The group name Slave has been with us a long time but not necessarily so the new personnel and the new direction. However, latest recruit Keith Nash explains why the 'new' Slave are ready to carry on the tradition.
SLAVE was born out of one of the accepted bedrocks of funk ? orion Dayton, Ohio where our young, optimistic guys formed the Young Mystics and a basis for what was later to emerge as one of funk music's most impressive and successful units. The Young Mystics comprised Floyd Miller on vocals and horns; Mark Adams on bass; Tom Lockett Jr. on saxophone and Steve Arrington on drums. Trumpeter, Steve Washington joined soon after. When the Young Mystics broke up, Arrington headed for San Francisco and a years later towards the end first Slave line-up comprising Miller, Lockett Jr., Adams, Mark Hicks, Tim Dozier, Wilhoite, Charles Bradley and Danny Webster.
In 1977 Slave released their first eponymous album for Cotillion which spawned the group's first taste of single success via "Slide". It also witnessed the start of an impressive eight years run of Cotillion success including smash hits "Just A Touch Of Love", "Stellar Funk", "Watching You", "Wait For Me", "Slap Shot" etc.
However, there were moments of disappointment east too. Their second album, the few hurridly put together of "Hardness Of The World" did little to enhance the solid impact they had made with their debut material but, fortunately, with a return to a more measured approach, Slave recaptured their initial public response and support via their third album "The Concept" (which included "Stellar Funk") and spent little time thereafter looking back at what might have been.
The "Concept" album was also significant in that Steve Arrington stepped up from the ranks of backing vocals to lead vocalist on one track, a decision which was to lead to Arrington becoming accepted lead vocalist for the outfit.
The hits continued and personnel changes brought new names to the unit including Curt Jones and Starleana Young who, of course, eventually departed with Steve Washington and Tom Lockett to form Aurra. Despite the inevitable comings and goings, the core of Slave remained relatively intact with the 1987 line-up featuring three founder members ? Floyd Miller, Mark Adams and Danny Webster ? plus latest recruit, drummer/percussionist Keith Nash who also chips in lead and backing vocals.
Today, Slave are no longer associated with Cotillion. In 1985, after eight years with the label they left to join the newly formed Ichiban Records in Atlanta and headed by someone not totally unfamiliar with B&S ? John E. Abbey.
WITH THE recent release of their new "Make Believe" album on Ichiban U.K. and the spin-off single "Juicy-O", plus their impending visit to these shores for dates at the latter part of October, a rap with Slave seemed timely and we spoke with newest member Keith Nash, initially about the impending visit.
"Slave as a group have always been extremely well supported in U.K. so we're not exactly down in the mouth about coming back! The 1984 visit was real good for the band and we're hoping for a repeat performance when we come back. We actually played some dates in Germany last year which were also very good but there's always something a bit special in playing in Britain.
"We're also looking forward to showcasing some of our more recent stuff. The public always expect a fair share of past Slave hits ? and, of course, we're always happy to include those. But we are a contemporary group first and foremost and do not want to rely on former successes to maintain our status. We fully intend to progress and add to the Slave story rather than simply standing still."
Positive stuff indeed and we all hope the visit is as successful and as entertaining as expected. On the vinyl front, the new album has received less than 100% enthusiastic response from U.K. observers, although the track "Juicy-O" has been selected for special mention and remains the obvious selection for single success.
"I can understand some of the reservations that people might have about the new album," acknowledged Keith. "It's all part of the progression and the need to stretch out. Whilst we have no intention of wandering too far from the basic Slave sound, we do need to develop musically and attemp at least a few new routes.
"If you need a comparison I guess I would use Cameo as an example of the right type of change internally. Having said that, however, the new album is certainly not being ignored by our more traditional fans here in America. Sales and black radio exposure is good and we have no problems on that front. Potential crossover success is always an unknown quantity ? until it happens."
MAKE BELIEVE" is Slave's second album shot for Ichiban, the first being "Unchained at Last" which has a "slight" emphasis of course on freedom from the dreaded "system"?
"That particular title wasn't so much an indictment of Cotillion but more a positive statement of our own creative freedom within the Ichiban setup", countered Keith. "As an entity, Slave had always been involved with the productions with Jimmy Douglas as co-producer, but the deal with Ichiban provided us with total control which, of course, was very appealing.
John (Abbey) is always willing to give us the benefit of his experience and, naturally, we're always pleased to have that input but essentially what emerges from the studio sessions is what Slave want to emerge. We stand or fall on that but we're happy to have it like that.
"The other very positive thing about being with a smaller independent label is the priority and concentration they're able to give you. The Ichiban roster is of sufficient size to permit that state of affairs. Without the marketing clout and vast sums of promotion money available to the majors, the emphasis with smaller outfits like Ichiban has to be on the quality of Product.. . which suits us fine."
It is now ten years since Slave first crashed onto the recording scene. We await the next ten with interest.(B&S)