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Click below for a Slave sample:

Never Get Away

 

 

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Of all the Ohio funk bands of the 1970s, Slave may have been the most explosive. Their furiously riffing tunes contained so much energy that they threatened to overheat your system, and they were duly considered one of the best acts from the latter days of the classic funk era. Monster jams such as "Slide," "Watching You," and "Just A Touch Of Love" were just a few of their memorable songs.

Slave began as the brainchild of Stevie Washington, who put the group together as a teenager in Dayton in 1975. Even at that age, his musicianship and leadership skills were so developed that he came to be known as The Fearless Leader. Perhaps with the help of his uncle Pee Wee Middlebrooks of the Ohio Players, Washington had Slave signed to Cotillion Records in 1977.

Their debut single was "Slide" and it established the formula for all future releases: stomping jazzy bass lines courtesy of Mark Adams, Mark Hicks' rock-influenced guitar licks, powerhouse drumming and simple yet effective lyrics. "Slide" became the group's biggest hit and the self-titled album had one of the most distinctive cover photos of all time: a black man (a slave) holding up a sphere (the world). Despite the imagery, the group never dealt with social issues in its material, favoring uptempo romps almost exclusively.

The arrival of singers Starleana Young and Steve Arrington in 1978 marked a change in Slave that would most clearly be heard on 1979's "Just A Touch Of Love". While still emphasizing the bass, the song was also more melodic, thanks to the harmonies of the vocalists. This was another hit, as was "Watching You," which was in the same style.

By the early 1980s, Arrington's unique vocal style had made him the focus of Slave, and Washington left to form Aurra with Young, where they had modest success on Salsoul Records. Undeterred, the band responded with perhaps its strongest album, Show Time. Boasting such stormers as "Snap Shot," "Steal Your Heart," and "Spice Of Life," there was not a weak track to be found and was definitely one of the highlights of the 1980s.

Unfortunately, the wheels began to come off shortly after its release. Arrington decided to go solo and recorded at least one classic in "Weak At The Knees" before focusing on more spiritual material. The band tried to regroup with new members, but the magic could not be recaptured and interest began to fade. Cotillion dropped the band in 1984 and they settled in with Ichiban, where they continued to record through the 1990s.

Slave is still touring and recording and you can catch the occasional clip of the most recent incarnation on YouTube.  Arrington has reportedly been working on a funk-gospel album for several years. 

Slave's Deepest Grooves

Slave (Cotillion, 1977)
The one that started it all. Contains "Slide" and "Son Of Slide."

Hardness of the World (Cotillion, 1977)
Very underrated disc that stands as one of their stankiest offerings.  "The Party Song" was the hit, but "Life Can Be Happy" and "The World's On Hard" also swing hard.  And the two instrumentals, "Baby Sinister" and "Volcano Rupture," are as nasty as their titles indicate.

The Concept (Cotillion, 1978)
The first airing of Steve Arrington's yodel-funk singing technique and Starleana Young's diva persona.

Just A Touch Of Love (Cotillion, 1979)
The success of the title cut was a turning point for the band. Also don't miss "Foxy Lady."

Stone Jam (Cotillion, 1980)
Stevie Washington, Curt Jones and Starleana Young go out with a bang with this fiercesome platter. Absolutely jams from the opening diva anthem "Let's Spend Some Time" to the throbbing title cut that closes the LP, although the ballad "Starting Over" shows they can drop the tempo as well. "Watching You" helped the LP go gold, but lesser-known tracks like "Dreamin'" and "Never Get Away" are just as infectious.  Peerless sophisticated funk.

Show Time (Cotillion, 1981)
My favorite Slave album. Powerhouse funk on "Smokin'" and "Funken Town," jazziness on "Party Lites" and "Spice Of Life" and there's even a ballad ("For The Love Of You"). The ultimate Slave package.

Visions of the Lite (Cotillion, 1982)
Life without Steve Arrington gets off to a rough start outside of the melodic groover "I'll Be Gone." 

Bad Enuff (Cotillion, 1983)
Improvement from Visions, but still far from their best.

New Plateau (Cotillion, 1984)

Unchained At Last (Ichiban, 1986)

Make Believe (Ichiban, 1987)

Slave 88 (Ichiban, 1988)

Rebirth (Ichiban, 1990)

Funk Strikes Back (Ichiban, 1992)

Stellar Fungk: The Best of Slave (Rhino, 1994)
A decent compilation of Slave and Arrington's work. Be warned that many of the versions here are edited and some key tracks are omitted.

Masters of the Funk (Ichiban, 1996)
Remakes of "Slide" and "Just A Touch of Love" might interest you; most would rather hear the classic versions.

From the Archives (Echo, 1998)
Essentially all of the Stone Jam LP with selected highlights from their peak period.

Greatest Hits (Cleopatra, 2001)
Produced in conjunction with Stevie Washington's For The Funk label, this package is very similar to From the Archives.  If you're reading this far, you should just go ahead and get the original LPs.

Party Lights: More of the Best (Atlantic, 2003)
A focus on more obscure material, something for the die-hard Slave fan.

The Definitive Groove Collection (Atlantic, 2006)
A long-awaited proper tribute to the band. This double disc includes something from all the Cotillion albums plus the best of Steve Arrington's solo material. 

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