If you’ve been a longtime fan of R&B music, there’s a chance you may have heard of Dayton. Dayton was one of a handful of R&B acts based within 50 miles of it’s namesake Dayton, Ohio who from the late ’70s to mid ’80s formed a musical empire that rivaled Minneapolis for R&B supremacy. The region never developed the consolidated musical image Minneapolis-St. Paul had, but whatever exposure it lacked, it more than made up for with diversity. The sounds coming out of the region were certainly more accessible and just as varied as that coming from Prince’s empire.
So its understandable if you’d never heard of Chris Jones and company. Like evil sisters going to the ball, Ohio Players, Slave, Zapp and others would go off to big time fame and fortune, leaving Dayton behind. It’s quite common to hear samples taken from alumni of the Ohio funk scene, but it takes a DJ who’s done his homework to uncover the hidden gems of Dayton. Despite a legacy of deep and often funky grooves, Dayton’s sphere of influence would stay confined to those old enough to remember the band when they were active back in the day.
Dayton did have some success with the singles “Cutie Pie” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” from earlier albums, but they were mostly forgotten beyond their loyal R&B audience. Besides, record companies saw this as disposable music. Poor distribution and promotion were just part of the game for many R&B artists circa 1982.
The move to Capitol records and the release of Feel the Music sounded like it would be the band’s big breakout, possibly even beyond the confines of the R&B ghetto. Produced by Rahni Harris and Zapp’s Rodger Troutman, Feel the Music was the most polished and well structured of all Dayton’s albums.
The sound of warm analog synths and bouncy bass lines framed bright and happy songs. The relaxed nature of ‘It Must Be Love” won over U.S. listeners as it was the only single here. In England the band’s fortunes were much better. “The Sound of the Music”, one of 1983’s best dance songs was a joyous, brassy romp with a funky fluid bass line and a chorus that sounded so much like Earth Wind and Fire, that I assumed it was their song until I discovered the album for myself.
Sadly, only a few of Feel the Music‘s 9 tracks ever got airplay in America. In England “The Sound of the Music” was a huge dance hit and eventually spilled over into America’s clubs. By that time Capitol must have given up on Dayton because the album pressings stopped shortly after 1983. In 1992 the only CD pressing happened in Japan of all places and remains the only digital physical media version to date.
The rarity of Feel the Music has inflated the price to the point that the curious may not be willing to pay the over $30 asking price on Ebay or Amazon. Hopefully as more people become aware or feel the need to reminisce, Capitol will release a remastered version of this nearly forgotten classic.