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Thursday, January 15, 2009

(the) 5 Stairsteps & Cubie - A Family Portrait

Name: (the) 5 Stairsteps & Cubie
Album: A Family Portrait
Year: 1968
Style: Soul, Theatrical Soundtrack
Similar Bands: Jackson 5, Tom Jones
"One-Word" Review: Cinema-Doo-Wop
Based Out Of: Chicago, Ill
Label: Buddah Records

A Family Portrait - Cover (my record came in the wrong cover)
A Family Portrait (1968)
  1. A Million to One 2:45
  2. You Make Me So Sad 2:07
  3. Somethings Missing 2:45
  4. The Look Of Love 3:01
  5. The New Dance Craze 3:00
  6. Windows Of The World 3:15 /
  7. Bad News 3:05
  8. Tell Me Who 2:55
  9. Under The Spell 2:10
  10. Find Me 2:35
  11. I Remember You 3:00
Album Review (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Keni Burke - Vox (Invisible Man's Band)
Clarence Burke Jr - Vox, Recorded & Produced (Invisible Man's Band)
Dennis Burke - Vox (Invisible Man's Band)
James Burke - Vox (Invisible Man's Band)
Alohe Jean Burke - Vox
Cubie Burke - Vox
Clarence Sr - Bass, Vox
Betty Burke - Vox

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of the 5 Stairsteps, The Stairsteps, or Cubie. But all the bios read like I should have heard of them. They were apparently the original family of soul. When I recorded this record to CD, I remember saying “oh yeah, I know this song” at least once. Unfortunately I cannot write about my prediction of what the music will sound like, because the record came in the wrong sleeve. It came in a The Mad Lads sleeve which was markered over with the 5 Stairsteps band name. The main reason I got the record, wrong sleeve and everything, was because it is a Buddah Records release. And I equated Buddah Records with the great collection of bubblegum pop bands. “5 Stairsteps & Cubie” sounded like something silly that would fit up there with the 1910 Fruitgum Co & Ohio Express.

Album Review: “A Million to One” starts off the record. It is a soulful R&B slow song with female lead vocals. It is a slow dance with the boys in the family supplying an echoing word or phrase in the background on occasion. There are some swirling string sections, and bold brass flashes, but it maintains a basic swaying rhythm with a very theatrical orchestral ending with “doorbell” patterned vocals echoing the word one. “You Make Me So Sad” is a little more upbeat soul, again female fronted, with some cinematic musical production. “Something’s Missing” has a slight spy detective feel to the song. This is male fronted, switching with female vocals. Together they share the 70’s R&B soul chorus. The grand sweeping orchestral sound paints the background as in the other songs. “The Look of Love” is a slow, female fronted, James Bond romantic theme. The buildup to the chorus sounds familiar, but I can’t say I’ve heard the song before. “The New Dance Craze” is a slightly funky doo-wop dance song featuring the young brother Cubie’s child speaking voice over buried vocals from the rest of the family. It sounds a bit like when the midget, Joe-C, would talk/sing with Kid Rock (of which I just know from pop-culture references, I’ve never really heard a full kid rock song). The family takes turns busting out lines some strained, some sung, all over the place in style and it never feels cohesive. “Windows of the World” is back to a string-picked slow ballad with deep crooning vocals taking turns with a beautiful elegant female voice. I believe I’ve read that these are the parents adding their song to the family portrait album.

“Bad News” is back to the 70’s updated music-for-film style. It is slick and confident male vocals. It struts along, not quite slow, but not quite rocking either. “Tell Me Who” starts off with a jungle sounding percussion and then adds horns that sound off like something out of a show girl review. I feel like the song kind of just slumps along, but it is trying to have more bold courage than that. “Under The Spell” follows in the steps of the last song, trying to be over the top, but just lacking something that would push it over, making it believable. It features a male lead with the rest of the family playing back up with echoing phrases through out the song “Find Me” starts off as a strong simple R&B Doo Wop soul song. This song grooves along and is toe tapping good. The hooks are short and dependable. “I Remember You” is back to the deep crooning slow melody. This is a famous song, and I know I’ve heard it because Bjork has covered it too. This is a tamer version than Bjork’s, and it sounds right in place with an evening ending dance number at a big band concert of the 30’s.

Stand Out Track:Find Me
5 Stairsteps site
Soulwalking - Invisible Man's Band info
Soulwalking - Stairsteps

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