Ashford and Simpson ‘A Musical Affair’ (BBR) 4/5

ashford-and-simpsonThe eighth and final album for Warner Brothers turned out to be a triumphant one for soul singer-songwriter duet Ashford and Simpson and they were most definitely in a highly creative and productive writing period with the ‘About Love’ album for Gladys Knight and the Pips about to place the letter back into the limelight with the hit single, ‘Bourgie Bourgie’. Showcasing the new recording for Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson was the sumptuous ‘Love don’t always make it right’ that became a top ten R & B hit in the States and was equally successful in the disco charts. An unreleased and slightly longer version mixed by Jimmy Simpson is included here. However, it was not the strongest song on the album and that accolade goes to the sumptuous soulful dance number, ‘I ain’t asking for your love’, that simply oozes class. Bizarrely this was never released as a single and one wonders why. To these ears it sounds a sure fire winner. For fans of the Quiet Storm format, ‘Rushing to’ will appeal and the brooding bass line is matched by some tasty flute and string accompaniment. As befitting any album by the pair, only the top session musicians were invited and these included string master Gene Orloff and an impressive horn section that boasted John Faddis and Eddie Daniels as well as band regulars. Of interest to fans of Chaka Khan is the inclusion of the original version of ‘Clouds’ that the singer would make a hit single out of. Ashford and Simpson were both evolving a singers and this is recognised on the two-stepper, ‘We’ll meet again’, where first Nick takes the lead and then Valerie takes over on what is above all a gospel-infused number of distinction. Viewed from a historical perspective, this album marks a new high point in the career of the duo and was preceded by their production imprint on Diana Ross’s excellent, ‘The Boss’ and participation in both the film soundtrack to ‘The Wiz’ and on Quincy Jones’ ‘Stuff like that’ album.

Tim Stenhouse