Ashford and Simpson ‘Is It Still Good To Ya?’ (BBR) 5/5

ashford-and-simpsonArguably the strongest of all the albums that the pair ever recorded, this came out at the height of the disco era in 1977 and featured some classic dance floor grooves, yet it is far more than a disco album and the sheer soulfulness of the duo was never better showcased than here. Among their uptempo songs, ‘It seems to hang on’, is held in the highest esteem by disco aficionados and as a bonus the extended Jimmy Simpson mix is included. It went to number two on the US R & B charts and helped propel the album which is in fact the most successful of their entire career, becoming a number one R&B hit Stateside, and entered the top twenty of the pop charts. If ‘Flashback’ did not quite hit the dizzy heights of its predecessor, it is nonetheless a fine uptempo soulful groove and has featured on many a disco compilation. A favourite among album listeners is ‘Get up and do something’ that could easily have been releases as a single and would have made a trio of dance floor hits.
Everything about the album reeks class from the sophisticated arrangements shared jointly by John David and Paul Riser through to the top session musicians and of course the sublime harmonies of the duo alongside their songwriting genius not to mention the superb colour photos that are more akin to a film frame. The title track is one of those great mid-tempo soul numbers and Teddy Pendergrass liked it so much that he decided to record his own Philly-flavoured version and a fine one it is too. On ‘Ain’t it a shame’, the song comes across as a vehicle to showcase the individual vocals of Nick Ashford, though Valerie Simpson almost steals the show with some wonderful voicings of her own on the chorus. Two classic disco 12″ remixes and a previously unreleased alternative version of ‘It seems to hang on’ from Mike Maurro round off an outstanding re-issue. This and indeed the other re-issues by the pair stand as a lasting testament to Nick Ashford who departed in August 2011 aged seventy.

Tim Stenhouse