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Click below for a Stylistics sample: 

Love Spell

People Make The World Go Round



 

One of the top vocal groups of the 70s and key figures in the development of Philly soul, the Stylistics had an impressive run of success from 1972-75.  Powered by the fragile, soaring falsetto of Russell Thompkins

and Thom Bell’s orchestral productions, the quartet hit with the romantic standards “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “Break Up To Make Up,” “You Are Everything,” and “Betcha By Golly Wow.”  Many of their hits were written by Bell and Linda Creed, who were elevated to the front lines of songwriting tandems, considered the urban equivalent of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in terms of composing sweet melodies with bittersweet lyrics.


The group was formed in 1968 with a membership of James Dunn, Airrion Love, James Smith, and Thompkins.  The popularity of a 1971 tune entitled “You’re A Big Girl Now” brought them their first taste of national acclaim and led to them being picked up by Avco Records.  It was there that they were paired with Creed and Bell, who was looking for an act who could duplicate the success of the Delfonics, a similiarly-styled group he had worked with since the late 60s.


With Bell maintaining a great deal of control over the sessions, hits started coming in rapid succession. Beginning with “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart),” the Stylistics released seven consecutive top 10 records, with most of them also crossing over to the pop and easy listening charts.


1971 and 1972 were peak years for the group, as their first album was home to "Big Girl," "Stop, Look, Listen," and one of their rare forays away from love songs, "People Make The World Go Round." This turned out to be one of their most enduring songs, featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s 70s tribute CrooklynRound 2 album contained the hits "Break Up To Make Up," "I'm Stone In Love With You," and the underrated "Children Of The Night," one of their most covered tunes.     


After “You Make Me Feel Brand New” became their largest crossover smash, hitting #2 in 1974, the group stopped working with their trusted writing and production team.  Regardless of the reason behind the end of the relationship (a frequent complaint of Bell’s artists was their lack of creative input), the impact was immediate, as their fortunes declined rapidly in America.


Although “Funky Weekend” and “You Are Beautiful” were moderate hits, most of their singles, like “Sing Baby Sing,” “Sixteen Bars,” and “Na Na Is The Saddest Word” failed to generate any interest in the US.  But while they were stiffing in their home country, these same records were extremely successful in Europe, with the Stylistics’ popularity there reaching new heights during the 1975-78 period.   The breezy sensibilities favored by new producers Hugo & Luigi and Van McCoy, which pushed the already light and airy sound of Thom Bell towards an even more sugary pop-oriented direction, were championed by UK audiences to the tune of a #1 placing for “Can’t Give You Anything But My Love” and solid showings for “You’ll Never Get To Heaven” and “$7000 and You.” In the latter half of the 1970s, the group concentrated their energies on this newfound audience.


While they were happy for the work, they realized their current material could not hold a candle to their early 70s tunes, so to everyone’s surprise they hooked up with Thom Bell for 1980’s Hurry Up This Way Again.  The title cut brought them back to the r&b charts, but that was a short-lived success.   Member departures and internal disagreements plagued the group, culminating with Thompkins leaving in 2000 and starting a competing version of the group called the New Stylistics in 2004.  Despite their current conflicts, their catalog stands the test of time and ensures them a permanent place in the annals of history.


Stylistics' Deepest Grooves

The Stylistics (Avco, 1971)  
An instant classic, half the cuts received extensive airplay and introducted the Stylistics as a group to be contended with.

Round 2 (Avco, 1972)

Rockin' Roll Baby  (Avco, 1973) 


Let's Put It All Together (Avco, 1974)  


Heavy
(Avco, 1974)

From The Mountain (H&L, 1975)


The Best of the Stylistics 
(Avco, 1975)


Thank You Baby
(H&L, 1975)

You Are Beautiful (H&L, 1976) 


Fabulous
(H&L, 1976) 


The Best of the Stylistics, Vol. 2 (Avco, 1976)

Features the hits that  ensured their status in Europe, but many stateside fans will not recall hearing these cuts on the radio.

Sun and Soul (H&L, 1977)


Once Upon a Juke Box – (H&L, 1977) 


In Fashion
(Mercury, 1978)  


Hurry Up This Way Again (TSOP, 1980)


Closer Than Close(TSOP, 1981) 


1982 (TSOP, 1982)


Some Things Never Change
(Streetwise, 1984)


Love Talk
(Amherst, 1991)

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