Solid as rocks ...
Ashford & Simpson, real name Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, was an American singer-songwriter duo with the peculiarity, apart from being very talented as songwriters/producers, to be… husband and wife in the life.
They started their artistic career in the 60s by composing for artists like The 5th Dimension, Aretha Franklin and others Ray Charles. That's how they got noticed by Motown's Berry Gordy.
Integrated into Motown, they will start by working with another magical duo that are Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel. Duo for which they will compose or produce several hits including "Ain't no mountain high enough", "Your precious love", "Ain't nothing like the real thing" and others' You're all I need to get by ". Valerie Simpson will sing on most of the songs from their latest album "Easy". An album whose sales will be used in part to help Terrell's family pay for her care, the singer suffering from a brain tumor which she eventually died at just 24 years old.
They will also compose and produce most of Diana Ross' 70's albums, which will meet with notable success. But they will also write for Gladys Knight & the Pips, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Syreetha Wright, The Marvelettes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Dynamic Superiors, etc ... But also Teddy Pendergrass, The Brothers Johnson, Chaka Khan, the list is more than impressive !
As singers, the duo also began their career in the early 1960s with the gospel group The Followers. But the real take off came in the mid-1970s with the release of their debut album "Gimme something real", which produced their first major hit with the title "(Id know you) Anywhere".
The 1970s saw them release several albums but it was the album "Is it still good to ya", released in 1978, which will remain as the best ranked of the whole decade, notably thanks to the title "It seems to hang on". Big year 1978 with an even more important success on the track "Stuff like that", track which they record in company of other sizes that are Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan.
The album "Stay free", released a year later in 1979, also enjoyed significant success thanks to its flagship track "Found a cure".
The early 1980s saw them align album after album, albums which would experience varying degrees of success. In terms of major success, we will mainly note the single "Street corner" released in 1982. But it was above all the year 1984 which made them definitively return to legend when the enormous title "Solid" was released. Superb title taken from the album of the same name and which will set fire to all the Dancefloor on the planet. A title which remains to this day their Masterpiece and the highlight of their personal career as singers.
Other albums and singles would come out later, but none could match the phenomenal success of "Solid". Nickolas Ashford will die in 2011 from throat cancer, 4 days before Valerie Simpson’s 65th birthday.
Be that as it may, Ashford & Simpson will have produced for 4 decades a significant number of titles for them, but also and especially for the others, titles of which some are today among the most beautiful musical nuggets of this end of the XXth century.
To discover or rediscover.
Discography (among others ...) :
I’ll find you 1964
(I'd Know You) Anywhere 1973
Main line 1974
One more try 1976
Tried, tested and found true 1976
So so satisfied 1977
Send it 1977
Don’t cost you nothing 1978
It Seems to Hang On 1978
Stuff like that 1978
Found a cure 1979
Nobody knows 1979
Love Don't Make It Right 1980
It shows in the eyes 1981
It's the long run 1981
Street corner 1982
High rise 1983
It's much deeper 1983
Solid (as a rock) 1984
Outta the world 1985
Count your blessings 1986
What becomes of love 1986
I’ll be there for you 1989
Hungry for me again 1990
Been found 1996
What if 1997
1964 ... at the beginning of the genesis of the story. Very early 1960s but already showing more than interesting potential. And the rest will confirm that there is potential ...
1973 ... big 10-year air gap before finding them again the following decade in this year 1973. All in Intimist mode, on a light and airy title at will. The start of metamorphosis !
1974 ... the tempo suddenly accelerates. On a typical rhythm of the 70s, pre-Disco, the duo shows that they can also play in this category. Promising all that ...
1976 ... still dance oriented, the adventure continues slowly but surely. Of course, we are far from the planetary mega hit that shatters everything in its path but the intention is good in any case ...
1976 ... the first big hit. Of course, success remains limited in the USA, but title after title, it is clear that there is talent in this duo and that at some point, it will pay off !
1977 ... we find them in Intimist mode in this new year. They deliver here a pretty ballad of which they have the secret, of course, but they still have a little way to go before touching the stars ...
1977 ... in the same vein. A 1977 year definitely placed under the sign of the 'emotional' register. This title is already a little more accomplished than the previous one and the result in the Charts will necessarily be better
1978 ... return to Dance with a title which perfectly matches the musical standards of the moment. Result of the races : a duo which is gaining momentum and whose fame grows, grows, grows !
1978 ... when several future very big names unite, the result is already explosive. This time around, they have it, their first global mega-hit. The machine is well and truly launched !
1978 ... a particularly inspired 1978 which saw the duo in Olympic form. And who says form, says success. The proof with this title !
1979 ... this time the magical duo is gaining speed and amplitude. After several years of trial and error, they have just moved up a gear and it shows, or above all, you can hear !
1979 ... a BIG year 1979 that saw them release hit Dance on hit Dance. An end of the decade on the hats of wheel and which announces above all a decade 80 to come of the fire of God !
1980 ... an 80s decade which begins on the foundations of those which ended the previous decade. There is not much missing to get the mega hit, the one that makes it legendary ...
1981 ... well, so far, they haven't yet found the magic ingredient that turns a good track into a mega hit. But they're looking, they're looking ...
1981 ... first gentle break at the start of the decade and in what way. Here they sign a magnificent Ultimate Slow which literally floats in the air. MA-GIC !
1982 ... still big-caliber hit but they still can't go beyond their natural boundaries when it comes to success in the 1980s. For the planetary mega-hit, they'll have to try again and again. And yet, it quivers, it quivers !
1983 ... a perfectly polished duo that unrolls quietly. A dynamic well in place but which still has not found its Holy Grail. Patience, patience ...
1983 ... the least we can say is that their enthusiasm is communicative. A lively title, full of energy and which gives the potato as they say !
1984 ... then comes THIS title. Their Mona Lisa ! It took until 1984 to see them finally reach the planetary consecration after which they have been chasing for years. Here they are simply signing one of the biggest dance hits of the decade and the end of the twentieth century. A colossal success well deserved and which rewards one of the most brilliant careers of this turn of the century. MAS-TER-FUL !
1985 ... admittedly, this title cannot compete with the previous jewel but it largely benefits from the enormous suction effect generated by the latter. Race results : new top hit, but only in the USA. The planetary success will have been short-lived ...
1985 ... this one, on the contrary, offers them a new success internationally. Admittedly, of fairly medium size, but at least it has the merit of keeping them afloat and in the leading pack. It's already that !
1986 ... the last notorious hit, 20 years after their debut. A magnificent career of which they can be proud and which will have produced several pieces of very large caliber, including an anthology !
1986 ... a new sweet parenthesis that once again allows them to take us to unsuspected imaginary lands. A title that will not even be classified. Go figure ...
1989 ... and what to say about it. A finesse and lightness at the end of a decade that enabled them to end a particularly successful decade in style. What more !
1990 ... and they restarted the following decade on the same bases. The Intimist domain, a goodwill that they will have overexploited but which, paradoxically, will not have brought them the expected large-scale results. He will always have missed that stroke of genius that makes all the difference at this level ...
1996 ... big air hole of 6 years and then they are back again. A more prestigious comeback because it is obvious that the 90s are too many for them ...
1997 ... a career which ends for good with this title, once again in the Intimist register. Impossible to dissuade them from returning to this niche and yet, they could have done so much more in the dance register. But hey, everyone chooses their path ...
Greatest Hits :