The Real Thing – 1976 – The Real Thing
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Dominated by the monster hit and U.K. chart-topper “You to Me Are Everything“, truly one of the benchmark moments in the development of mid-’70s U.K. soul, the Real Thing’s fall 1976 debut arrived hot on the heels of their second major smash, “Can’t Get by Without You“, and between those two songs, everything you need to know about the Real Thing is on display. Blindingly romantic, gently persuasive, and smooth as a summer sea, The Real Thing is as much a showcase for the quartet’s Philly-felt vocals as for the material; the moments when they do toughen up, such as the gently cynical “(He’s Just A) Moneymaker“, are contrarily the weakest tracks, whereas the softer ballads send the romantic’s pulse racing. The third of the album’s three hit singles, the closing “You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing“, is as fine a promise as anything Gamble & Huff were delivering at this time. But it is “You to Me Are Everything” that remains the album’s high point, its unabashed sentiment racing into a soaring chorus that is impossible to shake away. The Real Thing would end the decade as Britain’s highest-selling black act of the late ’70s. As the best (and best-selling) of their albums, The Real Thing accounts for much of their pre-eminence.
Artist Biography by Andrew Hamilton
Northern soul had emerged in the north of England when the Real Thing formed in 1970, but the disco/funk/soul quartet couldn’t get into the obscure R&B sounds, preferring instead the more progressive soul of the Temptations, Barry White, and funk jams. The Liverpool natives aspired for international success, a dream that went unfulfilled. Original members Chris Amoo, Dave Smith,Kenny Davis, and Ray Lake began by covering and remaking popular American recordings, and experienced payback when Frankie Valli and others covered their number one British hit “You to Me Are Everything.” They cracked Britain’s Top Ten for the second consecutive time with “Can’t Get By Without You.” Their first recording opportunity arose with EMI Records, where they cut their first single, “Plastic Man;” a remake of Tavares‘ “Check It Out” was the flip. The record didn’t open many doors, but they continued thriving on the club circuit. Other EMI singles, including “Listen Joe McGintoo” and “Vicious Circles“, were largely ignored.
For unknown reasons, Davis left, and the Real Thing continued as a trio, doing some commercials, as well as live gigs. Their career began to sprout wings when David Essex started producing their initial Pye Recordings. Opening for Essex, they toured all over, even the States, the home of the music they loved. Initial collaborations with Essex, like previous recordings, were turntable hits, but sold few copies. By this time, Amoo’ brother Eddie, who had sung with the Chants on Pye, joined the Real Thing. The Liverpool-bred but Ghanaian parentage brothers started writing songs that fleshed out their albums. Later, Loose Ends recorded an Amoo composition, “In the Sky,” for their Virgin Records debut in 1980.
The Real Thing hooked up with Ken Gold, and boom, “You to Me Are Everything” aced the British pop chart and placed number 66 pop and number 29 soul in the States. Their first album, titled The Real Thing, contained their chart busters and previous singles. The group wanted to call their second LP Liverpool 8, the name of the racially mixed section of Liverpool where they grew up with Asians, Africans, Chinese, Irish, and anyone else who couldn’t afford more opulent surroundings. Pye Records didn’t like the name, so they compromised with Four From Eight, which meant nothing to anyone outside of Britain.
The Real Thing continued releasing albums, waxing four for Pye: Step Into Our World and Can You Feel the Force. PRT Records released 100 Minutes in 1982, their last regularly scheduled LP. Waxworks Records dropped a live LP in 1998, The Real Thing Live; many compilations and best-of albums documenting their career are on the market.