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Like Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang before them, Crown Heights Affair artfully bridged the gap between funk and disco, guaranteeing their records new life via sampling by successive generations of rappers and DJs. Originally dubbed New Day Express, the group formed in Brooklyn, NY, in 1967, originally comprising lead vocalist Philip Thomas, guitarist William “Bubba” Anderson, bassist Arnold “Muki” Wilson, keyboardist Stan Johnson, and drummer Raymond “Sugar Ray” Rock. Crown Heights Affair’s roster soon expanded to include saxophonist Darryl Gibbs, trumpeter James Baynard, and trombonist Julius Dilligard, Jr., and in 1973 they signed to RCA, releasing their self-titled debut LP the following year. While a hit in New York, the first single, “Super Rod,” failed to earn attention across the rest of the country, and when the follow-ups “Leave the Kids Alone” and “Special Kind of Woman” met the same fate, the group was left without a label. At that point Johnson, Gibbs, Baynard, and Dilligard all resigned from Crown Heights Affair, with Howie Young joining on keyboards, Tyrone Demmons coming in on trumpet, and siblings Bertram and Raymond Reid playing saxophone and trombone, respectively. This lineup signed to De-Lite, home to kindred spirits Kool & the Gang, and in 1975 Crown Heights Affair issued its sophomore effort, Dreaming a Dream, with an extended disco mix of the title cut cracking the R&B Top Five and the pop Top 50; “Every Beat of My Heart” and “Foxy Lady” soon followed, further establishing the group’s growing reputation among clubgoers. Percussionist Skip Boardley joined the lineup with 1976’s Do It Your Way; although the first single, “Dancin’,” was a rather shameless knockoff of Isaac Hayes’ classic “Theme from ‘Shaft’,” sales were again respectable, even if the LP’s second single, “Do It the French Way,” failed to generate much attention. 1978’s Dream World was buoyed by De-Lite’s new international distribution deal with Polygram. Virtually overnight Crown Heights Affair emerged as major fan favorites in the U.K., with the singles “Galaxy of Love” and “I’m Gonna Love You Forever” both reaching the British pop charts. While the title cut to 1979’s Dance Lady Dance was another British hit, the album flopped stateside, prompting Crown Heights Affair to recruit producer Bert DeCoteaux, known for hits with Sister Sledge; the resulting Sure Shot remains a minor masterpiece, highlighted by the disco classic “You Give Me Love,” a Top Ten U.K. pop hit during the summer of 1980. But the general public’s interest in disco soon took a nosedive, and Crown Heights Affair spent the next two years on hiatus. Minus keyboardist Young, the group resurfaced in 1982 with Think Positive, a failed attempt to update their sound to current tastes. After one final effort, 1983’s Struck Gold, Crown Heights Affair split. Bert Reid went on to enjoy some success as a producer, helming Denroy Morgan’s underground smash “I’d Do Anything for You” as well as sessions for Unlimited Touch (“I Hear Music in the Streets”), Raw Silk (“Do It to the Music”), and Barbara Tucker (“Stay Together”). As vintage Crown Heights Affair grooves found their way onto latter-day hip-hop and R&B records, Reid also collaborated with producer/DJs Little Louie Vega and François Kevorkian. He died in New York City on December 12, 2004.
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