If you've been paying attention, then it should come as no surprise that when it comes to 70s group soul, I have an ooey gooey soft spot for Sylvia Robinson's All Platinum / Stang Records stable (and the production stylings of George Kerr in particular).
Having already shared a near handful of their featured and staple artists, today's collection of Baltimore's sweet soulers First Class, should find itself in good company. Now there's not a whole lot of concrete information floating around out there about these lads but lucky for us, our like-minded friends, Nikos (@funkymysoul) and Mr Moo (@whatdafunk) have got us covered.
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland and originally known as The Mandells, the group consisted of Fred M. Brown, Sylvester Redditt, with Harold Bell III and Tony Yarborough trading off lead vocals. The lads became known for their outrageous antics which included wearing skin-tight super hero costumes while on stage. Their debut 45, 'What Is Life?', released in 1973, and follow-up 'What About Me?' for Thereway and Today Records respectively, are both beautiful heartbreak ballads. These were followed by a revival of The Unifics 'The Beginning Of The End' for Ebony Sounds Records in 1974, which reached no. 62 in the charts. The more orthodox slowie, 'You Don't Know What You're Doing' also for Ebony Sounds, sadly didn't fare as well. A contract with Sylvia Robinson's All Platinum label saw the quartet re-locating to New Jersey to record their debut album. Going First Class was released in 1976 and features some of the more up-tempo styles of the time -- filled with warm clubby touches and long, lavish mixes -- the album was written and produced by Tommy Keith, who also lays down some tasty guitar licks. Orchestrations from Sammy Lowe and Mike Terry, album highlights include 'Let's Make Love', 'Filled With Desire' and the full-length version of the sublime stepper, 'Me And My Gemini'. The group's second and final full-length album was released the following year. It's a self-titled affair that flew completely under the radar. While very much in the same vein as the prior outing, I'm preferable to this one in particular. Tommy Keith takes more of a back seat to feature Donnie Elbert and (more prominently) George Kerr on production. There's deep grooves as well as pensive ballads, stellar harmonies, rich instrumentation, and all with a really great balance between the steppers and slowies. Album highlights include 'Give Me, Lend Me', 'Coming Back To You', 'I Wasn't There' and 'Hypnotize'. In 1979 George Kerr recorded both First Class and The Softones for his own Park-Way International label and packed most of the disco-fied tracks together onto a split LP that sadly flopped, as did the subsequent single releases. In 1980 Robinson re-issued the groups second album on her budding Sugar Hill subsidiary. As far as I can tell, First Class never released another recording.
Outside Your World collects both of First Class' full-length albums, beautifully remastered, alongside a complete singles / rarities, featuring all the quartet's Park-Way International recordings. All files chronicled, cleanly tagged and mp3 @ 320kbs. Thanks to original uploaders, @Mr Moo and @Trakbuv (by way of @Nikos) for the bulk of the bio. Enjoy.