Brass Construction’s A&R Man
Creating The Classics (album cover art exhibition) has led me to meet a variety of people that I never thought I would, while at the same sparking totally new conversations and trains of thought with individuals that I knew but from a different capacity.
Enter Jeff Samuels, PR for Panasonic. While on my post coverage run from my SOUL exhibition, Jeff humbly mentioned that he was the A&R who signed Brass Construction – a major funk band from the 70s whose major hits include “Movin'” (a #1 hit), “The Light,” and “Peekin” to name a few.
Check out the read below…
Who or how did you get introduced to soul and or funk music?
First I grew up in Camden NJ and was exposed to the Philly soul sound at an early age. And, I love any music, other than opera, that is done well – so I was a big fan of George Clinton and Sly.
What was it about the sound that attracted you to the genre?
The honesty and of course the rhythm.
What do you think it was about the music that drew so many people in?
I truly believe it was the party, dance, have a good time aspect that the music generated and provided.
How do you think the environment at that time shaped the music?
I think we are always looking for innocent escapes and this music went far in providing that diversion.
Why do you think artists, of that era, had a better since of craftsmanship, dove more creatively into their music (even costumes, stage shows), and seemed to have more fun?
Maybe because they really had to learn their craft, play their instruments. Not to disparage modern technology, but with drum machines, samplers, etc. I don’t think the younger musicians have to pay as much attention to their musicianship.
Were you musically inclined? If so, what instruments did you play? Were you apart of any groups? If no, what were some of the instruments that appealed to you?
I never played, but my brother is a bass player – he had success as a studio and Broadway player. My grandmother was an opera singer. I just loved music.
What led you to becoming an A&R and what label(s) did you work for?
I started as the music critic at Variety, then got a PR gig at Warner Bros. At that time Warner had a minimal presence in NY, so I had opportunity to make some A&R decisions – I brought Labelle to Warners and then was hired as an A&R man for United Artists, first in NY and then moved to LA.
At that time, what did it mean to be an A&R?
There were many facets to the job – obviously we were always looking for new artists to sign, worked with lawyers and managers to try to sign established artists whose contracts might be coming up. Also responsible for overseeing recording budgets. Other parts of the job involved finding material for artists that may need songs and working to align artists with producers.
Describe the music scene and the record industry at that time?
It was great – MTV had just started, digital downloads didn’t exist. I think one of the big differences was that the music was the first consideration and then marketing came later.
Who were some of the other acts that you A&R’?
Chris Rea (had a big hit with “Fool if You Think It’s Over”); Gerry Rafferty (“Baker Street”); Grateful Dead; Donald Byrd; Tim Weisberg; Kenny Rogers; Crystal Gayle; Electric Light Orchestra.
How did you discover Brass Construction? Was it an easy “sell” to the label?
I actually flew to NY to hear another artist in a lawyer’s office. Didn’t think that act was viable, so I said, “I’ve come this far, what else is going on.” He played me “Peekin” from BC and I loved it. I was also well aware of Jeff Lane form his BT Express success and that combination convinced me to sign them. It was an easy sell, since the then President of UA, Artie Mogul, had faith in my ears.
Can you provide some insight behind the name Brass Construction?
I never knew where that came from, but always assumed it was because they had a great horn section.
What was BC like in the beginning?
Really nice kids from Bed-Sty, who had a very good sense of themselves.
What was the day-to-day like with the group?
I didn’t spend that much day-day time with them, but whenever we were together, either at an awards ceremony, in the studio or just hanging out in LA, they were humble and really nice guys.
Describe the experience of working with so many personalities (in the group)?
It was easy – I remember that their first album was due to come out in the Nov-Dec time frame and I had to fly east and explain to them that we were holding the album until February because we thought it would get lost in the Christmas rush of major acts. They were visibly upset and wondered what to do with their lives – should they get jobs, go to school. All I could tell them was that the label really believed in them and that the best chance for success was to wait – fortunately for all it worked out.
Paint a picture of their live shows?
Dynamic – their leader Randy Muller, was and still is a creative force, but he also understood the need to put on a great show – they did just that.
What was the environment like at the label and for the group when “Movin’” hit #1?
We were really very excited, for a few reasons. Obviously the success of Movin was a financial plus for UA, but most important, especially to me, was that the decision to wait for the release was vindicated. When we had the gold record ceremony at the Roxy in LA, that was a highlight for me.
What were some of their other big hits?
“Peekin,” “Changin,” “The Message,” “Can You,” “The Light,” “Love.”
Why do you think they were so successful?
Pretty basic – good songs, dynamic leader and great live show.
Did you ever have or were called upon to provide any creative input?
Only the decision to delay release of first album.
Did they or you know when first listening to a record that it was going to be a hit?
I had a strong feel which is why I signed them.
What were some of your favorite Brass Construction records?
I really like “Peekin” and “Movin” and “Love.”
What were some of their more notable tours? If you attended them, what was touring with them like? Any stories you can disclose?
I never toured with them and really only saw them perform on Soul Train, once in Brooklyn (their old neighborhood) and at the gold record ceremony.
How long did you work with them and or how long were they on the label?
For the first three albums.
Are you still in contact with any of the members?
Unfortunately not, though I’ve followed Randy’s career through the internet. He is a real talent.
As far as today’s music – how do you feel about funk’s relatives – R&B and neosoul? Who are you listening to? If anyone contemporary, who?
Must admit, I’m basically a rocker – I love some of the younger bands like Kings of Leon, Wilco, Fall Out Boy. My daughter is 17 and when we’re together I’m exposed to a lot of hip hop and rap – I do like Eminem, Jay Z, Ludacris, Run DMC (old school).
What are your feelings on how hip hop artists have sampled soul and funk music?
I think all sampling is cool, as long as the original artists are recognized and compensated.
Overall, what did you most enjoy about your experience with Brass Construction?
It was my first major success as an A&R man and helped jump start my career, so there is always an emotional spot in my heart for BC. Also, it was very rewarding to see these kids from Brooklyn work so hard and become a success.