Classics: Robert Owens & Michael Watford – Come Together (I Am What I Am) (Marshall’s Vocal Mix) (Hard Times)
‘Come Together’… Quite hard to resist to such an invitation, don’t you think? Here we have no less that three faces who contributed givin’ birth to Deep House back in the day. From both singers Robert Owens and Michael Watford. To Marshall Jefferson who produced luminaries such as Kym Mazelle, Ce Ce Rogers and Ten City.
Unsurprisingly Owens and Watford pretty much come together as one on this uplifting message. With Jefferson doin’ his part of the job meanwhile comin’ up with his signature sound. This infectious sound one could get for instance when givin’ a listen to ‘Open Your Eyes’ which he released as Marshall Jefferson presents The Truth. A timeless sound as a matter of fact, remembering ‘Come Together’, which has been the object of numerous remixes along with time, initially saw the light back in 1995. In other words more that some 20 years ago already…
“I’ve always been into Gospel voices. Robert had a religious background, although his sound was an exception to the rule for me. It didn’t come instantly though. As a matter of fact, Robert is like a wild horse. Unless you put up margins for him, he never can sing the same line the same way twice. I had to constantly sort of reframe him…” (Frankie Knuckles)
Here we have a statement that pretty much speaks for itself. And this by no one else but the one remembered as the Godfather Of House. Quite evocative of the inner strength/voice which had led Robert Owens to deliver some of the most vibrant vocal performances one can think of. Among those very rare to have stood the test of time. Being to the Chicago (House) scene what Arnold Jarvis happened to be to its NYC alter ego. And more widely being to House what Omar has become to the contemporary groove. With thanks to their unique voices and an undeniable eclectism…
A quick look at Robert Owens‘ discography (on Discogs) says it all. Or almost, as chances are great they may not have listed his entire repertoire. What we can read though is an inventory of 5 albums and 100+ singles. And, in the meantime, the fact that he’s been collaborating with some of the most talented producers since the second half of the 80’s.
As you may guess, Robert Owens grew up singin’ in church before exploring the facets of DJing. Eventually meeting Larry Heard by the middle of the 80’s. This resulting in the twosome givin’ birth to Fingers Inc. along with Ronnie Wilson. And subsequently releasing ‘Another Side’ back in 1988 on Jack Trax. A mythic album featuring timeless jewels such as ‘Mystery Of Love’, ‘Bring Down The Walls’ and ‘Mystery Friend’ to name a few.
Owens eventually engaged the upper gear the year after. This when joinin’ forces with Frankie Knuckles and a then unknown Satoshi Tomiie on the seminal ‘Tears’ (FFRR). Then makin’ his debut on Fourth & Broadway in 1990 with the abyssal ‘Visions’ co-produced by Frankie Knuckles and David Morales. The latter crafting on his own this time the syncopated ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ which got released the year after on RCA.
He contributed to the recording of Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers)’s ‘Introduction’ album in 1992 on MCA. That same year seeing the release of the insanely vibrant ‘Too Much For Me’ without his consent. Launching his Musical Directions while relocating in London, he delivered ‘Ordinary People’ with remixes courtesy of Booker T two years after. Eventually sharin’ the bill the year after with Michael Watford on the Marshall Jefferson produced ‘Come Together’…
In 2000, he landed his voice on Photek‘s blowing ‘Mine To Give’ with remix work by the likes of David Morales. Eventually colloaborating with other junglists – London Elektricity – with whom he released ‘My Dreams’ and ‘Different Drum’.
With Quentin Harris, he did ‘Always’ and soon after he came along with Coldcut on the abyssal ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’. He contributed to Atjazz‘s syncopated ‘Love Someone’ in 2007. Then he teamed up with Ron Trent on ‘Movin’ On’ then ‘Deep Down’. Meanwhile 2007 saw him sharing the bill with Gene Hunt on ‘Twilite People’. Then 2010 with DJ Spen on the deeply heartfelt ‘A Greater Love’.
He contributed more recently to Ralf GUM‘s ‘Fly Free’ (2013). And he also joined US NU-Disco gurus Soul Clap on ‘Misty’ the year after. Not to mention Kenny Dope with whom he shared the bill that same year on ‘Bricks Down’. Or Compost Allstars (Beanfield, Christian Prommer, Roland Appel and Michael Reinboth) on ‘Good Day’. This in addition to Martello‘s ‘In The Beginning There Was House’ and Oscar P‘s ‘Thank You’ which we both welcomed as our Single Of The Week at the time.
– Born in Virginia and raised in New Jersey, Michael Watford has established himself as one of the ambassadors of soulful House Music in the 90’s. That thing some used to call Garage at the time. Hard to make abstraction of his undeniable Gospel influences as a matter of fact. In a vein or vibe if not energy to be compared to the ones of the late Darryl Pandy.
Watford counts among the very rare House artists who signed a record deal with a major company. This was back in 1994 with EastWest / Atlantic. There he delivered an eponymous album which would be his first and last though. An album featuring the memorable ‘So Into You’ which got him to #1 position in the Dance Hits Stateside. A cut produced by the late John Robinson, a former radio jock and a member of Smack Productions. Other tracks pretty much worth the listen from this package including the Roger S and Smack Productions crafted ‘Holdin’ On’. But also ‘Love To The World’ and ‘Happy Man’
Released from his contract, Watford soon after collaborated with countless producers. He worked among others with Marshall Jefferson, sharing the vocal duties with Robert Owens on ‘Come Together’ (Hard Times). For the same label, he also collaborated with Farley & Heller on the outstanding ‘Love Change Over’ with additional remixes courtesy of DJ Pierre, Fire Island and Salt City Orchestra. And how now to mention the seminal ‘My Love’ along with People Underground produced by Masters At Work? This in addition to GTS, Deep Bros., Jamie Lewis and Jon Cutler among others.
The recent years seeing him sharing the bill with Jerzee-based producer DJ Shaheer Williams on ‘Faith’.
Lesser known is the fact that he also contributed to Gate Decor‘s anthemic ‘Passion’ as BMW.