Legendary R&B group, The O’Jays released new single “Above The Law,” a socially conscience song that can be considered an appeal to vote in the midterm elections, which many consider a volatile political period in modern American history.
The O’Jays consist of Eddie Levert Sr., Walker Williams Sr., and Eric Nolan Grant and are known for keeping it real, while singing and not to mention, while recording timeless and impactful hits like, “For The Love of Money,” “Now That We Found Love,” “Put Our Heads Together” and “Love Train.” This new single, “Above The Law” will surely gain the group a new fan base with Generations Y and Z!
While it is unfortunate to know that they’ve never won a Grammy however, they’ve secured their place in musical history as 2-time Grammy Hall of Famers and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees! The Knockturnal sat down to chat with Eddie Levert Sr. and Walter Williams Sr. and “Above The Law” was the topic of conversation.
“Above The Law” was written by another legendary recording artist, Betty Wright and was recorded only a few short months ago. We wanted to know how this collaboration came about and had imagined grandiose ideas like three legends sitting on someone’s home patio chairs, belting out tunes while Wright played the piano. But, surprisingly, it didn’t happen that way. Eddie Levert Sr. says, “Steve Greenberg who runs the record company got with our manager and said I think we need do an O’Jay album.” His longtime collaborator Walter recalled it differently, “Well actually, we did an interview and in that interview Eddie said ‘this is it, we’re retiring.'” That revelation sparked a laughter from the two, almost like an inside joke however, then once label execs caught wind of the possible retirement, it was decided that the world needed more O’Jay hits.
Once the group heard “Above The Law,” the trio thought it had a great message for new and old fans.
The O’Jays’ last audio album together was release almost 20 years ago. “This is the first time we’ve done a collaboration with different producers who really know what they’re doing,” Levert confessed about Sam Hollander, Betty Wright, Steve Greenberg, and Michael Mangini. The video for the song is a black and white cinematography directed by Bill Fishman, who boldly and deliberately capture the essence of today’s American political climate.
As luck would have it, recording artist Charity Daw gave us an inside scoop about the O’Jays recording in Las Vegas with producer Sam Hollander and engineered by Josh Edmondson and hooked us up with an introduction to Hollander. We wanted to know what it was like to have the opportunity of a lifetime to produce the icons. Hollander said, “As a kid who grew up on a healthy diet of all things Philly Soul, this is pretty much the pinnacle of musical joy for me. The seeds of the album were planted when I caught a CBS Sunday Morning feature on the group last winter. I knew their manager, Toby Ludwig socially in NYC. We had discussed a collaboration years back, but couldn’t get it together. Finally, the timing felt right. I called up Steve Greenberg, who not only owns S-Curve Records but has one of the great sets of soulful ears in the business.” Hollander added, “I can’t tell you how nutty it is to throw down with Eddie and Walter. They’re not only iconic obviously, but two of the sweetest cats that I can recall. I’m producing “The Last Word” with Steve, Mike Mangini, and Betty Wright. It’s a pretty sweet quartet creatively. We’ve been recording in Brooklyn (Mission Sound), Los Angeles (Gold Diggers) & Las Vegas (The Tone Factory). Wrapping this month. On the album, I wrote both ’68 Summer Nights and Start Stoppin.”
One of the most memorable moments while recording the single Walter Williams says, “The message. I remember distinctly when I heard it, I remember saying ‘ohhh, they’re gonna like this.'” The feedback so far is that the fans gravitate to the song. Eddie says, “It really set in on me one morning while I was in Las Vegas in the bathroom. I was sitting there and I turned on the song and I listened and then all of a sudden I felt the pulse of the music. This is after we put our voices on and everything then I started listening to the delivery. That’s when I called him and said I think this is really happening….Then I called Betty Wright and let her know, ‘I feel ya.'”
Look for the upcoming album entitled, The Last Word for release around February 22, 2019. I’ll close this interview with a quote from one of the greatest. Eddie Levert has a clear understanding of the O’Jays purpose to the people when he said, “‘Back to that line, ‘Understand why you dance.'”