Saturday, 13 September 2008

Dexter Wansel - Life On Mars

Dexter Wansel is an American keyboardist, born in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania and raised in North- Philadelphia , Pennsylvania. He contributed to the development of the "Philly Sound" and worked with producers Gamble and Huff at Philadelphia International Records. Wansel led the musical group "Yellow Sunshine". He has worked with Phyllis Hyman, The Jacksons, MFSB, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Grover Washington Jr, Junior, JeffMajors and Lou Rawls amongst many others. He also wrote The Jones Girls 1981 soul music classic "Nights over Egypt" and Patti Labelle's 1984 #1 R&B hit "If Only You Knew" with Cynthia Biggs. His "Theme from the Planets" has been heavily sampled and was featured on the breakbeat compilation "Ultimate Breaks and Beats".

Whilst Wansel was relatively unknown outside the USA, many have suggested that his influence on music as both a producer and performer in the mid-1970s lead to the development of the New Age Soul and jazz funk sounds which transformed the US and European music scene. His most successful album was called Life On Mars, released on the Philadelphia International record label in 1976. Wansel played keyboards, Derek Graves provided the bass line whilst a session singer hired by Wansel named Terri Wells was on vocals. The remaining sound was filled in by Dexter's rhythm section called The Planets featuring Darryl Brown, Calvin Harris, Bobby Malach, Al Harrison and the aforementioned Derek Graves.

During the 2nd half of the 1970s, Space travel and sci-fi were important themes in the ambiant US culture and therefore in funk, jazz, and Jazz-funk (see Herbie Hancock's thrust, George Clinton's Mothership, etc.) and were reflected in in Dexter's titles and music. Listening to other tracks on the album, like 'Stargazer', 'Theme from the Planets' and 'Rings of Saturn', it can be seen quite clearly that a space theme runs through his music. His straight-ahead Fatback-funk like 'Funk Attack' on the 1979 album 'Time is Slipping Away' and the now popular 'I'll never forget (my favourite disco)' have stood the test of time. Instrumental, almost classical, arrangements appear on the album 'Voyager' from 1978. In addition to this he presented a strong discotheque theme with 'Disco Lights' from the album 'What The World is Coming To' 1977 and jazzfunk such as 'Latin Love' on the album 'Voyager' 1978 or 'Ode Infinitum' on the 'What The World Is Coming To' album.

He has produced and recorded many soul ballads including the 'Time is Slipping Away' title track, 'New Beginning' on that same album, 'Sweetest Pain' which was sampled by The Solid Doctor for his triphop-track 'Lights On The Vibe' and 'You Can Be What You Wanna Be' from 1976. He also co-wrote and produced the Pieces of a Dream (band) track called 'Warm Weather' - a smooth soul sound often played by Robbie Vincent on his Sunday night radio shows on BBC Radio 1.

He entered the music charts with 'Sweetest Pain' in 1979 and 'Solutions' a year earlier in 1978. He also made a reggae track called 'Going Back To Kingston Town' in 1977.

Dexter Wansel played and produced with and for Teddy Pendergrass, The Jones Girls (who were guest vocalists on his solo albums), MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) and singer Patti Labelle

Dexter Wansel
Life On Mars

Label: Philadelphia International Records
Catalog#: PZ 34079
Format: Vinyl, LP
Country: US
Released: 1976
Genre: Funk / Soul
Style: Funk, Disco

A1 A Prophet Named K.G. (4:20)
A2 Life On Mars (5:50)
A3 Together Once Again (4:23)
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)

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1 comment:

Matt said...

WOW! Thanks so much for this post. I have this on LP but i hate playing it beause its getting burned from too many plays. This record is really unique.