More than once Jay Richford and Gary Stevan’s Feelings has been described as the greatest library record ever released. Of course Be With can’t be seen to be playing favourites, but we have to admit, it’s pretty good. Insanely rare and immensely sought-after, it’s a tough funk, street jazz masterpiece coveted for many years by collectors of all musical genres.
Since its original release on Italian label Carosello in 1974, Feelings has appeared on several labels with different sleeves and even under a different artist. Indeed cult library label Conroy put it out in one of their iconic red sleeves in 1976 and yes, Feelings has indeed had more than one modern re-issue since these “original” releases. But a record this special deserves to be kept in press and we think it deserves the Be With treatment.
Long hailed as a holy grail of library music, Feelings is the epitome of the sort of cinematic orchestral jazzy funk that is “that 70s library music sound”. Infectiously funky, deliciously melodic and with impeccable, elegant production, this record is the showcase for a stunning set of compositions and arrangements and with performances that are nothing short of virtuoso.
No, Jay Richford and Gary Stevan aren’t two of the most Italian sounding names. As the story goes these were the pseudonyms adopted by Stefano Torossi and Giancarlo Gazzani who wrote the album but couldn’t use their real names on the original release for legal reasons. But Stefano Torossi later both clarified and confused the tale further by explaining that Feelings was the work of four people, not just Gazzani and himself. Fellow composers and musicians Sandro Brugnolini and Puccio Roelens also worked on the album and as Torossi himself explained “we all worked together”, with all four gents “dividing the royalties in equal parts… that’s the story.” Right, so, with that all sorted out let’s get back to talking about the music. And what music it is.
The record’s first side lifts off with “Flying High”, soaring brilliant and shimmering. Funk licks, menacing strings and swaggering horns combine for an ice-cold intro groove that Isaac Hayes would surely have envied, before the steady-paced drums deliver the slo-mo TKO. The string-drenched cop-funk of “Going Home” raises the tempo. All funky quick-fire bass lines and killer electric guitar soloing. A real thriller.
“Walking In The Dark” positively drips in blaxploitation-funk drama strings and horn struts, all laced with delicate drums, velvet piano and more filthy wah-wah. “Fighting For Life” is another funk-fuelled workout built around an effortlessly relentless drum track that refuses to give up until even the stiffest-necked head is nodding.
The loping, open drum break that guides the much-loved “Feeling Tense” through its early stages would be good enough on its own. The heavy bass gloss, swirling strings and ominous horns that follow take things to the next level.
The second side opens with another favourite “Running Fast”, and the track does precisely that. This is one fine rollicking chase theme underpinned by frenetic (yet funky) Fender Rhodes and skipping bass and drums. Those sweeping strings are a gorgeous extra. It’s a deliciously feel-good groove that sets the heart racing.
“Loving Tenderly” envelops us in warm, velvety night-time vibes with easy listening horns and slinky strings dialling up the seduction. Definitely one for the lithe lovers out there. The pace picks up on the electrifying “Fearing Much” where strings dart around deep bass, buzzing guitars and another funky drum break. The lush, melancholic “Being Friendly” is another easy beauty, all warm Rhodes and strings. Majestic stuff that puts an aural arm around you. The climactic “Having Fun” rides a pulsating, bass-heavy drum break with snatches of a funky guitar refrain, some luxurious keys, sweeping strings and triumphant horns. Sensational.
“Feelings” is a profoundly appropriate title for such an emotionally funky and genuinely affecting record. Groove-laden bass, irrepressible horns, sweet flute lines, warm Rhodes, lush string arrangements, blaxploitation-styled wah-wah guitars and so, so much more make this one of the finest instrumental soul LPs of the 70s, if not of all time.
The audio for this re-issue of Feelings comes from the original analogue tapes and has been remastered for vinyl by Be With regular Simon Francis and cut by Pete Norman. The same care has been taken by the Be With team to restore that glorious original Carosello sleeve. Feelings is almost too good to be true. Feels good all over.