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Articles Home » 1981 Articles » Bell And James - 1981 In Black And White
Bell And James - 1981 In Black And White

ARTIST: Bell And James
ALBUM: In Black And White
YEAR: 1981


LINEUP: Casey James - vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, piano * Leroy Bell - vocals, guitar, drums * John Norman, Robbie Nevil - guitar; Neil Stubenhaus, Tag Henning - bass * Jeff Porcaro, Carlos Vega - drums * Michael Spiro - percussion, tambourine, bugle * Gary Herbig - tenor and baritone sax * Georg And The Heartlets,, The Waters - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Love Call My Name * 02 You Got The Power * 03 Gimme The Gun * 04 Wind And Rain * 05 Is It Fire * 06 Runnin' For Your Life * 07 In Spanish Harlem * 08 Radiation * 09 Don't Take The Money * 10 Renegade

Talented multi-instrumentalists Casey James and Leroy Bell made their start writing songs for the famed Philadelphia production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in the early 70's, knocking out hits for the likes of The O' Jays, Teddy Pendergrass and Elton John among others. This enabled them to secure a well-deserved record contract with A&M as a duo, resulting in the massive 1979 disco hit 'Friday Night (Living It Up)' which sold over a million copies. Their third and last album was 'In Black And White' and if you guessed they'd taken an AOR oriented direction simply by scanning the lineup involved, you'd be correct. After all it was par for the course in 1981 and it has to be said this is a truly glorious album. The album cover and title indicates the multi-racial pairing of the two and Bell looks like a cross between John Oates and Richard Pryor, with James sporting his ubiquitous hat.

The Songs
'Love, Call My Name' is a funky opener, with a ton of synths and guitars vying for attention, a consummate AOR effort that recalls the same year's classic 'DFK Band' album. You could also throw in The Commodores as a reference point also, only this is significantly heavier. 'You Got The Power' takes a sumptuous West Coast direction, the vocal harmonies a perfect summation of the genre. Very upbeat is the keyboard laced 'Gimme The Gun' which shows off the duo's soul roots but with AOR shadings, especially in the chorus which takes a back seat to an extended synth solo by James. At this point I'm trying to figure out how these guys weren't as huge as Hall And Oates themselves. 'Wind And Rain' is a laid back ballad where you could be tricked into thinking this is Boz Scaggs, George Benson or Greg Guidry. It's that good. 'Is It Fire' provides a lyrical and musical riposte to the previous track, very dynamic in all areas and is a nice companion piece to another classy West Coast workout 'Runnin For Your Life' where the vocals verge on Michael McDonald. 'Radiation' is a sultry ballad, heavy on strings and jazzy guitar of the Larry Carlton variety, definite late night listening material. What they're singing about I have no idea, but it could be a lost England Dan and John Ford Coley track. The true AOR highlight is saved for last, 'Renegade' being somewhat of a lost masterpiece in my opinion. The buildup to the chorus is sublime, this one rivaling the best of Pablo Cruise's 'Reflector' gem from the same year. It has that same vibe, even more dramatic believe it or not. A stunning end to a forgotten classic.

In Summary
The two went their separate ways following the album but continued as solo artists and writers. A shame as a 1983 album from them would surely have been even more AOR pronounced and competed with Nielsen/Pearson. This is worth its weight in whatever it's soaked in and deserves some kind of major reissue. It just doesn't get any better. [word count 512]

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#1 | gdazegod on March 30 2016 02:52:51
I remember the disco hit 'Friday Night (Living It Up)' which reminded me so much of Narada Michael Walden's work at the time ('Dance Of Life' etc), and Medusa, at a pinch.
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