Reissue label Super Bird’s latest twofer pairs a couple of albums from piano man Rodney Franklin. The eponymous set and ‘You’ll Never Know’ were both released in 1980 on CBS and that latter long player in particular became popular in the UK amongst the then growing number of jazz-funk fans. The cause for that album’s success was the championing by DJ Chris Hill of the LP’s catchiest track – ‘The Groove’ – which when released as a single climbed to no. 7 on the UK pop charts. Nothing else on the eight tracker matched its instant appeal though ‘You’ll Never Know’ is a lovely quiet storm ballad featuring a great vocal from Phyllis St James. Elsewhere – especially on the solo piano tracks (‘The Journey’ and ‘Return’), it’s easy to understand why Franklin was a child prodigy. Interestingly the album was produced by Paul Buckmaster, whose previous credits included work with Elton John and David Bowie (he was the string contractor on ‘Space Oddity’).
Producer for the bulk of the self-titled set was CBS label boss and ex-Blue Note luminary George Butler though the outstanding cut – ‘Windy City’ – was helmed by the legendary Tom Tom Washington. The tune’s every bit as good as ‘The Groove’ but it was only ever a minor hit. Again the vocal is handled by Ms. St James while also featured are Nathan East, Phil Upchurch and Paulinho Da Costa. ‘In The Center’ is another appealing foot tapper while ‘Creation’ is the obligatory Franklin piano solo cut.
Franklin went on to record six more albums for CBS before moving to RCA. By the mid 90s he was pacted to Nova Records but though he’s still recording as an accompanist he’s never released any new solo sets. Maybe any publicity surrounding this reissue might encourage him.