Atlantic Starr were known to me (as I’m sure they are with a lot of radio listeners) with their two late 80’s adult contemporary ballad hits “Secret Lovers” and “Always”. Though these weren’t the most instrumentally exciting songs ever made,they still showcased how talented the band actually were. The big surprise to me was that Atlantic Starr began as a heavy funk septet out of Greenburgh,New York. Central to the band was three Lewis brothers in guitarist Dave,percussionist and trombonist Johnathan and keyboardist Wayne-all of whom shared vocal duties. Today is Wayne’s birthday. And it felt right to tell the story of the bands early days.
While performing in Westwood,California the band were known by the name Newban. That is until they were signed to A&M sand Herb Alpert requested they changed their name. The clarifier “Atlantic” came from the bands East coast roots. And they were off and running to record their self titled debut in 1978. My friend Henrique Hopkins referred to one song from their early days to me through another source. It was a commercial for the LA soul radio station 1580 KDAY,which featured a cameo of a 20 year old Michael Jackson dancing to a song from Atlantic Starr’s debut. Henrique mused if MJ was dancing off it,it had to have been a special groove. And the name of this groove was “Stand Up”.
Drummer Porter Carroll kicks off the song,whose opener is defined by Wayne Lewis’s sharp and ultra melodic space funk synthesizer darting. Over this,the three Lewis brothers vocally harmonizes in unison with equally melodic horn charts. The refrain that follows deals with a thick interaction of chugging rhythm guitar,solid bass thumping,ringing percussion with the horns playing the accents. The pattern between the choral intro and this refrain repeats a couple of times throughout the song. There’s a bridge towards the end of the song that reduces the song down to it’s core elements of drums,percussion,bass and backup vocals before the horns chime back in until the song fades out.
I really want to thank Henrique for giving me a chance to really appreciate this song. As both of us agreed,Wayne Lewis’s opening synthesizer riffs are some of the most ear catching and powerful of the disco era funk sound. This song packs a strong rhythm punch about it,and has a really thick bottom layer bought bubbling up to the top as well. Clifford Archer delivers a great foundational bass line as well. It thumps and slaps pretty heavy in parts,but for the most part it provides a solid bed for the percussion and beat that are at the heart of the songs groove. And it was an excellent way for Atlantic Starr to kick off to a good start as a funk band.