The Dells – 1977 – Love Connection
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Intro Review by Dusty Groove Main Review by Derek Anderson
Rip & Research by Mr.Moo Posting and additional info’s by Nikos
One thing you have to remember about The Dells – they always sound great! Even here, in later years, their sound is superb – a rich, deep approach to harmonies that’s still head and shoulders above most other groups in the business! The production on the set is by Norman Harris and the Harris Machine – and some tracks get a Philly groove on, while others stick in a mellower ballad mode that’s completely dominated by the group.
A1 Private Property 4:13
A2 God Helps Those (Who Help Themselves) 5:03
A3 I’m In Love (I Can’t Explain What I Feel) 6:07
A4 Don’t Trick Me, Treat Me 4:56
B1 How Can One Man Be So Lucky 4:05
B2 Should I or Should I Not 5:43
B3 Love Connection 5:05
B4 Wasted Tears 4:34
After the release of The Harris Machine produced “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, But We Did It!” in 1977 , The Dells regrouped to record the follow-up album “Love Connection“. Previous LP had reached number 208 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty in the US R&B Charts, which was an improvement on its predecessor 1976s “No Way Back“. It had only reached number forty-seven in the US R&B Charts. However, given the quality of music on “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, But We Did It!“, The Dells must have been disappointed. So with The Harris Machine producing, and writing the material for “Love Connection“, and some of Philly’s finest musicians ready to provide a musical backdrop for Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Verne Allison, Johnny Carter and Chuck Barksdale, The Dells were once again, Philly bound. “Love Connection” would be their 17th album, since their 1959 debut Oh What A Night.
Like their previous album, recording would take place at Philadelphia’s legendary Sigma Sound Studios. Eight songs had been written for The Dells to record, with Ron Tyson, Bobby Eli, T.G. Conway and Norman Harris all co-writing tracks. Bunny Sigle wrote “Should I Or Should I Not”, while Marvin Junior wrote “Wasted Tears”, the album that closed Love Connection.
Norman Harris had assembled some of Philly’s greatest musicians, with drummer Earl Young, guitarist Bobby Eli and keyboard played Ron Kersey just a trio of the talents that can be heard on Love Connection. While The Harris Machine produced the album, Norman Harris called upon T.G. Conway, Ron Tyson, Allan Felder, Bruce Gray, Ron Kersey to co-produce some of the tracks. Jack Faith one of Philadelphia International Records’ best arrangers, arranged “How Can One Man Be So Lucky”. All this demonstrated how The Harris Machine worked so well. Norman Harris was able to access a pool of talented songwriters, arrangers, producers and musicians, who could literally write, arrange, produce and play on an album. This is what they did on Love Connection, and with the eight tracks, written, recorded, arranged and produced, all that was left was for Love Connection to be released.
Opening Love Connection is “Private Property“, the only single released from the album. Co-written by Eddie Moore and Ron Tyson and straight away, you can hear there’s a more traditional soul sound, with the lushest of strings and horns accompanying the The Dells on this beautiful ballad. The tempo is slow, with lush strings, subtle horns and an equally subtle rhythm section combining, before The Dells add heartfelt harmonies. When the lead vocal enters, it changes hands quickly, with each Dell’s delivery heartfelt and emotive. Combine the lead vocal with swathes of strings and The Dells close, tight and beautiful harmonies, and result is one of the most beautiful tracks on LP.
“God Helps Those (Who Help Themselves)” : the tempo increases to 122 beats per minute, with track a fusion of soul, funk and even disco. Drums and the funkiest of bass lines signal the entrance of cascading strings and blazing horns, before Marvin’s powerful, impassioned lead vocal enters. Add to this, punchy backing vocals, plus a piano that drifts in and out the track, and one of the best tracks on Love Connection is unfolding. Key to Norman Harris’ arrangement is his use of sweeping, swirling strings and horns, while the rhythm section inject some funk to The Dells’ soulful strains. The result of this is one of the highlights of Love Connection, a fantastic dance-floor friendly track, that thirty-five years later, sounds just as good as it did back in 1977.
On “I’m In Love (I Can’t Explain What I Feel)“, The Dells get another chance to do what they do so well, sing ballads. Against a backdrop of a meandering, gentle piano the track gets underway, with the rhythm section accompanying The Dells. They take turns in singing lead. When Marvin takes his turn delivering the vocal, his delivery is perfect. It’s a combination of emotion and sincerity, while the other Dells delivery is a mixture of power and passion, delivered against a dramatic backdrop of swirling strings, rhythm section and piano.
Ron Kersey arranged and co-produced with Norman Harris, “Don’t Trick Me, Treat Me “an irresistible track where Marvin delivers one of his best vocals on Love Connection. This is a mid-tempo track with Philly Soul writ large all over it. A combination of the rhythm section, flourishes of piano and the lushest of strings combine with Marvin’s powerful, passionate vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of The Dells sweep in and out, delivering some beautiful, soaring harmonies.
“How Can One Man Be So Lucky” is a quite different track, with the tempo much quicker, with an arrangement from Jack Faith that’s laden with strings and horns. From the opening bars, where the rhythm section, flourishes of piano and The Dells enter the track just flows along, sweeping you along in its wake. When Marvin’s lead vocal enters, it’s perfect for the song, a mixture of power and adoration, while the other Dells contribute punchy backing vocals. Later, Marvin almost vamps his way through the track, against a backdrop of punchy horns, sweeping strings and percussion. Two things are key to the success of this track, Marvin’s pleading, passionate vocal and Jack Faith’s excellent arrangement.
“Should I Or Should I Not written” by Bunny Sigler, is one of the most dramatic and emotive on Love Connection. After a combination of wailing, atmospheric Hammond organ, blazing, punchy horns and rhythm section Marvin’s vocal enters. It’s hugely emotive and dramatic, full of indecision and heartache, as he wonders whether to take his love affair further. The rest of The Dells contribute backing vocals, which like the arrangement, are drenched in emotion and drama. Taken together, this is one of the most moving, heartfelt and beautiful songs on Love Connection, thanks to Marvin’s fervent, vocal laden with heartache and indecision.
“Love Connection” is an uptempo, uplifting track, with a real joyous feel-good vibe and disco beat.The rhythm section, cascading strings, percussion and then braying horns combine before Marvin’s throaty powerful lead vocal enters. It’s accompanied by punchy backing vocalists, while horns, strings and the rhythm section produce an arrangement that’s Philly through and through, and resembles something you’d expect to find on an early to mid-seventies album by The O’Jays.
Closing Love Connection is “Wasted Tears” a mid-tempo track written by The Dells lead singer Marvin Junior. As the track opens The Dells deliver some close harmonies, before an arrangement that turns back time unfolds. Sounding like something from an old soul or doo wop album, the arrangement is a mixture of piano, rhythm section and the lushest of strings. The Dells seem to raise their game, with Marvin’s vocal full of sadness and regret, while their harmonies tighter and sweeter, as they turn back time, to their early classic sound. Later, the finishing touch is a lone saxophone solo that drifts in and out of the track. When all this is combined, the lovely retro sounding arrangement, and The Dells harmonies, this seems a highly fitting way to close Love Connection, with a nod to The Dells past.
In total, The Dells produced eight quality tracks on Love Connection. Maybe the reason why Love Connection wasn’t a bigger commercial success was that musical tastes had changed. Disco had become more popular that soul music, with artists and groups like The Dells neither as fashionable nor popular. However, Love Connection was a great album which demonstrate just how talented a group The Dells were.
Standout Tracks: I’m In Love (I Can’t Explain What I Feel), How Can One Man Be So Lucky, Should I Or Should I Not and Love Connection.
You can also enjoy their 1968 masterpiece “There Is” album here.