Tony Drake Collection: Then & Now 2
While never perhaps achieving the commercial success that his talent so richly deserved, Tony Drake will forever hold a very special place in the hearts of soul fans throughout the world. He first burst onto the music scene as a solo-artist in 1969 with a stunning ballad on Musicor Records entitled "Let's Play House" that featured The Diplomats on backing vocals. Despite being heralded at the time by critics and disc jockeys alike, the record never got close to reaching the peaks that highly respected publications such as Billboard had so confidently forecast and it quietly disappeared from the play lists of those radio stations who had so enthusiastically got behind the record on it's release. Over the intervening years however, not only has this 2.57 minute masterpiece been rediscovered by classic soul fans from back-in-the day, but it has also found even greater acceptance with a whole new generation of soul lovers and as a result the original 45 is now highly sought after by collectors who will happily part with $150 to secure a mint copy. Disappointed at the lack of success on Musicor, the native of Philadelphia and one-time member of The Flamingoes as a replacement for Tommy Hunt, was released by the label and moved to Chicago. It was there in the windy city that he signed a contract with Brunswick Records and in so doing gained a friend and mentor in label-mate Jackie Wilson. His first and sadly only release on Brunswick was an up tempo Eugene Record and Barbara Acklin composition called "Suddenly" that featured The Chi-lites on backing vocals. As with the aforementioned "Let's Play House", while once again critically acclaimed, lack of promotion by the label meant that the record failed to achieve the much deserved breakthrough and before long it too faded into obscurity. "Suddenly" has also become a highly desirable 45 many years later, mainly as a result of many spins on the Northern Soul Scene in the United Kingdom. Although frustrated at the lack of commercial success as a performer, in 1971 under his given name of Samuel Garner, the young Tony Drake decided to try is hand at song writing and his first attempt was a song born out of personal experience through being in a relationship with a woman who had fathered a son by another man. When Eugene Record heard Tony's first song, "Living in the Footsteps of Another Man," he decided that it would be the perfect song to take back to Brunswick Records for Barbara Acklin to record, with of course the required gender references made to the title. After some consideration however the label decided that the song would however be recorded by The Chi-lites themselves on what would subsequently become a gold selling album in "A Lonely Man\'. So popular did the song become as an album cut, that in 1972 Brunswick also decided to release the song as a Chi-lites single and as a result it became known around the world. This has since helped spawn numerous cover versions by artistes in the United States, Italy, Jamaica and the United Kingdom, where it became a hit all over again in the 80's for The Pasadenas. Tony Drake continued to write and record throughout the 1970's but another release was not forthcoming until 1982 when "Human" was released a single on the short-lived New York based Rhissa-Crissa Records. Many of the recordings from that period had never been released until 2003 when Tony Drake released his first and to date only album release, the well-received CD Collectors Choice Volume 1, on his own SAGAR Records label. The CD contained a version of "Living In The Footsteps" but this was not the same version that London based disc-jockey Steve Guanori had championed so successfully on his weekly radio show broadcast via the internet on the now sadly defunct Soul 24-7. Steve had in fact owned the rare acetate for years without knowing who the vocalist was, although so different was the styling from that of Tony Drake's other recordings that many thought it was perhaps an un-released version by Jerry Butler or even Jackie Wilson. Well we're pleased to tell you that this original master recording of "Living In The Footsteps" was recently found on 1.5" tape, hidden away in a box with a number other tracks and that these hitherto un-released gems will be included on a new, soon-to-be-released Tony Drake CD which is provisionally titled Collectors Choice Volume 2. The master recording has recently been cleaned-up and beautifully re-mastered here in New Jersey by Grammy nominated producer and recording engineer Dennis Drake, and so for the very first time this "lost" version of the classic "Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man" is now available on a limited-edition 45 on It's Soul Time! Records. The flip side, "Hey World", was included on the Collectors Choice Volume 1 CD, but many will be unaware that this Samuel Garner composition was first recorded by Gwen McCrae on her 1982 Atlantic LP "Own My Way" that included the hit "Keep The Fire Burnin'".