Ecstasy, Passion & Pain – 1974 – Ecstasy, Passion & Pain
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Seminal early disco work from Ecstasy Passion & Pain – a group with a much harder soul approach than some of their counterparts on the 70s Philly scene! Singer Barbara Roy really gives the group a wonderful sound here – working with a level of soul that matches some of the deeper soul divas of the late 60s, but able to soar along easily with the album’s full, rich Philly arrangements from Bobby Martin – in a way that gives the record a range that far surpasses most other female soul albums coming out from Philly in the 70s. Roy’s passion and vitality make the album way more than just a “singer with disco backing in the studio set” – and Martin wonderfully tailors the sound of each tune to match the spirit of Roy’s vocals.
A1 Ask Me 3:20
A2 Let’s Love 4:15
A3 I Wouldn’t Give You Up 2:58
A4 I’ll Take The Blame 5:22
A5 Try To Believe Me 3:15
B1 I’ll Do Anything For You 3:03
B2 Don’t Burn Your Bridges Behind You 4:20
B3 Somebody’s Loving You 3:18
B4 Born To Lose You 3:45
B5 Good Things Don’t Last Forever 3:15
You see this outfit routinely described as a disco group which is probably a technically accurate description, but ignores their soul roots.
Born in Kingston, North Carolina. Barbara Roy (aka Barbara Gaskins) started her musical career as half of the soul duet Barbara and Brenda (her partner being cousin Brenda Gaskins). The pair recorded a string of little known singles for labels like Heidi and Musicor, but by the mid-1960s they’d run out of steam. Barbara subsequently shifted her attention to sessions work. By the early 1970s she was ready to head back into the spotlight having decided to form a band. Billed as Ecstasy, Passion & Pain, by 1973 the line up featured guitarist Jimmy Clark, keyboardist Ronald Foster, percussion Carl Jordan, drummer Althea ‘Cookie’ Smith, and bass player Joseph Williams Jr.. With help from manager Phil Braxton they scored a contract with Roulette resulting in the release of a series of three singles:
– 1973’s ‘I Wouldn’t Give You Up’ b/w ‘Don’t Burn Your Bridges Behind You’ (Roulette catalog number R-7151) # 17 R&B
– 1974’s ‘Good Things Don’t Last Forever’ b/w ‘Born To Lose You’ (Roulette catalog number R-7156) # 93 pop; # 14 R&B
– 1974’s ‘Ask Me’ b/w ‘I’ll Take the Blame’ (Roulette catalog number R-7159) # 52 pop; # 19 R&B
More than willing to cash-in on the group’s commercial success Roulette released a supporting album. Produced by Bobby Martin (Fred Bailin listed as executive producer), the cleverly-titled “Ecstasy, Passion & Pain” collected the six singles (‘A’ and ‘B’ sides), rounding the album out with four new studio tracks. While billed as a band, the credits left little doubt that Ecstasy, Pain & Passion was a starring vehicle for Barbara Roy. In addition to serving as lead singer and sharing guitar duties with Clark, she was responsible for writing seven of the ten tracks. The rest of the band may have had their moments, but their talents were largely overshadowed by the Sigma Studio sessions players that provided support throughout. As lead singer Roy had a tough, soul voice that would have sounded right at home on a Stax album. Imagine a slightly shriller Gladys Knight and you’d be in the right ballpark. That old school compatibility came through on ballads like ‘Let’s Love‘, ‘I’ll Take the Blame‘, and ‘Born To Lose You‘. While you might not have expected it, Roy’s raw edge proved equally well suited for up tempo, disco-tinged material like ‘Try To Believe Me‘ and the singles ‘Ask Me‘ and ‘I Wouldn’t Give You Up‘. Whereas a lesser voice would probably have been overwhelmed by the backing from MFSB, Roy had the ability to power her way through the arrangements. With the possible exception of the hokey ‘Don’t Burn Your Bridges Down‘ (which sounded like something Clarence Carter might have written and recorded) the whole album was worth hearing. If anyone cares my personal favorite was the non-single ‘I’ll Do Anything for You‘. Well worth checking out and you can still find cheap copies … With some personnel changes, the group continued to release singles over the next three years. Interesting witness these foreign picture sleeves, they seem to have attracted considerable international attention.