Mirage Records was founded in 1980 by Jerry Greenberg, a hot shot record company executive who’d made his name as a significant mover and shaker at Atlantic Records in the ’70s. Greenberg didn’t totally sever ties with his old label, though, and used his connections with the famous New York-based company that was co-founded by the late Ahmet Ertegun in 1947 to benefit his new label (Atlantic, in fact, had a manufacturing and distribution deal with Mirage).
Now, thanks to a small Northampton-based reissue label, Funky Town Grooves, much of the Mirage catalogue is back in circulation. Mirage’s specialty was cutting-edge R&B and following Funky Town Groove’s first compilation exploring the Mirage archives, two more volumes of early ’80s dance-oriented soul and funk are now available. Volume 2 kicks off with the club mix of ‘Magic Number,’ by the veteran harmony vocal quintet Blue Magic, a Philly group who’d enjoyed massive Stateside chart success in the 1970s. Some of the group’s fans were probably shocked by the contemporary sound of ‘Magic Number,’ (dominated by synthesisers and a drum machine), but it showed Ted Mills and his cohorts trying to keep up with the times. Another ’70s veteran, Teddy Pendergrass, also had a record briefly on Mirage via the movie soundtrack, ‘Soup For One’ – the big ballad, ‘Dream Girl,’ produced by ex-Chic writers/producers, Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers (interestingly, Rodgers’ ‘It’s All In Your Hands,’ culled from his first post-Chic Mirage solo set, is included as well). Former Chic singer, Norma Jean Wright, also recorded for Mirage – the 12-inch version of her funky and highly infectious ‘Love Attack’ single is featured and talking of female singers, Chaka Khan’s younger sister, Taka Boom, delivers a dynamite vocal worthy of her more famous sibling on the stomping ‘Rock Yo’ World.’ Other goodies come from The System – the Bilingual Dub Mix of the brilliant ‘You Are In My System’ (bilingual refers to the fact that it’s sung in English and Spanish!) – plus tracks from Ingram, T.S. Monk (a new Paul Simpson edit of the floor filler, ‘Bon Bon Vie’), Stroke and Carl Weathers (an actor best know for his role as Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies). The most soulful cut on offer is ‘Save Me’ by the gospel-reared singer, Mary Love – a lost gem, that one. Volume 3 includes another veteran group trying to update their sound at Mirage Records – namely, The Spinners, who are represented by ‘Show Me Your Magic’ and ‘She Does,’ the latter a Patrick Adams remix (the music is a far cry from the group’s halcyon days at Motown and Atlantic but is well worth listening to). Former Stax singer, Jean Knight – best remembered for her 1971 smash, ‘Mr Big Stuff’ – remerged briefly on Mirage too with a recast of Denise LaSalle’s ‘My Toot Toot,’ which is included alongside tracks by some of the acts that were featured on Volume Two: namely Blue Magic (the groovy dance floor number, ‘See Through’), Taka Boom (‘Climate For Love,’ a sensual sax-laced ballad), T.S. Monk (the catchy ‘Too Much Too Soon’), Terri Jones (‘Hypnotise’) and The System (the 12-inch mix of their propulsive 1985 smash, ‘The Pleasure Seekers’ and the 12-inch vocal remix of ‘I Don’t Run From Danger’). The final cut, the seminal ‘Break Machine’ by Break Dance Party, shows Mirage dallying with the nascent hip-hop sound. Many of the tracks are making their CD debut and for ardent disciples of ’80s dance, funk and soul, then both these collections are worthy of serious investigation.