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.
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)
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.
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.