cover, three of you on the TV show “Soul,” which was on PBS, which is still circulating out there in cyber space, but there was also actually a fourth member of Black Ivory, and I’m talking about Patrick Peter Adams--your producer and then collaborator. How did he come into the picture?
Stuart: Well, as Leroy told the story of how we came about, we actually came into the group by the same mutual friend, and that was Larry Newkirk. Larry was living in the building next to me. One day, he invited me to come to a rehearsal with his group. I sang along, and shortly after that, we were supposed to meet a gentleman that was a friend of Larry, named Patrick Adams. He wasn’t able to meet us, so we sang over the phone to him. After we sang over the phone to him, he said, “Why don’t you come on down to this school.” What school was it?
Leroy: P.S. 93 on 133rd street in Harlem.
Stuart: Right, and we all went into the auditorium, and he was sitting at the piano and we started talking a little bit, and he started playing and he had us try a few things. From that point, he started working with us. He used to play with a band called The Spark, that was pretty popular back then in Harlem, and even made an appearance in a film. Do you remember the name of the film, Leroy?
Leroy: No, I don’t. I didn’t remember that he was in a film.
Stuart: Up the Down Staircase, or something like that.
Leroy: Oh yeah, that’s right. He was in Up The Down Staircase with Sandy Dennis.
KG: Great play.
Stuart: He was playing with a band on the street.
Leroy: Yeah, I remember that. Wow.
Stuart: I think that was the name of it.
Leroy: Yeah. The name of the band was the Spark, and I think that was the film, Up the Down Staircase.
Stuart: He had already started writing, and …
Leroy: He’d also done singles for the Carlettes on Capitol Records. He had a record and a single out with them. I forget the title of the record, and he had a small artist roster, right, Stu?
Stuart: Well, I don’t remember, but I know that he was affiliated with a number of people that were in the local music scene. One was the group called the Solo Gaters, and let me see, there was Al Levant, and Sophilia Carlisle, and he and Sophilia Carlisle wrote the first song that we actually went into the studio and recorded. It was a song called “Let Them Keep On Talking,” which was later recorded and released by Top Shelf on the label. It was a really nice song, but we didn’t get past the demo stage with it.
After that, Patrick continued writing and trying to get us a deal. At one point, we hooked up with Gene Redd Jr, who was the manager of Kool and the Gang at the time, who had his own label that he had started, called Redd Coach Records.
We went into the studio and recorded five or six songs for prospective release under Redd Coach Records, and so during that period of time, we were doing some live shows; we started doing live shows. There was a promoter by the name of City Power back then, that used to get shows at free locations in the city, also in Newark, and also down in DC and Philly.
They introduced us to the public by letting us perform through song before Kool and the Gang would start their show. Kool and the Gang would play during the time we did our song. So some of the records that we did for release on Redd Coach Records were able to move forward and add material that would later end up on the DON’T TURN AROUND Album. “She Said She Was Leaving” was the only song that really moved forward from …
Leroy: Yeah, that made if from the demo stage to the actual album. If I could just add: Later on, like in ’93, my family--my mom’s maiden name is Bell--and I’ve always known that Thom Bell was her cousin. But the funny thing about Kool and the Gang actually supporting us as our introducing band, the band that introduced the group, I did not know at the time that they were my cousins, and through the Bell family name we were actually related. They were from North Jersey, and our family was mostly from South Jersey. So, we never had the chance to get together. I found that interesting that we were actually introduced by people to whom I was related, and didn’t know it.
KG: Right, and Leroy, I had somewhat of an awareness that your family was related to the Bells, Robert “Kool” Bell and the Bells out of Northern Jersey, as well as the great Thom Bell, so what a lineage, my friend.
Leroy: Well, and then they had me [Laughing].
KG: What a lineage. Come on.
Leroy: Yeah, but it’s very cool to have that, you know. If I was asked where my music comes from, I now know that it’s, I don’t know, in the bloodline or something. I feel as though I was destined to do music from my family lineage, and to have so many wonderful people, and talented sources of music a part of my family lineage--that’s a blessing.
KG: Absolutely. Now, I’m going to just jump ahead here and just say that after the three of you released the album DON’T TURN AROUND, and then the second album from Today, the name escapes me.
Leroy: BABY WON’T YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND.
KG: Thank you. BABY WON’T YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND. Thank you so much. The three of you, to me, along with the Five Stair Steps, the three of you were like the best example of what I call ‘70s teen soul. You had that audience that kind of were a little too old for the Jackson 5, but weren’t quite ready for the strong stuff that came out from Chicago and Philadelphia. You had that audience that kind of fell right in the middle.
The music that you created, “Baby Won’t You Change Your Mind,” “Don’t Turn Around,” “You and I,” “Will We Ever Come Together,” “The Loneliest Man in Town (I’ll Find A Way),” which was my favorite, “She Said She’s Leaving”… it’s like the subject matter that you three, along with Patrick, wrote about, really addressed that audience because you were in that audience. That’s what, to me, made your music so special, and you were a part of that, what I call that ‘70s teen soul, which I guess is that the kids in between the Jackson 5 era and what we call the grown folks era.
Stuart: That’s an interesting observation. I never looked at it that way.
Leroy: Me either.
Stuart: I mean it’s obvious. It’s obvious, seeing that most of our publicity in print came from Right On Magazine and things of that nature, and our comparisons were to the Jacksons and the Sylvers, and you’re right, we were talking about our lives at the time. We were teens ourselves, so the subject matter of our songs, and the energy we voiced, probably exemplified the times, the ‘70s and where we were coming from. I’ve never heard anybody make that point before.
Leroy: And another thing about it Stu, is that, the (Five) Stairsteps was one of the groups that inspired us, as well. As you mentioned, they were in that teen, a little older than the Jacksons, but not quite as old as the Delfonics or some of the other groups … Moments and Miracles and stuff like that. It’s the first time that that’s come up. That we were part of a teen, mid-tween teen thing.
Stuart: It’s funny for that time, I’m talking about starting at 1967, when the Five Stairsteps first made their appearance with “Danger! She’s A Stranger.” That was like the youth’s--a child myself--that was the first evidence that a person like me, at my age, that had an interest in singing, entering a career and profession in singing, that it was a possibility, because there were some kids doing it; there were the Stairsteps doing it. Then after that, the Jackson 5 took it to a totally different level. So, without a doubt, both the Jackson 5--and could presume a career with Black Ivory, more so than Stairsteps, as you mention.
KG: Right and also you mentioned another group, the Sylvers, too.
Stuart: Yes. And we had the pleasure of doing some shows with them. There’s a picture that’s almost becoming iconic, one existing picture that we have with the Sylvers.;It really takes you back.
KG: Right, I remember seeing that picture, and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.” You all were so young, and the music was vibrant and the afros—oh, my goodness. I’m like “My goodness, this is like an advertisement for Afro Sheen.” Like you said, Stuart, it’s a classic photo, and I’ve seen it in my travels, too. Now, I wanted to move through, you recorded two albums for Today; you cut a single for Kwanza, got signed to Buddah Records for, at least, I believe, three or four albums.
And then you gentlemen made the transition from--I call it teen soul--into the dance era with the record MAINLINE, which surprised me as a listener because I’m listening to all this great stuff that you guys are doing, and then, all of a sudden, you come out with this really cool disco record. It was quite a transition there. Now, how did MAINLINE come about? Because I believe, Leroy, you had moved on from the group at that time, right?
Leroy: That’s correct. Well, let’s go back just a little bit. During the creation of the third album, FEEL IT, and the fourth album, the self titled BLACK IVORY album, we had a dope band. We had a really great band, able to realize our music, and we were able to really be creative with it. So, that was our fledgling days as producers, and that was our introduction, both individually and collectively into production, and the production of a record. So, on records like those, like the two albums I mentioned, we began to experiment with up-tempo songs, trying to break out of the whole slow song ‘70s group into more of a diverse group.
We did songs like “Daily News” on the FEEL IT album, and songs like “Dance” on the BLACK IVORY album that began to approach that market. But we were still kind of stereotyped and everybody was like, “Oh, fast songs are nice, but y’all need to do more slow songs.” I began to feel a little stifled, being kind of typecast in that. So I decided to move on, and began to try stepping into dance music and doing dance musing and seeing what that was about. It was something that, at the time, I felt that I really couldn’t accomplish with BLACK IVORY.
So, in 1977, I left the group and began to try to examine the dance music marketplace and my place there in it. ’79, my brothers came back to me and they were doing what would be the fifth BLACK IVORY album, called HANGING HEAVY and they asked me if I had some songs that I might want to split, and one of the songs that I had was a composition called “Mainline,” along with, I think one of the other songs, too, was “Hustlin’.”
Stuart: And the other song was “Get Down, Coming Down.”
Leroy: So, it was three songs. So, I actually returned to the group in an arranger capacity. I also sang vocals and played keyboards and did the rhythm arrangements for those three cuts. It also reunited us with Patrick Adams, who did a lot of help with the arrangement, and stuff like that. As you said, it became one of the defining moments for us, as a group. Although I wasn’t a featured member, we had still done this all as together as we had always worked. That’s something that made it special for me.
Stuart: You did all the vocal arrangement on all the other songs except for “Big Apple Rock.”
Leroy: Right. Thank you for reminding me. I did all the vocal arrangements, with the exception of “Big Apple Rock.” But, like I said, the point that I was making was although I had stepped away, we remained friends; we remained brothers and partners that could continue to work together and try to achieve meaningful work that would take us places in the marketplace.
K: Absolutely. And I want to just say, as we move forward into getting to talk about the CONTINUUM album, that the supposedly--in the 1980s you know, Leroy you just took off with the Fantastic Aleems and Logg and many other things. And I know Stuart, correct me, I think there was a Black Ivory album that came out around ’84 or ’85 where you did remakes of your hits?
Stuart: Yes, Russell Patterson was the only one that was involved at that time, and they came out with an album called THEN AND NOW. There was a tune called “You Are My Lover” that was on the album. They redid “Find the One That Loves You.” That was the album that the new version of “You and I”--that seems to be the one that appears on most of the reissues--appears on that album for the first time.
For years people were not able to get their hands on the original long version of “You and I.” It was on the DON’T TURN AROUND album, but now with the magic of YouTube, people have posted the video featuring the long version. Russell Paterson had approached me at that time. He was working with our former manager, Leonard Adams, to do the new Black Ivory project, but I declined at the time. I just started working on my own with synthesizers and MIDI and was trying to go in a different direction myself, so I declined. But they came out with a few records--one that was pretty successful; I can’t remember the name of it though.
K: You mentioned about the remake of “You and I,” which did pop up on a good compilation, much to, like you said, thank goodness for YouTube and the fact that being a former New Yorker, I was able to get my greedy little fingers on an original copy of DON’T TURN AROUND, which is now in storage. And I have the long version of “You and I,” which is, to me, like I said to Patrick Adams back in the late ‘90s, a masterpiece.
Stuart: It wasn’t really a remake, it was a remix, because the masters had become lost.
Stuart: Our manager, Leonard Adams had the possession of the 16 track tape that we used to do it. And what he did is he did a remix. The problem was the original version was not just one tape; it was a composite of different tapes that were put together at the time by different engineers--by Patrick Adams. So the version that you hear on the DON’T TURN AROUND album, the lead vocals weren’t taken from one tape; they were taken from three different tapes. So when they remixed it, the engineer and Lenny Adams, and whoever had the mixing session, didn’t put the tapes together in the same way as it was done originally.
In addition to that, they added additional instrumentation, in terms of some synthesizer in some other parts. I think they may have replaced the drums, also. But, Russell would probably know better.
Stuart: So, it’s the original recording; it’s just mixed differently.
K: Mixed differently, gotcha. Thanks so much for clarifying that. Now, the three of you, I remember the three of you came--you reunited for a few gigs during the 1990s and whatnot, so I wanted to kind of go from there to today, and you have this great new album called CONTINUUM, and I got a copy of it, thanks to the wonders of the internet, and it seems as though the three of you have gone from the ‘70s teen soul to what--the phrase that’s being used now is “grown folks’ music”--and I said to Leroy a couple weeks ago, Stuart, that--pardon my French --“This is some damn good music I’m hearing on here.”
Stuart: Well, thank you.
Leroy: Thank you, and I remember you mentioned that to me. Like you said, we began--we reunited officially in 1995, just shortly after the passing of our former manager Leonard Adams, and we reunited and we began to say, “Lets see what’s out there; let’s do a couple of shows and see what we’ve got--see what we can do.” So forth and so on. So we continued to perform from ’95 to about 2002, when the brainstorm of, “Well, let’s think about doing a new album, a completely new Black Ivory album.”
And that’s when we began collectively submitting compositions that we thought might fit the project, and creating compositions. We took our time. We were meticulous about it, and with respect to each other, over the years all of us have evolved into production entities for lack of a better word.
Stuart does his own production and arrangement, and he’s excellent at it, as is Russell. And, as you know, I’d like to hope that I am. So, in coming together for this album, we decided whoever came in with the song or the production, to leave that person alone--to not influence them unduly with input from another production agency.
For instance, in the case of “Win at Love,” which was an amazing song, which Stuart had produced: We didn’t want to change it. We just wanted to add whatever elements we could to it, without stepping on Stuart’s toes as a producer. The same was true of “Lucky Tonight,” which was Russell’s production.
That helped present our collective side and individual side as musicians and creative people. At the same time, in working together, vocally, on most of the projects, you get to hear the sense of the group. That’s one of the things that I’m proud of. It states our evolution from the teenage group, back in the day, from the slow song group, back in the day, to a more evolved and a more relevant to today’s time group. And it presents all three of us, all of our talents, everything that we can do, as opposed to us just being singers, or just being tunnel-visioned in one category, because we’ve learned and been blessed in so many things, in so many years, and a lot of those elements are present in CONTINUUM.
Stuart: The funny thing is, also, that, as a 50-something year-old, it’s kind of hard to write some of that stuff now, you know?
Stuart: You start writing lyrics like, you know, “I love you Baby,” and “You mean everything to me…” and you start writing it and you say, “This sounds so childish,” and you really have to, sometimes, eventually, because we are more mature and we’re adults, our ideas are coming out of us differently, but then sometimes I might slip back into that easy type of rhyming verse when writing lyrics. Then you look at it and say, “No, that’s really just a little bit too simplistic,” so, generally, I know me as a writer, I try to approach the subject matter from a little bit more sophistication than I used to.
Leroy: If I may, Stuart, there’s a balance between what we did then, even the lyricism of what we did then, and where we are today. The world has changed; we’ve changed. The dynamic of how people talk to each other has changed, and CONTINUUM reflects that in that it’s not trying to be a back-in-the-day album. It’s trying to show our evolution, our growth, and where we are today, while still being respectful to our classic roots and our classic history, and so forth and so on. That was important, as you remember, Stu, in the development of the album.
Stuart: Back then we wanted to, and we continue to just try to be honest with our music.
Leroy: That’s exactly right--trying to find an honest presentation of it, because without that, it’s like kind of fake to us.
KG: This is just amazing to hear the two of you just explain the process of creating this album, creating the songs, and I just put my microphone on mute, and I’m just letting you two just carry this, because this is great to hear, great to listen to, and I want to back-track for a moment. You mentioned the song “Win at Love,” which is--I mean, this ballad just knocked me off my feet, and I wanted to know, Stuart, is that you on lead?
Stuart: Yes. Yes, that is me on lead.
KG: Oh my goodness. That song just bowled me over. It’s a beautiful ballad, and I want to touch base on something you mentioned, that both of you mentioned, about your lyricism. Today it’s a different place, we’ve grown from when we were kids, and, lyrically, just like DON’T TURN AROUND and “Baby Won’t You Change Your Mind” and “Will We Ever Come Together?” Those recordings, the lyrics reflected what you guys were going through then.
The lyrics of the songs on CONTINUUM reflect what you guys are going through now, and to me, if I may quote a Tavares album, another family group, you guys were like the kings of hardcore poetry, with your lyrics. It’s amazing; It’s what I always loved about listening to your records. I also want to touch base on “Lucky Tonight,” and I’m like--I almost had to laugh, because it’s like one of those records--it kind of reminds me of a record that came out around ’97 by the group Next. Remember the record “Too Close”?
Leroy: We performed it.
K: Okay. So you performed it in concert. “Lucky Tonight” kind of takes the subject matter of “Too Close” up to another level, but in a very classy and tasteful way.
Stuart: Yes. It’s a great song. I think it was the last submission for the album.
Leroy: It was the last submission.
Stuart: When I heard it, immediately, the song is so upbeat and has such a happy feel, and such a positive feel, and with such sophistication, talking about you know seductive patterns. I just think it’s really the composition, the production values are very high and very well done, and it speaks about the subject matter in a mature way, and also, the elements in the production helped to make it a lot more relevant-- of the younger audience today who are buying majority of the music. I really applaud Russell Patterson and Chris McCray for their production on it.
Leroy: And if I could just add to that, Stu. That’s one of the things that I like about the album--that Russell comes from a place where he’s listening to and he emulates, in his production, the current type of music that’s being played today. You understand? I want to say a little younger sound, a little hip-hoppy sounding, and stuff like that. Just stuff that relates to the younger listeners of the day, and again, as Stuart does, I applaud Russell for doing that.
But one of the plusses being, the project with all three of us coming in from our different production schools, just as Stuart came in with the amazingly wonderful ballad, “Win at Love,” I came in with a song like “Like Falling,” “Don’t Need No Rehab,” or “Ghost.” All three of us wrote three ballads, but they are all individual to us as people, and working it together as a group, it’s just a wonderful dynamic thing that’s happening, so I’m really pleased about that … that across the board on the album is such a variety of styles and so forth, that we hope that there’s something every one can get into and appreciate on it.
KG: Right. And I’m glad you mentioned the three songs that you submitted, Leroy. I like “Falling,” “Don’t Need No Rehab,” and “Ghost.” You talk about a variety right there. As well as coming from Stuart and from Russell, especially the song “Don’t Need No Rehab.” I said, “Oh my God. You guys have got to do a remix of this and put it on the 12 inch, because it screams that, and it’s wonderful to hear that, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, my goodness. Are they responding to Amy Winehouse or what?”--because of the title, “Don’t Need No Rehab,” but when I listen to the song …
Leroy: I knew this question would come up, so if you don’t mind, Stuart, I’ll just take this one. Basically, it’s not a response to Winehouse, because of the use of the word rehab. Rather, “Don’t Need No Rehab” is actually part two of the “Mainline” story, alright? “Mainline” is a song that I wrote that, what do you call it, used the drug world as a metaphor for being in love. Being in love is so much like being on a drug that you can’t get off. That’s where “Mainline” came from. “Rehab” takes that same story to the next step: “I’m so in love with you, I don’t need to be rehabilitated from it.” You understand?
Leroy: It’s controversial, because, again, like “Mainline,” it’s using that metaphor. It’s using drugs as a metaphor for love. The idea is the same. It’s like a step away and that’s how I wrote it. I said I needed to write a “Mainline” type of song, and I said, “Well, what would be a good title?” and I said, “Don’t Need No Rehab,” but it’s a follow up to our song “Mainline.”
KG: Okay. Thanks for the clarification there. Also, the song “Ghost.” I had to chuckle, because it had that sinister sound with the keyboards and everything, and the lyrics about “I’m gone like a ghost, I’m toast.” I almost had to chuckle, because just the wittiness of the writing there stood out.
Leroy: Well, again, and thank you. “Ghost” is my little tune about something that happened to me with a young lady that I know, that I was romancing back a little while ago in the ‘90s, and set up this beautiful dinner at home--the rose petals and the flowers and everything like that, and she said she was supposed to come home, and you know, it was supposed to be our night.
And what happened was she went to work and she got with her girls at work, and they decided to go to an after-work party and ended up being there for a while. The dinner got ruined and so forth and so on.
KG: The candles got melted.
Leroy: When she finally did come in around two in the morning, and I was like, “Okay, that’s no problem. Just finish your story; finish telling me what happened,” as I got ready to go out myself, and have my little fun. That’s the story behind “Ghost.” I just stepped out after the dinner was ruined.
KG: Gotcha. Oh, my goodness. The things that inspire--the muse. I also want to point out one other song that came on right after “Ghost,” which was “Looking for Love,” and I’m thinking to myself, I’m hearing “blue dress.” I’m hearing certain things related to a certain figure named Monica Lewinsky and I’m thinking, “uh oh, wow.” Talk to me about that.
Leroy: That’s all you.
Stuart: As we had already stated, we don’t stay away from the controversial unnecessarily. We don’t try to be shocking. We’re not really going for shock value at all. No, “Looking for Love.” Two of the songs I submitted for this album, I collaborated with two other writers, as I wanted to mention before, when you were talking about “Win at Love,” that I collaborated on that with Richard Barrett Jr., who’s the son of the legendary Richard Barrett, from the Valentines, started the Teenagers, and also had The Three Degrees later on. His son and I had been friends for years, and worked on a couple music projects, and “Win at Love” is the result of a collaboration between he and I.
“Looking for Love” is a collaboration between Russell Patterson and I. I worked primarily on the track, originally, and gave it to Russell, and Russell wrote the lyrics. I think he, in conjunction with things that were current on television, and one of the news stories that he had heard recently--and in addition to one of the elements in the musical arrangement, which was a sample of my oldest son, Patrick, when he was 10 years old, saying “Are You Recording This?” So, that was part of the original track that I gave Russell. It gave it the perfect element to fit in with the subject matter of the Monica Lewinsky.
He said that he’d seen a news story, and he thought about writing a story about it. He wrote the lyrics and sang the melody to me, and I liked it, and just started working on a background arrangement. It eventually just ended up being one of the songs that I submitted for CONTINUUM. I
think that the lyrics approached the subject matter from an interesting perspective, because it’s not trying to create any judgment from an outside observer as to the rightness and wrongness of the incident, but to me it seems like he’s an imaginary or telephonic conversation between the two people, and the guy’s like you know, “Did you say something? Why didn’t you say something?”--an imaginary conversation, and I thought it was interesting.
KG: It was.
Leroy: If I may just add to that, Stu. In the chorus when it says, “When looking for love, sometimes the tables turn. Fascinated by the fire. One touch, and then you know you get burned,” which takes the whole Monica Lewinsky, the President, doing what they did thing, and puts it in a verbal perspective that is a cautionary situation.
Leroy: and it’s saying sometimes love is a wonderful thing, but we’re old enough to have been in these other love situations that ain’t quite as wonderful, and mistakes are made, and so forth and so on. If you’re the President, and you’re making that kind of mistake in the White House [laughing], that’s something that you would consider to be noteworthy. I give kudos to both Stu and Russell in their presentation of it, particularly in how they captured the entire idea within that chorus.
Stuart: I take full responsibility to the blue dress. It’s the results of my afinity for the irreverent and the humorous.
KG: I feel like the line from Mission Impossible: “If for some reason y’all get caught, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of the action.”
Leroy: That’s exactly right, and we paid the secretary to do exactly that.
KG: There ya go! Well, gentleman, the CONTINUUM album--I have to ask you, how well is it selling now? I mean, it’s been out for a few months, correct?
Stuart: Yes, yes it has, and the primary outlet that it’s selling on is CDBaby.com,, and it’s been really holding up on top of the charts for a couple of months. It slipped a little bit this week, but we’ll take care of that, and also this entity will help as well. It’s done pretty good for indie release. We’re getting a lot of … I’ve seen nothing but praise from it. The worst criticism I’ve heard, so far, is somebody saying, “Hey, on the next album, use some real drums.”
KG: Oh, Lord, here we go.
Stuart: If that’s the worst thing they can say, I’m pretty pleased.
Leroy: If I may add, it’s getting into people’s ears and into people’s heads. People seem to like the compositions, the construction, the production values. They like the way that we sound, and they like what they’re hearing, so we’re looking at the project as having just been released. We’re still working it. We’re still trying to move it into bigger and better places.
As Stu has said, it’s remaining pretty much at the top of the CD Baby charts, and coming to the attention of many, many people. We want to try to augment that and just try to get it to as many people as we possibly can. People seem to be loving it, and that’s what makes me happy. I just love the fact that people get into the music and enjoy it.
Stuart: I’d like to add that I’m really proud of the work we did, my brothers Russell Patterson and Leroy Burges did on the album. One of the compliments that we are constantly getting on the CD, and one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that we made the record, period. Anybody that’s purchased, or has the CD in their hands, knows that it’s a great quality package, and Russell Patterson was in charge of the art production.
Leroy: Oh yeah, the artwork, yes.
Stuart: And we applaud him for that, also. We’re really proud.
Leroy: We’re proud of each other, and we will … I look at my bother Stuart, and my brother Russell, and myself in this configuration, and blessed to be able to do a new album and to get it out there and bring it to fruition as a milestone and a huge blessing. I love the album; I enjoy listening to it. I still play it all the time. It’s not that I don’t play my music all the time. I enjoy listening to this, because it’s me and my brothers, and I feel the forty-one years, and I feel the history, and it’s just an amazing moment for us. My hope is that we’re blessed that everybody might care and is with us.
Stuart: I really do believe that we’re really just starting with this thing. I think this is going to have a pretty long shelf life.
Leroy: We hope. If I got anything to say about it, it will.
KG: You know what? I’ll say this. When David Nathan, the founder of Soulmusic.com, and, of course, the US editor of Blues and Soul Magazine--when he gave me this assignment--he really has nothing but the highest regard for the three of you, and the music you’ve created … as well as the people who have bought your records and have listened to them and requested them on the radio. Now, my final question is, what’s next for Black Ivory? A tour? Appearances? Where do we go from here?
Stuart: Our line is open for people that want to book us.
Leroy: Wide open.
Stuart: We have some dates, perspective dates that are upcoming. I don’t want to mention them yet.
Leroy: Until we finalize them.
Stuart: Most of the things that we’ve been doing is doing local appearances, getting exposure for the CD with CD signings, and appearances with political figures. We did one yesterday for Black History Month here in New York City. We’re talking about what the next step is, in addition to seeking every new angle that we can to promote the current project. Once we get it to a wider audience, trying to get some commercial airplay.
In addition to that, when we released the album, when we started a record label, we’re talking about the next step—CONTINUUM--because you mentioned a remix, we’ve been talking about remixes for a couple of months now. That’s one of the reasons I think that the album is going to have a long shelf life, because we’re not finished with CONTINUUM yet. Not just promotion, but I’m talking about even artistically, we’re not finished with it yet. So, we plan remixes on a few songs.
Leroy: For us, as God would have it, and with his grace, in giving us breath everyday, we plan to try to continue to move forward--initially, with a remix project that starts to present some alternatives for some of the songs on CONTINUUM. We’re going to move forward with another release, hopefully, this year, perhaps seasonal songs.
And then we’ve opened a record company, so we’re interested in utilizing it as a record company. At some point, we’re going to be looking at, and looking for new artists. We’re going to be looking for new producers to work with us, and just trying to expand this as far as God would have us do. Hopefully, with the support of people like yourself, and the press and the support of our fans, and so forth and so on, we hope to continue to present the best of what God blesses us with, musically, and through our talents, as we possibly can.
K: Absolutely. We will end the interview on that note. Folks, the album is called CONTINUUM. The group is Black Ivory. Gentlemen, Leroy Burgess, Stuart Bascombe, and in spirit, because Russell is at work doing his thing, but we’ll say to you three gentlemen, thank you. Thank you so much for allotting your time here for us on SoulMusic.com. This has been a Black Ivory interview for SoulMusic.com. Thank you for listening.
About the Writer
Kevin Goins aka “The Soul Ninja” is a veteran of the radio and recording industries, has authored liner notes for CD collections by Earth Wind & Fire, Melba Moore and Stacy Lattisaw. He's also the producer/host of the Internet radio interview series "Soulful Conversations" as well as a classic R&B show "The Kevin Goins Soul Experience".