Reviewed on this page:
Car Wash - In Full Bloom - Rainbow Connection IV - Golden Touch
Norman Whitfield's main post-Temptations project, LA-based Rose Royce was a soul/funk band fronted by singer
Gwen Dickey (under the pseudonym "Rose Norwalt"). They served an apprenticeship in the early 70s backing up Edwin Starr before Whitfield
put them in the spotlight by making them the center of his phenomenally successful Car Wash soundtrack. They ran up chart hits through the end of the decade, but fell apart at the end of the disco era, and never recovered.
Gwen Dickey aka Rose Norwalt, lead vocals; Henry Garner, drums; Terry Santiel, congas; Duke Jobe, bass;
Michael Moore, saxophone; Kenny Copeland, trumpet; Kenji Brown, guitar; Freddie Dunn, trumpet; Michael Nash,
keyboards. Dickey left circa 1980, replaced by Richee Benson.
Car Wash (1976)
Soundtrack to the successful film; the title single is an irresistable disco updating of Whitfield's majestic production style, but it's far from the only memorable cut. There's the brilliant, mournful "I'm Going Down"
(though outshined by Mary J. Blige's 1994 cover version), there are extended orchestral explorations (the eleven-minute "Sunrise"), and there's lots of funky uptempo R&B ("Put Your Money Where Your
Mouth Is"). The Pointer Sisters have one guest feature, "You Gotta Believe."
The band's input is minimal: they composed a few instrumentals ("Zig Zag," "Yo Yo") and presumably played most of the backing tracks, though Wah Wah Watson (guitar),
Mark Davis and Ben Wilber (keyboards) get prominent credits.
As you'd expect from a double-album movie soundtrack, there's some repetition ("Crying" is an instrumental version of "I'm Going Down") and overlong tunes ("Keep On Keepin' On" indeed), but with that caveat it's remarkably focused.
Whitfield's on such a roll here, it's hard to imagine that things would soon go horribly wrong. But they did...
In Full Bloom (1977)
This follow-up to their smash Car Wash soundtrack was an even stronger seller, with the hit ballad "Wishing On A Star" by Billie
Calvin (the song was later remade by the Cover Girls). The band wrote the second-best track, the aptly-named "Funk Factory"; Whitfield wrote nearly everything else, but couldn't come up
with even one strong tune. Mostly Whitfield
adapts his opulent symphonic approach for the disco era, adding relentless high hat and bongo tracks to his usual string sweeps and bass
vamps ("You Can't Please Everybody"). The band itself is faceless: Dickey's voice doesn't have any personality, and the rest might as well
be studio musicians (in fact, Whitfield regulars James Gadson, Jack Ashford and Wah Wah Watson probably
played on most of the tracks). The lengthy "Do You Dance" opens with "Car Wash"'s handclap gimmick, closes with video game chirps, and doesn't
do much in between; "It Makes You Feel Like Dancin'" is similar but even less interesting. Since there's nothing else on the disc even resembling the hit single, this isn't recommended except
for Whitfield completists.
Strikes Again (1978)
Contains another great ballad, "Love Don't Live Here Anymore."
Rainbow Connection IV (1979)
Dickey's last hurrah is disappointing: she sings a horrible Anne Murray-esque ballad ("I Wonder Where You Are Tonight"), a cheesy Gloria Gaynor-style disco stringfest ("Is It Love You're After") and
adds incidental vocals on a couple of other tracks.
Kenny Copeland wheels out a Stylistics-evoking falsetto on a couple of tracks, but the material isn't up to snuff ("You Can't Run From Yourself").
There is one terrific funk suite, "What You Waitin' For," with a profusion of bass hooks and enthusiastic group vocals -
that alone makes the record worth hearing if you find it cheap, though the song was also recorded by Stargard (Whitfield's female vocal trio) and their version may be even better.
Elsewhere the funk is as weak as the ballads, though: "Bad Mother Funker" is as obvious as the title suggests, with a lame Bootsy Collins vocal imitation to boot.
Lyrically it's love and dancing, like most of the group's work, though there is one Temptations-style social statement, "You Can't Run
Golden Touch (1981)
By now, Whitfield had abandoned his mannerisms: no extended orchestral tracks, political laments or wah-wah pedals. Working with a band that already lacked defining
characteristics, that's a recipe for mediocrity: the same smooth pop/funk as Patrice Rushen, without the winning sincerity or hooks.
Richee Benson was the group's new female lead singer, and she has more range but no more personality than Dickey; Kenny Copeland
continues his Stylistics impression on the lush ballad "Would You Please Be Mine."
The tunes are inoffensive but ordinary ("Love Is In The Air"); the one real stinker is "Funkin' Around," a P-Funk ripoff with a sped-up voiceover, catchphrases like "freak
of the week," and a "What is funk?" refrain, but without a trace of wit, originality or groove.
But on the whole the record's less irritating and more consistent than In Full Bloom, despite lacking a hit single. Don't pay for this, but give it a spin if you find it in an attic or something.
Whitfield gave up soon afterwards, and the group cut a few more unsuccessful LPs before folding in the late 80s.
Stronger Than Ever (1982)
Somehow I doubt it.
Music Magic (1984)
Copeland produced with session guitarist Bobby Eli.
The Show Must Go On (1985)
Fresh Cut (1987)
Perfect Lover (1989)
The show must go on.