Side Effect’s second album “What You Need” was their masterpiece. ‘Always There’ was made with the ever-tight rhythm section of Pleasure and Blacksmoke’s horn section at the top of their game, but it was the vocals that really sealed the deal. Nabors had been replaced with Helen Lowe (later, as Helen Baylor, a gospel star). She is in total command of the tune, singing very powerfully but without any strain. The band on the rest of the LP was Side Effect’s own backing group the BeBop Band made up of Steve “Funky Fingers” Beckmeier on guitar, Joe “Bunch” Brown on bass, Robert “The Popper” Griffiths on percussion and a horn section made up of Mayo Tiana, Dennis Christianson, Steve Madaio, and Jim Coile - who went on to record as the LA Boppers in the early 80s. They are first heard on the extended ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling’, a cover of a Crusaders number from their “Those Southern Knights” album. This is a showcase for Side Effect’s vocal harmonies and also for some incredible Hammond organ playing by Bobby Lyle, another protégé of Henderson’s, whose own LP “The Genie” is considered a jazz funk classic. ‘Time Has No Ending’ is a feature for the lead vocal of Gregory Matta, lifted from being a straight soul ballad by the distinctive horn arrangement by Augie Johnson, and some vocal interplay at the end. The first side of the album is completed by another dance number, the infectious ‘S. O. S.’, built on a clever horn arrangement and carried by Helen Lowe’s marvellous vocals.
Side Two’s opener, ‘Honky Tonk Scat’ pays tribute to the band’s 1940s imagery, something which doesn’t translate at all to their actual music. That’s not to say that it’s not an effective cut. Built on an insistent bass line, this, alongside the Augie Johnson-sung ‘Life Is What You Make It’ is the closest that Side Effect get to pure funk. ‘Finally Found Someone’ also features Johnson on lead vocals. It’s a joyous latin-tinged dancer that is possibly my favourite track on the whole album and perfect for some enterprising DJ to spice up his set. The final member of the group, Louie Patton, gets his chance to shine on the lead vocals for ‘Changes’, a very traditional slow soul song which suits his range perfectly and his cohorts’ harmonies just as well. The album ends with Johnson taking on the vocal duties and with ‘I Know You Can’. It opens with a beautifully delicate intro before bursting into a medium tempo jazz-tinged stormer. Some of the vocal interplay between the group is so intricate that it almost makes the designation of a lead vocalist a pointless exercise.
“What You Need” made Side Effect stars and the following year – after losing Lowe, replacing her with Silvia St James – the band released “Going Bananas”. It was another great album mixing soul, a touch of jazz (their most authentic yet, with a cover of the scat classic ‘Cloudburst’) and dance numbers. It saw them championed on the dance floors of the world. They released one final album for Fantasy, “Rainbow Visions”, which continued in the same vein, although its hit was the rather awful ‘Disco Junction’.
By Dean Rudland