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The Five Stairsteps' Behind Curtains

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Album Review

A sparkling debut by the offspring of Clarence Burke and Mama Stairstep. The Stairsteps are four brothers and one sister, all between the ages of 13 and 17: Clarence Jr., Aloha, James, Dennis, and Kenneth Burke. Curtis Mayfield produced the set and highlighted their unique and arresting bloodline harmonies. Clarence was only 16 when he cut "Come Back," abut he sings (or cries) it like he has experienced the agonizing pain of losing someone dear first-hand. "World of Fantasy" (written by Clarence Jr.) finds the teenager crooning about a world where he's never alone, a world of true make-believe — some pretty surreal lyrics for a high schooler. Only on "Playgirls Love" is their whimsical kid side evident. Clarence Jr. wrote most of the material; Curtis Mayfield contributed "Behind Curtains" and "Don't Waste Your Time," an enjoyable, energetic romp about romance. The flip side, "You Waited Too Long," was a far more serious tale of love that was applicable to all ages; the crying ballad, along with others, should have established the group as heavy hitters, but it was only a modest hit for the Burke children. Brother James cries as good as Clarence on the group's rendition of "Ooh Baby Baby." In all, ten slices of magic from the First Family of Soul.


Formed: 1965 in Chicago, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

The Five Stairsteps were "The First Family of Soul" -- a title bestowed upon the Chicago-based teenaged group in part because of their astounding five-year run of hits, which included the million-selling "O-o-h Child" and eight other singles that, from 1966 through 1970, reached the Top 20 of Billboard's R&B chart. The Jackson 5 took the title, but the Stairsteps continued to record through 1976, and the group's members continued to be successful as artists, songwriters, and producers long after...
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