The Controllers – 1979 – Next In Line

The Controllers made some bad bad slow jams. In fact when I start a Slow Jam Hall Of Fame they’ll be in it.

They sing from the heart, emotive, deep soul. I remember when I bought their first album back in 77, Somebody’s Gotta Win was the lead off tear jeaker, with Heaven Is Only One Step Away following hot on it’s heels. In fact, a good friend of mine, at the time, got married to that very song, that’s how bad Heaven was, and still is actually. If you get a chance and can find The Controllers “The Timeless Collection” jump on it. Serious singing going on!

This one, their 3rd Juana LP from 1979 is smooth modern southern soul, with some touches of funk on a few tracks, but a rock solid mellow harmony sound on the best ones! The album may be the best of the Controllers’ late 70s efforts and it’s got some nice production by Frederick Knight that mixes rootsier southern elements into a smooth blend that’s pretty darn compelling. 

Tracks
A1 Let Me Entertain You 4:54
A2 We Don’t 4:55
A3 If Tears Were Pennies 6:38
A4 I Can’t Turn The Boogie Loose 5:53
B1 Gunning For Love 4:30
B2 Ankle Chain 3:55
B3 I Don’t Know 4:08
B4 Hurt Again By Love 4:52

The Controllers are an American soul and R&B vocal group, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, who had a series of successful recordings in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Originally part of an eight-member gospel group, the group became four in number by the time they entered junior high school, comprising Reginald McArthur (baritone lead), Ricky Lewis (tenor lead), Larry McArthur and Lenard Brown. Their growing reputation in the Birmingham area led to an introduction to Cleveland Eaton, bassist for the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Under Eaton’s guidance, The Soul Controllers, as they were then called, recorded their first single, called “Right On Brother, Right On“. It became a regional hit while they were still attending Fairfield High School.

In 1976, the group came to the attention of Juana Records, run by Frederick Knight, also from Birmingham. Recording at the Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, their first single on Juana charted, but it was their second release, “Somebody’s Gotta Win, Somebody’s Gotta Lose“, that really established them. The song, a ballad lasting over eight minutes on the album, climbed to #8 on US Billboard R&B chart, and #3 on the Cash Box soul chart in 1977. The group’s on-stage performances also helped them to open for Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, B.B. King and The Temptations.

Get their 1977 Masterpiece  “In Control” in our back pages here

A follow-up ballad, “Heaven Is Only A Step Away” climbed to #37 R&B, but despite the release of two more albums on Juana, the group failed to find another major single success.

In 1983, the group signed with the late Jimmy Bee, a San Francisco based manager, and got a recording contract with MCA Records. Their first release on the label, “Crushed” (which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica) returned them to the charts, reaching #30 R&B, in 1984 and two years later, “Stay” climbed to #12. Their cover version of the Marvin Gaye song, “Distant Lover” also proved popular. These hits led to a series of appearances on Soul Train and performances at the Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. During this time, the group also performed on MTV, BET’s Video Soul and on HBO.

Under the guidance of Bee, the Controllers made a move to Capitol Records in 1989 for the album Just In Time, which failed to produce any hits but rekindled their popularity among the group’s loyal following.

After a break from touring and recording, the four returned in the late 1990s, and joined Malaco Records for their self-produced album, Clear View, which contained a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition“, and a revised “Somebody’s Gotta Win“.

The two remaining active Controllers, Lenard Brown and Reginald McArthur, are co-hosts of a syndicated talk show in the Southeastern United States, Inside The Juke Joint, where artists, songwriters, arrangers and musicians talk about their careers and lives.


Bonus

The Controllers  1978  Fill Your Life With Love

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