Sunbear

Sunbear

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From 1975-1978, Dick Griffey and Soul Train host Don Cornelius co-led Soul Train Records, which evolved into Griffey's Solar Records after Cornelius' departure in 1978 and proved to be one of the hottest R&B labels of the late '70s and early to mid-'80s. When Griffey and Cornelius were still working together and Soul Train Records had yet to become Solar Records, the company went through a trial and error process. Soul Train had some hits -- including Shalamar's "Uptown Festival" in 1977 and the Whispers' "Living Together (In Sin)" in 1976 -- but it wasn't the Motown-like powerhouse that Solar would become. The company was still finding its way in 1977, when it released Sunbear's self-titled debut album. Commercially, this LP was a major disappointment, and that's regrettable because it's a generally decent, if less than spectacular, soul/funk outing. Sunbear had a likable sound, and the band's appreciation of Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power (among others) comes through on funk items like "Don't Overlook the Feelings" and "I Heard the Voice of Music Say." The best thing on the album, however, isn't a funk smoker -- it's the dreamy soul ballad "Fantasy," which shouldn't be confused with the Earth, Wind & Fire favorite. Had Sunbear's "Fantasy" been released as a single, perhaps it would have been a hit. In 1980, the song reached a much larger audience when the Whispers recorded it on Imagination, one of their strongest and most successful albums. And by that time, Sunbear was history. This LP, which Sunbear produced with Griffey and Cornelius, went out of print when Soul Train Records evolved into Solar in 1978.

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