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Ramp: Come into Knowledge

Album Notes

Centered around onetime Spinners utility players John Manuel (drums) and Landy Shores (guitar), Saturday Night Special -- presumably named after Norman Connors' Reggie Lucas-written song of the same name -- played in and around its hometown of Cincinnati during 1975 and 1976, basing live sets on reimagined versions of R&B hits that leaned toward sophisticated funk. Once Roy Ayers caught a gig and got involved, the band changed its name to Ramp ("Roy Ayers Music Productions") and recorded its one album, produced by Ayers with tight associates Edwin Birdsong and William Allen. The material swings between anti-gravity soul and hard-edged funk otherness, a unique mixture that could've only been encouraged or enhanced by Ayers and Birdsong. "Give It," one of Birdsong's contributions, tumbles and swings, repeatedly unfurling and recoiling, made all the more off-center by Sharon Matthews and Sibel Thrasher's frantic projections: "Earth can be lonely in the middle of the night/We must love now so our minds can take flight." "The American Promise," with all its nerved-up guitar scratches and alternately forthcoming and demanding assertions, could be mistaken for early Pointer Sisters or even Bohannon. The likes of "I Just Love You," "Daylight," "Come into Knowledge," and "Look into the Sky," along with a particularly radiant look at "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" (originally recorded less than a year prior for Ayers' album of the same title), drift along with sweet melodies and silken rhythmic layers that linger for days, rivaling similarly bliss-inducing, spiritually minded Ayers Ubiquity classics like "Searching" and "Red, Black and Green." Due to an untimely shake-up at the Blue Thumb label, the album was barely released, receiving nothing in the way of promotion beyond word of mouth. Few outside the band's local supporters and Ayers' keen following were in the know, and it languished in obscurity until A Tribe Called Quest sampled "Daylight" for "Bonita Applebum." Vinyl "reissues" surfaced. A couple tracks were licensed for compilations. Universal Japan put a stop to the nonsense in early 2007 by releasing the album for the first time on CD; later in the year, Verve licensed the disc for U.S. release. ~ Andy Kellman


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