I think we’ve said it before, but we have no hesitation in saying it again – Pleasure are one of the finest bands to come out of the world of mid-70s R&B. As such it is an honour for us to be working our way through their catalogue as part of BGP’s Funk & Jazz Classics Series. This time our journey has reached the group’s fourth album for the Fantasy label, “Get To The Feeling”. This should have been the LP where they crossed-over and made them famous with similar chart success to that of their fellow jazz-influenced funk outfits such as the Blackbyrds and perhaps even more relevantly, Earth Wind & Fire.
Pleasure were the amalgam of two high school bands from Portland, Oregon: the Marlon McClain-led Franchise and the jazzier Soul Masters led by Donald Hepburn. Pleasure had an intensity that impressed Grover Washington Jr who tipped off Crusaders’ trombonist Wayne Henderson, who was in the process of getting into production and was looking for acts to work with. Henderson took them under his wing at his At Home Productions and signed them to Fantasy Records, who had recently contracted his other new act, Side Effect. Pleasure’s debut album “Dust Yourself Off” saw respectable sales and its lead single, a cover of Maria Muldaur’s ‘Midnight At The Oasis’ almost gave them a hit.
Their mix of jazz, funk and soul meant that they were a prime candidate for the sort of success then being enjoyed by Kool and The Gang, and their second and third albums seemed to be showing a progression towards that goal. “Accept No Substitutes” featured the chart single ‘Ghettos Of The Mind’, and the title track of the next album “Joyous” cracked the Top 40 of the R&B chart. Considering how well it had done in the clubs, everyone was a little disappointed that it hadn’t gone higher and it was hoped that “Get To The Feeling” would provide the big hit.
Unfortunately the issue of “Get To The Feeling” proved to be a backwards step for the band in Pleasure’s chase for success. It is not immediately clear why that should be when listening to the record. Musically it is very strong. Opening tracks ‘Celebrate The Good Times’ and ‘Foxy Lady’ are strong jazz funk dancers and ‘Ladies Night Out’ is an almost completely instrumental jazzy groove, ‘No Matter What’ features an awesome alto solo from saxophonist Dennis Springer. It was all in vain and the LP stalled at #42 on the R&B Album chart.
It proved to be the final straw for the band’s relationship with Henderson, and it was the last album he produced for them. Their next album, “Future Now”, would give Pleasure their biggest hit to date, but that is a story for another time.
By Dean Rudland