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11 Sep 2016

Ohio Players ”Honey” 1975 US Funk Soul












Ohio Players ”Honey” 1975 US Funk Soul
full
Legendary pioneers of street funk, the Ohio Players went platinum with this hot 1975 release that includes the chart-topping disco/funk classic “Love Rollercoaster”. Sexy, horn-driven grooves, hypnotic rhythms, and bottom-heavy jams take us on a fresh and funky new dimension. … 

Honey may have had the most controversial LP cover of 1975. Its erotic cover, which depicted a nude model covered in honey, was protested by feminists when it was alleged that the model had become stuck to the floor during the photo shoot. Some retailers, in fact, refused to carry it. All the controversy certainly didn’t hurt the album commercially. In 1975, the Ohio Players were one of R&B’s most successful acts, and were inescapable for anyone who listened to R&B/Soul radio at the time. The album kept the band’s commercial momentum going thanks to such hard-driving funk as “Love Rollercoaster” (a song that was sampled to death by rappers in the ‘80s and '90s and covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1996), “Fopp,” and the playfully jazz-influenced hit “Sweet Sticky Thing.” While the Players’ outstanding contributions to funk would continue to have an enormous impact long after the band’s popularity faded, it’s important to stress that only about half of Honey falls into the funk category. In fact, lead singer Sugarfoot’s moving performance on the remorseful “Alone” makes one wish that the Players’ ballads were discussed more often…byallmusic…. 

Greasy funk was hardly scarce in the US in the mid 1970s. After its originator, James Brown, and its innovator, George Clinton, there were myriad followers such as the Commodores (before the ballads), Cameo (before the codpieces) and perhaps the slinkiest of them all, the Ohio Players. 
The group had been around in various guises since 1959, but it was when they signed to Mercury in 1974 that they hit their stride, incorporating soul, blues, jazz and even splashes of country into their funk. They also became notorious for their album sleeves, fully utilising the 12” gatefold format to depict girls in various states of undress. 
Honey, their most accomplished album, had possibly the most outrageous cover of the lot, with a woman covered in the sweet, sticky substance of the album’s title. The group are pictured, dwarfed by her. It may suggest that it was all ironic, but as it was 1975, the jury is still out. 
There are few question marks about the music. It is a straight-up split between sassy stomps and ultra mellow grooves. We have standout moments like the huge international hit, Love Rollercoaster (covered in 1997 by the Red Hot Chili Peppers), a track so vibrantly funky that it provided the name for a chain of UK record retailers (Fopp), and the brief, chaotic Ain’t Giving Up No Ground. It is the ballads, however, where the band excels: the title track and ‘quiet storm’ staple Sweet Sticky Thing convey all that was soulful in the Ohio Players’ world. 
There is a strong sense of play in their work, from their aforementioned rollercoaster to the kids-style chorus in Sweet Sticky Thing, or the referencing of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It in their (different) song of the same name. 
Honey’s seven tracks clock in at a little over half an hour, but they leave you wanting much more, especially after Larry ‘Sugarfoot’ Bonner’s impassioned vocal on Alone, which is so languorously-paced and peaceful that it brings the album to a dead stop. With all its light-hearted musical schizophrenia, Honey remains the Ohio Players’ greatest album……BBC review…. 

By the time of 1975’s HONEY, the Players had streamlined their album covers from HUSTLER-ish to PLAYBOY-ish, while keeping their music still delightfully funky & sexy beyond description. 1974’sFIRE contained their first #1 pop hit with the title track, and the music was definitely what its title stated: blazing! While HONEY hints at something a little more, well, smooth, it’s still a fantastic album with enough grit to rock the dance floors before putting on the slower stuff when you get back home. 

“Love Rollercoaster” was the Player’s 2nd #1 pop hit, and is probably their most famous song thanks to cover versions like that from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. While the Peppers’ version was a good White-boy version of it, the Players’ one is still the funky king, one to get you up & moving no matter how many times it’s been played at parties, sporting events or oldies radio. 
“Fopp” is another chaoticfunky delight with the opening drum line indeed sounding reminiscent of the opening to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City”. Maybe Axl Rose needs to pay some restitution to the Players, who knows? 
As has been proven time & time again, ballads were always the Players’ secret weapon, and they remain underrated with all the loud, screaming funk that was their trademark. “Sweet Sticky Thing” was lucky to be released for it is indeed much smoother-edged than what the Players were known for at the time. The fact this jazz-grooved tune (man, that saxophone!) did so well really says something. 

The opening title track was a brave way to start out the album, especially after just having a massive #1 hit with “Fire”. I can easily imagine this song coming from Earth, Wind & Fire, who were probably the only other group the Players could really compete with 

in the funk sweepstakes (Parliament/Funkadelic were already the kings, so they were out of the running). 

“Let’s Do It” is another romantic jam to melt your lover’s heart with, and hopefully you won’t find yourself singing the closing ballad “Alone” before long. The man singing this song is all-too-obviously heartbroken and, as my good friend Nathan says, it definitely is a forgotten treasure of ’70s R&B balladry with Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner’s lead vocal just tear-inducing. Even the spare musical back-up on the song heightens its emotional nakedness. 

HONEY was produced, written & performed by the Players themselves, so you know the album is exactly how they would have wanted it. Even those ever-present covers were their brainchild, with HONEY’s being the undoubtedly the most famous of all (the inner photo is a true “how could they do it?” affair). 

While the Playershave been sampled like mad by hip-hop artists for years, and are still adored by R&B lovers today, they have been sort of overlooked in the overall pantheon of popular music. Earth, Wind & Fire have been inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as has Parliament/Funkadelic, so why not the Players? Until that day comes, we can be sure that an album as fantastic & funky as HONEY will be one of the things that gets them in there. …. 

There is an urban legend about the song Love Rollercoaster. About two minutes into the song, a faint scream is heard. the urban legend states that the scream is that of the model on the cover of the album. Allegedly, the model was kneeling on fiberglass and pouring honey onto herself. The honey bonded her to the glass, and her skin was ripped off in the effort to unstick her. She confronted the manager during the recording of the song, who then proceeded to stab her to death, 

This myth is false, however. The scream was made by keyboardist Billy Beck. A local DJ made up the rumor, and the band kept with it to boost sales of the album…. 

Tracks 

1 Honey (5:17) 
2 Fopp (3:52) 
3 Let’s Do It (5:12) 
4 Ain’t Givin’ up No Ground (1:42) 
5 Sweet Sticky Thing (6:12) 
6Love Rollercoaster(4:48) 
7 Alone (4:38) 

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