Ashford and Simpson ‘Stay Free’ (BBR) 4/5

ashford-and-simpsonThe follow up to the preceding hit album, ‘Is it still good to ya’, ‘Stay Free’ from 1978 repeated the formula of classy uptempo numbers and quality ballads, and this during a fertile period for the duo as a songwriters for other singers. These included a smash hit for Chaka Khan in ‘I’m every woman’, the contribution of two songs to the film soundtrack, ‘The Wiz’, a song on the hit album for the Brothers Johnson, and preparing several songs on the then upcoming Diana Ross album, ‘The Boss’, the title track of which would become one of her biggest hits of the 1970s and a precursor to the Chic team taking over. A first single, ‘Found a Cure’, scored highly on the R & B, disco and pop charts, reaching number two for the former and number one in the disco charts, and as a bonus the remix king himself, Tom Moulton, has his extended 12″ version as a tasty dessert. Once again top session musicians including guitarist Eric Gale and percussionist Ralph McDonald were enlisted. Two quality ballads stand out in ‘Crazy’ and ‘Follow your heart’ while the message laden title track is definitely worth listening to repeatedly. A second uptempo single in the title track was released and was a moderate success. The song can be heard in a different light for as one of the bonus tracks, a mix of it by Mike Maurro features a thrilling a capella in both the intro and ending, ideal for DJs and dancers alike. Was this technique followed through for and an influence on the classic disco song, ‘I will survive’, by Gloria Gaynor? Whatever the case, it added new impetus to the original album cut. Excellent promotional photos of the duo plus pictures of the 7″/12″ labels capture the era perfectly and add to the authenticity. As with the previous album, extensive inner sleeve notes by music journalist Christian John Wikane place the duo in their historical context.

Tim Stenhouse