The Pointer Sisters

Steppin'

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Keeping their forward momentum at warp speed, the Pointer Sisters brought the effusive Steppin' to bear in summer 1975. Having already danced into the spotlight across their first three albums, it was no surprise when the David Rubinson-produced LP, which boasted one of the era's best cut-out sleeves (slingback high-heeled tap sneakers!), cruised to number three R&B. Keeping their feet planted firmly in the older soul tradition which had served them so well, the Pointer Sisters continued to look ahead, carving their own niche in a genre soon to be glutted with contenders. This set is a thriller, from the opening funk groove of the number one hit "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)," which remains a delicious collision of mid-period soul, funk, and nascent disco, to their energetic cover of Stevie Wonder's "Sleeping Alone" and "Chainey Do," which sports jazz fusionist Herbie Hancock on clavinet. Sparklers like these only serve to whet the Pointer Sisters' own appetite, though, as they work their way through a hefty course of vibes. Their love of early standards blossoms across the smoky, sultry, six-minute "I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues" -- a wonderful tribute to Duke Ellington sung in medley form, allowing the quartet's vocal harmonies to shine across a big band backdrop. Elsewhere, they take a spin through Allen Toussaint's "Going Down Slowly," which scored them another R&B hit at the end of 1975. And although the Pointer Sisters are best-remembered for the mid-'80s disco soul they plied so well, it's albums like Steppin' which best capture the sisters' true spirit.

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