Proves there was more to Arrington than his UK top 20 successes.
Daryl Easlea 2010
Now a full-time minister at his Amazing Love Full Gospel Church in Ohio, Steve Arrington’s half-decade as a solo star produced four fondly-recalled albums and a brace of hit singles. Leaving the group Slave in 1982, where he’d risen from drummer to featured vocalist on hits such as Just a Touch of Love, he formed his own splendidly-titled group Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame and released this debut in 1983. Lead single Way Out appeared in 1982, and made a mark on the US R&B singles chart.
Arrington could well have been Prince. Both emerged around the same time, both writers who employed Rick James-style funk, laying down preposterous grooves and playing a great deal of the instruments on their albums themselves. However, Prince’s eclecticism was to prove his unique selling point, while Arrington stuck to the script and is preserved as a fine example of mid-80s soul.
Recorded in New York in late 1982, Hall of Fame Vol. I finds Arrington working with soul production veteran Jimmy Douglass and a team featuring Kevin Eubanks on bass and Arthur ‘Butch’ Rhames on guitar. The album is a fine showcase for Arrington’s intensely upbeat, optimistic grooves. Last Nite/Nite Before is cheeky, light and easy, a quiet storm; Weak at the Knees is repetitive, grinding funk, later sampled by Jay-Z and NWA. Strange (Soft and Hard) provides yet more robust riffing.
You feel that Arrington could have been capable of rather more than what we end up with. The thirty seconds of throwaway doo-wop at the end of Way Out makes you wish he’d recorded at a different time, and wasn’t such a slave to the machines of his era. The album straddles the middle of the road, unsure if Arrington wants to be in Kool & the Gang or Parliament.
Best known in the UK for his 1985 album Dancin’ in the Key of Life and its hits, its title-track and Feels So Real, Hall of Fame Vol. 1 proves there was more to Arrington than his UK top 20 successes. Although it’s not full of the most taxing of grooves there are some sweet flourishes, such as the breezy irregularity of the synthesizers on You Meet My Approval. The track shows Arrington’s benign love-man grace. It’s these quirks that bestow individuality on the album’s repetition.
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