Flowers – For Real vs Roy Ayers x Wayne Henderson – For Real

Vibraphonist Roy Ayers connected with trombonist and Jazz Crusader, Wayne Henderson to release LPs twice, first in ’78 with Step In To Our Life and again for 1980’s Prime Time. Were they close friends or industry associates? I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve had “Step” for a while and just got around to playing it. It’s all over the place with 9 tracks spanning from disco to pop. There’s also some sample sources present which is always a bonus when listening to old vinyl. There’s one track on this album though that keeps my flame for rare grooves burning, For Real.

This is where it gets interesting. For Real was originally recorded by Richard Flowers under his last name only, and released in ’76 on the LA Xpressio label as a 45. Flowers, the author of the tune, also appears on Step In To Our Life, however only on Give It To Me, credited with playing acoustic piano & fender rhodes and vocals. He receives no credit on Step for For Real, but is thanked in the album credits for “his good vibes.”

The reason I liked the Ayers/Henderson version so much is the Blackbyrds-like quality of the vocals, sung by Greg Matta & Reggie Ellis. The entire vibe of the song has a Mizell produced, Blackbyrds feel actually, but neither crews are associated with the track. Flowers handles the vocals and composition on the ’76 version with lush orchestration including full strings and a boogie vibe that will encourage any wall flower to the dance floor. Flower’s impassioned vocals and insistent background vocals create a vibe as powerful as its remake is subtle and chill. It perplexes me he was unable to reprise his duties on the remake.

Nonetheless, both tracks are beautiful, with most enjoying the original over the Ayers/Henderson version. I heard the latter first, and enjoy them both equally. Flowers’ 45 is rare, costing upwards of $500 and the Step In To Our Life album can be purchased for as little as $5.00. Which do your prefer?

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