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Issue 1084

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fDeluxe: fAMILY fORTUNES

fDeluxe @bluesandsoul.com
fDeluxe @bluesandsoul.com fDeluxe @bluesandsoul.com fDeluxe @bluesandsoul.com fDeluxe @bluesandsoul.com

Back in 1985, Prince could do no wrong.  He made music that took George Clinton and Funkadelic to another level.  A musical genius with multi-platinum selling albums behind him he created a new label â Paisley Park and signed only the most cutting edge musical talent around.  âThe Familyâ was one of those acts and although they released only one album they have iconic cult status amongst RnB and Hip Hop Artists alike.  Now, after 25 years they are back together again as fDeluxe. Their  long-awaited album "Gaslight" is released this month.

âThis album has been completely grassroots. Without the shadow of a record company constantly looking over our shoulders, weâve had that rare luxury to tweak.  Our fans have called it our four years of serious foreplay! But now I can say we feel really happy with where this album sits and how it soundsâ.  Iâm speaking to St Paul Peterson as he sitâs with Susannah Melvion outside a deli on Ventura Boulvard as they eat lunch on a  scorching afternoon in Los Angeles. 
 
St Paul sings lead vocals alongside Susannah Melvion for fDELUXE.  The band also include wind instrumentalist Eric Leeds and drummer Jellybean Johnson, back together again after 25 years.  The very best of the LA and Minneapolis music scenes have come together for their new album âGaslightâ which has been described as âpure funkâ, but is actually a unique blend of funk, pop jazz and soul.  âIt builds on who we are as songwritersâ St Paul explains  âReaching back to the old school, with a twist..this is music undeniably rooted in the grooveâ.
 
fDeluxes last incarnation was as âThe Familyâ, a project initiated by Prince after the success of Purple Rain. âPrince was so on fire at that time.  Heâs a genius at putting people together," Susannah tells me, âWe were like characters in his story.  It was a very important time in our lives."   Prince was so impressed when he first heard the eighteen-year-old St Paul singing during âPurple Rainâ rehearsals that he made it a mission to form a group with Peterson and sign them to his Paisley Park/Warner label.  
 
Jellybean Johnson had just left âThe Timeâ, one of the most popular groups in America, and was approached by Prince to join St Paul together with Susannah Melvion as co-lead vocals. Melvion is the daughter of renowned jazz musician Mike Melvion and twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy (Wendy and Lisa) and had been singing background vocals for a lot of offshoot bands at the time. âIt was a very exciting period for us, because everything that Prince touched turned to goldâ.  Eric Leeds came on board after Prince heard his horn playing on a demo handed to him by road manager Alan Leeds, his elder brother.   âAnd then suddenlyâ Susannah continues âthe musical combination was in place for something really special to happen.â
 
The result was a self-titled debut album that Questlove of The Roots says is âOne of the most unheralded funk records of all time."  Released to widespread critical acclaim the album spawned a top 10 R&B hit ("Screams Of Passion") and introduced "Nothing Compares 2 U" which was famously covered by Sinead OâConnor.  Cited by artists from Rahsaan Patterson to Paul McCartney and Robert Palmer, âThe Familyâ became a cult classic and the CD became a collectorâs item.
 
But St. Paul had become frustrated with the lack of promotion that the album had been given by the label and left to sign a solo deal with MCA.  Quite an abrupt end for a project that was proving to have such great potential?.  âIt was a big drag at the time,â Susannah recalls, âBut I was twenty, and we were too young and dumb to get really upset about it."  At that point everyone went their own separate ways, working with the likes of Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, Alexander OâNeal, Erykah Badu, George Clinton and of course Prince and The Revolution over the ensuing years.
 
The idea to get back together again only really started becoming a reality in 2003 when the group played at a one-off charity event in Los Angeles at the request of Sheila E.  This was followed by a dynamic performance in 2007 at The Rootsâ annual Grammy Bash.
 
âWe are all such good friends and it was so much funâ St Paul tells me, âSo why wouldnât you keep doing something you love so much?â  He tells me that it all kicked off when they jammed and recorded the powerful funk track "Sanctified."  âIt actually wrote itself, everything seemed to happen completely organically.  It was such a great feeling to all be playing together again, and 'Sanctified' really got the whole bus rolling."  
 
Susannah adds that their core fans have been an incredible support, âTheyâve watched this album being made via social networkingâ and as fDeluxe start touring with the new material theyâre getting a really fantastic reception.  âWeâre playing a sell-out gig in LA with Wendy and Lisa tonight and we definitely plan to come to Europe, early next year.  fDeluxe can speak to a whole new generationâ¦like I said itâs the real deal, seriously nutritious for the soul and the spirit!â

fDeluxe new album "Gaslight" is out October 31 on Art Of Groove.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT fDELUXE NEW ALBUM "GASLIGHT" FROM fDELUXE MEMBERS ST PAUL PETERSON & SUSANNAH MELVION IN OUR PRINTED EDITION OF BLUES & SOUL - AVAILABLE NOW (click below to go to B&S shop)
Words Estelle Bingham

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