Tue. Sep. 28, 2021

The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brand New

Classics: The Stylistics – You Make Me Feel Brand New (Avco Records)

Composed of singers Russell Thompkins, Jr., Herb Murrell, Airrion Love, James Smith, and James Dunn, The Stylistics happened to be one of the most famous Philly Sound groups in the early 70’s. Eventually establishing a winner signature sound with producer Thom Bell and lyricist Linda Taylor. Not to mention the presence of luminaries such as Earl Young or percussionist/vibraphonist Vincent Montana, Jr. who were to become the nucleus of MFSB.

Released back in 1971, their eponymous debut-album is probably their strongest opus ever. Including goodies such as ‘People Make The World Go Round’, ‘Stop, Look, Listen (To You Heart)’ and ‘You Are Everything’. The ultra vibrant ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’ standing as the icing on the cake. With falsetto lead singer Russell Thompkins, Jr. at the absolute top of his art…

From Philadelphia, PA, The Stylistics took form back in 1968 from the remnants of two local groups. In other words, Russell Thompkins, Jr., James Smith, and Airrion Love from The Monarchs. And James Dunn and Herbie Murrell from The Percussions. That reunion happened while both bands were competing in a talent show at Benjamin Franklin High School.
Spending 2 years performing in local clubs and theatres, they delivered their debut-single back in 1970. A cut called ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ which initially saw the light on indie label Sebring. Licensed soon after on Avco, it eventually got them in the national charts the year after…

Under the guidance of producer Thom Bell and with the help of lyricist Linda Creed, they would score an impressive run of hits during the 3 comin’ years. With Thompkins‘s unique falsetto singing style heavily contributing to their signature sound. From ‘I’m Stone In Love With You’ to ‘Break Up To Make Up’. But also ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, their biggest success ever, and ‘You Are Everything’. Not to mention ‘People Make The World Go Round’. The split which occurred with Bell back in 1974 most likely generated devastating effects on the group’s success in the U.S.. The contribution of arranger Van McCoy shortly helped keepin’ up appearances on ‘Heavy Fallin’ Out’ and ‘Let’s Put It Altogether’. If not ‘Can’t Give You Anything’ which became a UK top #1. But the overall feeling had somehow disappeared.

The Stylistics progressively lost the scope from then, releasing what would be their two final albums on Mercury. Thompkins eventually explaining that the music they were recording had become dated and progressively away from the popular Disco sound of the late 70’s.

Both James Dunn and James Smith departed in 1980 because of conflicts over the direction of the group. The Stylistics continued though, recruiting new member Raymond Johnson. Eventually reuniting with Thom Bell, they delivered their last top 20 track – ‘Hurry Up This Way Again’ on TSOP that same year. Johnson departed in 1985, leaving the group a trio. Love, Murrell, and Thompkins continuing to tour until 2000, when the latter left the group.

Thompkins started a new group back in 2004 – Russell Thompkins, Jr. And the New Stylistics – along with with Raymond Johnson, Jonathan Buckson and James Ranton who left the group for health reasons.

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