Dexter Wansel – 1976 – Life On Mars

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I have already admitted that i adore Philly sound and here is a fine example of this greatness.

Dexter Wansel’s music is pure genius, a jazz/funk/soul concoction sure to please the musical senses.

A fantastic bit of space age funk and easily the best album that Dexter Wansel ever did! The record’s a sublime blend of Wansel’s Philly grooving sensibility, with some of the more keyboard-oriented funk that was coming out of the Herbie Hancock camp during the mid 70s and the result is a tight batch of crossover tracks that work well both as jazz funk groovers, and as smoother modern soul tracks. Includes the version of “Theme From the Planets” with the much sampled breakbeat at the beginning plus lots of other nice ones, including “Life On Mars”, “Rings Of Saturn”, and “Stargazer”.

This is a @320 vinyl rip of my original Philadelphia International record, included artwork.

Tracks
A1 A Prophet Named K.G. (4:20)
A2 Life On Mars (5:50)
A3 Together Once Again (4:23)
Vocals – Terry Welles
A4 Stargazer (3:20)
B1 One Million Miles From The Ground (5:00)
B2 You Can Be What You Wanna Be (5:04)
B3 Theme From The Planets (4:53)
B4 Rings Of Saturn (3:43)

1

Science fiction was big in the 1970s. So from a marketing standpoint, it made sense when, in 1976, Dexter Wansel went for a sci-fi theme on his debut album, Life on Mars. Not that the Philadelphia producer/keyboardist needed a gimmick to get over — if you’re good enough to work with heavyweights like the O’Jays, the Stylistics, and the Intruders, you don’t need a gimmick. Even without the sci-fi theme, Life on Mars would have been a memorable debut for Wansel, who produced the album and wrote or co-wrote all of the material. This diverse LP is far from predictable; if you bought Life on Mars for its title song (a haunting piece of space funk that employs members of Instant Funk), you quickly learned that the record also includes mellow quiet storm offerings (“One Million Miles From the Ground,” “Together Once Again”) as well as Curtis Mayfield-influenced funk (“You Can Be What You Wanna Be”) and pop-jazz/crossover instrumentals (“A Prophet Named K.G.,” “Theme From the Planets”). In fact, one of the musicians Wansel employs is saxophonist Bob Malach, a jazzman who is heavily influenced by Michael Brecker but is more Grover Washington-influenced on this album. Ranging from decent to excellent, Life on Mars is arguably Wansel’s strongest album.

2

Fact is, that Dexter’s talent for playing the keyboard was soon in need of being the central theme of some great, crossover, ground-breaking, new limits-setting album. That album was Life On Mars, released on the Philly label in 1976.

Like any legendary album, it also has a legendary, ass-kickin’, floor-filling track (like Brass Construction’s first album had ‘Movin’ and Grant Green’s ‘Alive!’ featured Sookie Sookie). The track is aptly called ‘Life On Mars‘ and was guaranteed to fill any dancefloor. Dexter played keyboards, Derek Graves provided the throbbing bass line, Terry Wells takes care of some uplifting vocals. The rest was filled in by Dexter’s rythm section called The Planets (featuring Darryl Brown, Calvin Harris, Bobby Malach, Al Harrison and the already mentioned Derek Graves).

It might have occured to you by now, that the universe was an important theme in Dexter’s titles and music. Listening to other tracks on the album, like ‘Stargazer’, ‘Theme from the Planets’ and ‘Rings of Saturn’, you realize that “spacy” is the most obvious label if we were to put any label on Dexter’s music.

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Conversation for album: Dexter Wansel – 1976 – Life On Mars

58 Comments
  • Bobby Fever
    Posted at 13:05h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    very cool – thanks so much! this blog continues to be one of my absolute favorites. the music rules. the album art scans rule. etc. etc. keep it up!

    random request: anything by Dyke & The Blazers?

  • k02
    Posted at 14:59h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    great thanks

  • Soul is the Music
    Posted at 15:19h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    i am at a loss for words. your work is fantastic.

  • Don
    Posted at 15:36h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    Absolutely great stuff.

  • andre
    Posted at 15:58h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    can’t thank u enough for all the work u put into this blog. i love what ur doin. genuine thanks

  • jdayal
    Posted at 18:41h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    great album, thnx alot Nikos!!

  • tswift98
    Posted at 19:09h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    Love this album…….definite classic!!

  • pete
    Posted at 19:50h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    thanks what a superb album thanks great blog

  • Donovan
    Posted at 20:02h, 21 May 2008 Reply

    What a joy this album delivers? u r great niko.

  • musicmeiho
    Posted at 01:18h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Once again a fantanstic up … Thank You!

  • willjello
    Posted at 01:33h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    very good album a philly classic from an artist that continues to make
    music to the present day…thank you

  • manny
    Posted at 02:32h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    man i love old album art, thank u for posting, cant wait to give it a listen

  • Gemma
    Posted at 03:34h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    fantastic! there’s no words to describe how much i love your blog! thank you, Nikos!! =* =* =*

  • luigi
    Posted at 04:57h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Such posts makes me a hugh fan of this wonderful blog.

  • Brandon
    Posted at 05:34h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    thanks a million

  • FEAR
    Posted at 06:55h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    I am new in black music, so i had no idea of him. Brilliant!

  • josh
    Posted at 07:13h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Thank you so much, i really do appreciate all the work you put in putting these great vinyls on this here blog. THANK YOU!!!

  • Jean Paul
    Posted at 10:52h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    C’EST SUPER CE QUE TU FAIS ICI!

  • fritzthecat
    Posted at 14:22h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Man, never mind the music – this record is worth getting for the cover alone!!! Thanks for sharing

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 14:32h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    ha!ha! ok the cover is great but the music is all the money. Simply seductive.

  • fuzzygroove
    Posted at 14:43h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    first time i come here, and first thing i see is one of my top 10 best album! really good work!

  • blackmon
    Posted at 15:38h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    thank you for all your great contributions, Nikos! especially Dexter is a real treat ..
    beautiful spot!

  • Groovy Emmanuel
    Posted at 16:25h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Philly’s in motion. Dexter’s music always sounded a little bit out of the trade mark (and great) MFSB sound, but at the same time is absolutely fitting today’s sounds of club music (nu-jazz, nu soul, no matter how we call it). Great tracks as the title track or “the sweetest pain” (from “Slippin’ Away” lp) can be played in any given moment. Good music fits all.

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 17:38h, 22 May 2008 Reply

    Groovy Emmanuel, my respect for your knowledge. please mail me if you like.

  • Sotriris
    Posted at 06:10h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    Just Fantastic gem. Niko you are BIG Brother!

  • soup23
    Posted at 02:36h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    i love ur blog keep up the good work

  • musicmeiho
    Posted at 05:10h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    Thank you …

  • Lauren
    Posted at 05:21h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    An album far beyond it’s generation.

  • hooch
    Posted at 07:26h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    Many Thanks man!

  • FOn
    Posted at 11:41h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    The best album i’ve download for months.

  • George H.
    Posted at 14:52h, 23 May 2008 Reply

    Heavenly sounds! There must be life on Mars.

  • BeSoul
    Posted at 06:36h, 24 May 2008 Reply

    Best of the best. Thanks Nikos. You have the best Funk-Soul Music blog EVER!

  • DJ Saft
    Posted at 07:47h, 25 May 2008 Reply

    Such a joy to hear this fantastic record.

  • Jock
    Posted at 14:18h, 25 May 2008 Reply

    Thanks Nicos. Great album.

  • Godfaz
    Posted at 18:12h, 28 May 2008 Reply

    Massive thanks !

  • Foe
    Posted at 18:48h, 28 May 2008 Reply

    What a blog!

    Thanks for the fantastic albums and for opening me up to music i would never be able to get hold off!

    easy now

  • LOVE U
    Posted at 19:18h, 22 June 2008 Reply

    You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!
    You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!You have the best blog on the internet. I LOVE IT!!!

  • Larz
    Posted at 06:19h, 21 July 2008 Reply

    As I’m about to turn 50, I’m rediscovering all the great tunes from my teen years. The synth work and rhythm section are just as tight as ever. Thanks for doing making it pop-up on my radar again. Tasty!

  • soti
    Posted at 01:03h, 31 August 2008 Reply

    hi niko, just got blown away by your fantasting site & work. it’s always good to see people who share the same passion (philly sound) as myself, especially here in greece. by the way, why don’t you check the book “a house on fire” by john a. jackson, the ultimate gamble & huff and pir story. lots of facts in there. thanks, man, for the music.

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 01:42h, 31 August 2008 Reply

    Soti, Yes i love philly sound as much as you do. Thanks for book recommendation. i will definitely check it.

  • Marco from the Lowlands
    Posted at 16:06h, 05 September 2008 Reply

    Nice stuff, and discovering the bassline, which was used in 1990 in Earth People’s – Reach up to Mars.

  • ragga63
    Posted at 01:16h, 17 October 2008 Reply

    One of the all-time greats! Thanks for sharing this gem.

    Peace.

  • Havoc Softener
    Posted at 23:01h, 19 October 2008 Reply

    Great Blog, This is used on Lupe Fiasco’s ” The Cool” with a lil funky drummer.

  • lader_m
    Posted at 20:22h, 12 January 2009 Reply

    Great one right here, thank you very much, I’m digging jazzy funk!

  • jackfox
    Posted at 05:00h, 31 January 2009 Reply

    Just stumbled over here and have to say your blog is now one of my favorites! Awesome stuff…THANKS!!!

  • Philly Fan
    Posted at 19:54h, 13 February 2009 Reply

    Thanks for all the hard work, Nikos, and especially for sharing this gem! Those who love the Philly Sound and want to read more about it should check out the latest issue of WaxPoetics magazine. It’s a true treasure trove of inside info and anecdotes by some of the key musicians, vocalists and producers.

  • DiskoTone
    Posted at 03:02h, 16 February 2009 Reply

    Life on Mars! Great tune and phunky disco classic!!!! Awesome job!!!!

  • Claudio
    Posted at 06:36h, 15 March 2009 Reply

    really nice stuff, thanks for this great music.

  • Buy creatine
    Posted at 01:11h, 20 May 2009 Reply

    Interesting article, i will come back to your blog soon, best regards

  • Buy acai berry
    Posted at 20:46h, 22 May 2009 Reply

    Your blog is very interresting for me, i will come back here..

  • cyprien rose
    Posted at 13:30h, 26 May 2009 Reply

    awesome !!

  • 2freakdudes
    Posted at 11:01h, 27 June 2009 Reply

    YO! rest assured…ya’ll is blowin’ our minds and helpin’ 2 wild ass producers diversify they musical vocabulary. Geekin’ ova here listening to this. I wonder if Samuel Delany had this on rotation…Dhalgren was sum freaky bizniss!

  • Aaahlex
    Posted at 16:04h, 04 July 2009 Reply

    I think I have this with a totally different cover. I’ll check it out.

  • Rob
    Posted at 00:55h, 12 July 2009 Reply

    Excellant blog…. totally dope. best soul blog that I have come accross

  • Russtafarian
    Posted at 21:03h, 16 July 2009 Reply

    I’m not an unreserved Philly fan but I love this album. It’s the first thing I have knowingly heard by Dexter Wansell but it sure as hell won’t be the last.

    Thnaks for opening my ears to this.

  • brotherpete
    Posted at 10:18h, 30 September 2009 Reply

    AWSOME !!! Thanks!

  • Huib
    Posted at 04:26h, 28 January 2010 Reply

    You guys are f******** great!

  • Lexuses71
    Posted at 06:09h, 03 April 2010 Reply

    Absolutely one of THEE icons of Philly Soul and a true innovator of the ’70s Jazz/Funk scene. I still play this album a lot, it has great tracks and is timeless. Thanks much, I get excited whenever I see someone giving my hero the props he so richly deserves.

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