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Click below for a Slave sample:
Of all the Ohio funk bands of the 1970s, Slave may have been the most explosive. Their furiously riffing tunes contained so much energy that they threatened to overheat your system, and they were duly considered one of the best acts from the latter days of the classic funk era. Monster jams such as "Slide," "Watching You," and "Just A Touch Of Love" were just a few of their memorable songs.
Slave began as the brainchild of Stevie Washington, who put the group together as a teenager in Dayton in 1975. Even at that age, his musicianship and leadership skills were so developed that he came to be known as The Fearless Leader. Perhaps with the help of his uncle Pee Wee Middlebrooks of the Ohio Players, Washington had Slave signed to Cotillion Records in 1977.
Their debut single was "Slide" and it established the formula for all future releases: stomping jazzy bass lines courtesy of Mark Adams, Mark Hicks' rock-influenced guitar licks, powerhouse drumming and simple yet effective lyrics. "Slide" became the group's biggest hit and the self-titled album had one of the most distinctive cover photos of all time: a black man (a slave) holding up a sphere (the world). Despite the imagery, the group never dealt with social issues in its material, favoring uptempo romps almost exclusively.
The arrival of singers Starleana Young and Steve Arrington in 1978 marked a change in Slave that would most clearly be heard on 1979's "Just A Touch Of Love". While still emphasizing the bass, the song was also more melodic, thanks to the harmonies of the vocalists. This was another hit, as was "Watching You," which was in the same style.
By the early 1980s, Arrington's unique vocal style had made him the focus of Slave, and Washington left to form Aurra with Young, where they had modest success on Salsoul Records. Undeterred, the band responded with perhaps its strongest album, Show Time. Boasting such stormers as "Snap Shot," "Steal Your Heart," and "Spice Of Life," there was not a weak track to be found and was definitely one of the highlights of the 1980s.
Unfortunately, the wheels began to come off shortly after its release. Arrington decided to go solo and recorded at least one classic in "Weak At The Knees" before focusing on more spiritual material. The band tried to regroup with new members, but the magic could not be recaptured and interest began to fade. Cotillion dropped the band in 1984 and they settled in with Ichiban, where they continued to record through the 1990s.
Slave is still touring and recording and you can catch the occasional clip of the most recent incarnation on YouTube. Arrington has reportedly been working on a funk-gospel album for several years.
Slave's Deepest Grooves
Hardness of the
World (Cotillion, 1977)
The Concept (Cotillion, 1978)
Just A Touch Of Love (Cotillion, 1979)
Stone Jam (Cotillion, 1980)
Time (Cotillion, 1981)
Visions of the Lite (Cotillion, 1982)
Bad Enuff (Cotillion, 1983)
New Plateau (Cotillion, 1984)
Unchained At Last (Ichiban, 1986)
Make Believe (Ichiban, 1987)
Slave 88 (Ichiban, 1988)
Rebirth (Ichiban, 1990)
Funk Strikes Back (Ichiban, 1992)
Stellar Fungk: The Best of Slave (Rhino, 1994)
of the Funk (Ichiban, 1996)
the Archives (Echo, 1998)
Hits (Cleopatra, 2001)
Party Lights: More of the Best (Atlantic, 2003)
The Definitive Groove Collection (Atlantic, 2006)
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