Both commercially and creatively, Side Effect did not live up to its enormous potential. The vocal group had a very attractive sound, and with the right material, it could have been huge. But unfortunately, Side Effect often settled for decent when it should have been excelling. Nonetheless, the quartet did have its moments. In 2002 -- long after Side Effect's breakup -- Fantasy reissued its first two albums (1975's Side Effect and 1976's What You Need) back to back on this 73-minute CD. Both albums were produced by trombonist Wayne Henderson (of Crusaders fame), and they're quite similar; on both albums, Side Effect favors a mildly jazzy approach to '70s soul and funk. And Henderson was an appropriate producer for Side Effect because he had both jazz and R&B credentials -- before the Crusaders played jazz-funk, they were a Jazz Messengers-influenced hard bop outfit. But while Side Effect is a decent debut, What You Need is more than decent -- it is excellent. And What You Need contains some of Side Effect's most essential recordings, including the funky "S.O.S." and the L.A. residents' remake of the Crusaders' "Keep That Same Old Feeling." What You Need was also the album that gave listeners Side Effect's stunning version of Ronnie Laws' "Always There," which was originally a soul-jazz instrumental but became an R&B vocal number when Paul Allen's lyrics were added. There are two female singers heard on this CD -- Sylvia Nabors on Side Effect and Helen Lowe on What You Need. And while Nabors is competent, Lowe is amazing. (It should be noted that Lowe subsequently gave up secular music and re-emerged as gospel singer Helen Baylor). Although Side Effect isn't as strong as What You Need, it's still nice to have both albums finally available on CD.
Side Effect/What You Need Review
by Alex Henderson