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In 1976 and 1977 Hank O’Neal produced two LPs by an exceptional young band called Tarika Blue. The leader was a fine pianist/keyboard artist named Phil Clendeninn. He not only led the band, wrote most of the songs, and played any instrument that had a keyboard (with the possible exception of an accordion), but Phil also learned to use every piece of recording equipment in the Downtown Sound control room, engineered a zillion sessions, and taught New School audio engineering classes. In addition, he became a very in demand session player, performing on countless recordings in all genres, including the enormously successful Rolling Stones album, Tattoo You. Maybe there was something in the air back then, but within a relatively short period in the late 60’s and early 70’s, New York City produced some incredibly fresh musical talent, who clearly affected some major changes and significantly influenced the direction of the urban jazz/r&b/funk fusion sound. Among them were Nile Rodgers, Steve Jordan, Onaje Alan Gumbs, James Mason, T.M. Stevens, Dennis Davis, Andy and Jerry Gonzales… many of whom were active at Downtown Sound. Without question, one of the most admired and respected of them all, particularly among musicians, was Tarika Blue leader and keyboardist Phil Clendeninn.
Now, twenty-five years later, Tarika Blue has developed a cult following across the globe. The timelessness and staying power of their music is evident in the fact that Dreamflower was sampled for the entire musical track of Erykah Badu’s platinum hit, Didn’t Cha Know, and it ended up as one of five Grammy award contenders for “R&B Song Of The Year” in 2001. There is still profound appreciation and interest in the music of Tarika Blue, and we’re pleased to reissue both LPs on one CD, and make this the debut release on our new Downtown Sound label. Nothing could be more appropriate. After all, Phil even titled one of his compositions Downtown Sound. Check it out.
Tarika Blue featured several different singers over the years including the wonderful Tequila, who sang with the Tony Williams Lifetime and Lisa Fisher, who would later win a Grammy for “Ease The Pain” in 1991. But it is Dolores Smith and sweet Irene Datcher who are featured on the second album (1977). The first album was entirely instrumental and we made an effort to bring lyrics /vocals to the mix on the second album. Irene’s addition to the music was profound because we needed a singer that could “note” like a horn. Irene found a comfort zone inside the music and was a real inspiration…scatting and soloing along with the band.
“Dreamflower”, which has been sampled by Erykah Badu for a neo-soul, R&B hit (Grammy nominated), was also sampled by a drum ‘n’ bass group in the UK, the Underwolves. All this happens 24-25 years later - it kind of says that music endures and its influence can be as wide and far-flung as the influences that inspired it. “Dreamflower” was written while I was reading JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship Of The Ring trilogy, which ironically has recently reappeared as a movie epic. “Truth is the Key” is the kind of message song that kind of sums up our vibe at the time.
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