Joe Thomas

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The career of this Detroit soul singer, if not enchanted, has at least been devoted totally to Enchantment. The latter group was formed when its original members -- Joe Thomas, Emanuel "E.J."…
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The career of this Detroit soul singer, if not enchanted, has at least been devoted totally to Enchantment. The latter group was formed when its original members -- Joe Thomas, Emanuel "E.J." Johnson, Bobby Green, Ed "Mickey" Clanton and Dave Banks -- were still teenyboppers in high school. The "ten-year rule" for success seems applicable as this group's enchanted forest would be the styles that became popular about a decade later, circa the late '70s and early '80s.

Thomas has been performing and recording with the outfit ever since, sticking to the project despite the "most enjoyable but underrated" status generally agreed on for the group by old-school soul pundits. Landing a record contract was in itself a feat, yet by the time that had been achieved the ensemble had more than gotten itself together on the competitive Detroit music scene. Thomas and buddies inked a pact with the Roadshow label in 1976, working with Michael Stokes, who subsequently became affiliated with Motown. It turned out to be good weather on the hit parade for "Sunshine," with the entire follow-up album Once Upon a Dream considered first class.

Roadshow gets blamed for not building on the success of the latter masterwork, going bankrupt instead as the '70s closed out. Enchantment headed to RCA's black music division, then Columbia, then back to the aforementioned Stokes for a 1983 album that, although titled Utopia, was commercially more of a wasteland. Thus ended the mainstream recording career of Thomas and company's high-school project. Happily, all have benefited from the soul genre's emphasis on history, Enchantment continuing to tour in the ensuing decades in the context of nostalgic package tours. Thomas recorded a charity single with the group in 2003, covering "God Bless America" with something of an artistic funeral shroud in honor of the American carnage in Iraq.