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LoveByrds (Soft & Easy)

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Album Review

Released at the same time as Happy Music: The Best of the Blackbyrds, LoveByrds: Soft & Easy takes an alternate route through the Blackbyrds' discography, stepping away from the clubs and picnics and into dimly lit dining and living rooms. Though the disc does have the makings of an alternate Blackbyrds history, it does contain a couple upbeat numbers and chart hits, such as "Life Styles," "Time Is Movin'" (which reached number 15 on the Black Singles chart in 1977), and "Soft and Easy" (which hit number 20 the following year). A significant percentage of the material qualifies as easy listening soul and proto-smooth jazz, and though it's certainly mood music, it's highly developed mood music that is too dynamic and engaging merely to fade into the background. An extra piece or two from their soundtrack to Cornbread, Earl and Me (like "Mother/Son Talk") would have been a nice touch, but this set puts a unique spin on the Blackbyrds' history that is far more than adequate.


Formed: 1973 in Washington DC

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s

The Blackbyrds were a jazz-funk group with thick R&B streaks running down their backs. Assembled by Donald Byrd in 1974, the group's original members -- percussionist Pericles "Perk" Jacobs, Jr., drummer Keith Killgo, keyboardist Kevin Toney, reeds player Allan Barnes, bassist Joe Hall, guitarist Barney Perry -- were mined from Howard University's music department, where the doctor and jazz legend was an instructor. (Other key players included guitarist Orville Saunders and saxophonist/flautist Steve...
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