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Dave Thorley

Astrology - When Being Good, Isn't Enough

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A few months ago I was in Birmingham, Alabama and came agross a neat 45 by Astrology - Children of the stars/Love moods-Fleeing Star. I had my little portable player with me and played the track every night in my motel room and just feel in love with it's complexity, cool arrangements, stylish vocals and muscianship on both sides.

When I got back I tracked down (with help from Steve Green) lead member of the group John Crenshaw. When I rang him on the phone, he was stunned that anyone had even found the record and then unfolded the story, sadly not that un-common, of a record that nearly made it. This had been their first release and the group really believed in the track, so went out and pressed up 5000 copies. The record started to get plays all over the south on the radio and they all believed there break had come. But then they found out the order fullfillment to the record stores was not being met and one call later delivered the worst possible news. The Distributor had become bankrupt and all the stock had been seezed, although legal channels were followed the stock eventually disappeared.

It's one of many stories you hear in the states as to why even great pieces of music don't make it. Sadly very few copies of this record escaped, but the good news is the group are looking to put it out in some formate soon. Fortunately this was not the complete end of the road for the guys. Below is their full story taken from their web site http://astrologyband.com/bio.html

I have also put up sound files for both tracks so you can hear why I think this track and story are worthy.

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Astrology - Children Of The Stars -

Astrology - Love Moods -

Astrology: Bio

ASTROLOGY was a very spirited, high octane band formed in Birmingham, Alabama in the latter half of 1974 by founder/leader John Crenshaw. John had grown up in a music and performance-oriented family… before ever embarking upon this quest, he had already formulated the total concept of this ensemble in his mind. He knew that he wanted the band to primarily perform in the R&B/Pop genres, but he needed them to be diversified enough to branch into both spiritual and jazz components. This was extremely important to him, due to his upbringing in the home of a Methodist Pastor. John stated, "I did not realize until much later, the sacrifice my father made being a preacher, yet allowing us to perform what was considered secular music during those times. He was so far advanced in his ministry that he taught us to differentiate between love and lust… secular means worldly, or not of God… lust is not of God, but love is God! The music would not be good enough alone, there also had to be a related meaningful message, and there would indeed be group prayer prior to any performance". John's brothers, Edward and Alvin, gave him advice from their musical and "gig" experience... Edward would later help with arrangements and production, in addition to him and his wife providing much needed rehearsal space. John intensely studied and admired both vocal groups and bands such as The O-Jays, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Bar-Kays, The Ohio Players, The Emotions, L.T.D., and most importantly Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF). Being a percussionist himself, John was fascinated with EWF founder and leader, Maurice White. The precision and crisp arrangements exhibited to perfection by "The Fire" was a very good guideline… also the name "Astrology" had some origin from that EWF inspiration! John would later study music under Dr. Lyle, and applied percussions under the renowned Dr. Free at Alabama State University. Like Maurice White, he was a perfectionist at heart and sought to recruit members of like characteristics that would feel the intensity of his vision.

Original supporting members of Astrology were D'Andria Spencer, Larry Montgomery, David Davis, Cornelius Glover, Donald Cofield, Steve Davis, Reginald Green, and J.P. Rodgers. This original cast was dismantled and reorganized within the first six months without many public performances… Although all of these surviving original members remain friends even today, this initial body of musicians "did not click" as a collective entity to John's satisfaction…

The reformation of Astrology took place during the Spring of 1975. The foundation of this group was finally laid solid by utilizing a base consisting of band members at Woodlawn High School, and one from the neighboring Hayes High School. A little later, after landing the guitar player from the rival local band, West Gate Funk, the final piece to the puzzle was put in place. Having the body of musicians assembled that he had long sought, John acclimated them to the motto which would serve as their direction, should they ever try to get lost: "Bringing forth a new dimension in sound, while spreading universal love!". The members of Astrology that would accept this creed, perform publicly, and later astound crowds with stage effects that some headline groups had not yet exhibited are as follows:

John Crenshaw – Drums, Timbales, Kalimba, Percussions, Lead & Background Vocals

J.P. Rodgers – Congas, Percussions, Vocal Arrangements, Lead & Background Vocals

George "Spike" Nealy – Timbales, Congas, Bongos, Drums, Narrations & Miscellaneous Percussions

Cheryl Brown (Matthews) – Flute, Percussions, Vocal Arrangements, Lead & Background Vocals

Leatrice Leach (Ford) – Keyboards, Flute, Musical Arrangements, Lead & Background Vocals

D'Andria Spencer – Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Guitar & Background Vocals

Larry Montgomery – Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Kalimbas, Percussions & Background Vocals

Nathaniel Bagley – Trumpets, Percussions, & Background Vocals

Andre Williams – Electric & Acoustic Guitars

Steve Davis – Bass Guitars

The Astrology Star Staff:

Tony "Funk" Carter – Stage Manager & Effects Engineer

Samuel Matthews – Sound Engineer

Dejon Henry – Lighting Engineer

Jaqueline Crenshaw (Lockhart) – Choreographer

Astrology was a self-contained ensemble that attempted to do everything in a manner that exemplified impeccable professionalism… an extremely strict professionalism!... they could not fraternize with the audience during breaks… they did not drink… they did not smoke… they did not do drugs… the guys did not seek to prey on any ladies… nor did they allow anyone to prey on the ladies in the band… John did not even allow the men in the band to prey on the ladies in the band, including himself!... being a "cover tune band" was never in the plans! Knowing that they would need finances to follow through on their dreams, John devised a master plan which would set them apart from, and prohibit them from becoming, "just another good local band". They created "Fleeing Star Production Company, Fleeing Star Management, Fleeing Star Music, and most creatively, Fleeing Star Records"… all rights yet reserved!

The group practiced intensely, and cleverly utilized cover tunes in a medley form in their performance construction, while also including their original compositions. All of the members assisted John in certain areas of specializations… Leatrice was the musical director and handled overall arrangements… Andre helped with business… Larry was the effects wizard… Steve also arranged… Cheryl and J.P. voiced the vocals... Spike orchestrated percussions… Nathaniel took care of horn arrangements… All of these elements were carefully placed within the body of a performance which John scripted from beginning to end. He even solicited the talents of his niece, Jackie, a trained dancer and instructor, for choreography. When you finally factor their "custom" sound, lighting and effects by Sam, Tony & Dejon, their show was awe inspiring!

Imagine this if you will… The house lights fade to dim, while simultaneously the stage lights raise slightly from black-out to a dim blue and red… There is a low frequency rumble as the audience, while slightly disoriented, see shadows of figures standing on a stage in a state of suspended animation amidst heavy fog… (remember that there has been no standard Master of Ceremonies… there has been no Em-Cee… there has been no introduction… there has not even been a Dee-Jay… there has been no preliminary anything!… just mystique… but back to the low frequency rumble, the fog, and the shadows)… Then a pre-recorded voice that puts you in the mindset of James Earl Jones commences to speak with a slight echo effect:

"As we gaze into the universe to foresee our future by means of

the great zodiac… We find it ultimately fulfilling!...

Prepare yourselves to be launched on a journey, through

dimensions of time… and metaphysical entities of soul and mind!

People!... We present to you, Astrology!"

Immediately following this unique introduction (the best EWF take-off that local money could buy), there would be no standard "1-2-3-4 count off" (an automatic metronome has been programmed into each member's head for the entirety of the show)… There would be no "clickety-clack" of 4 counts from the drummer (John hates that too!)… There would only be a single rim shot, and a very solid down beat… and the "performance" has begun!... Yet, the stage is still that mysterious faded hue of blue and red, even though those previously "still shadows" have started to move in that fog!... There is the beautiful sound of a slick bass, a sneaky guitar, raspy horns, and orchestrated percussions all interwoven by melodic notes from a smooth keyboard… It was not a dream… Just the musical introduction of the Astrology opening song… Then comes the 'beat one' of the next musical phrase, and there is fire blasting from concussion canons… wind from sidestage fans… illumination from stage lights that have suddenly sprang to life… and smiles on the faces of these band folks which makes you feel like you have just been welcomed at the front door of grandma's house for thanksgiving dinner… Not quite!... But you have indeed been welcomed to another "nothing held back" performance of "Astrology"!... Wow!

Steve Davis left the band to pursue his personal music. He was replaced by Bernard McQueen on bass, and with Willie Kimbrough added on rhythm guitar, the band yet excited audiences everywhere they performed… Staying in touch with their initial goals, they released their first single "Love Moods", flip side, "Children of the Stars" in 1978. Obviously this was introduced through all of the corporate entities previously founded, and owned by Astrology. The record quickly catapulted them to even more notoriety as it climbed in both the local and regional charts. It was a sad day when John had to inform the band members that "their hit was in very high sales demand, but the distributer which was licensed to deliver their product was caught up in bankruptcy"! There were 10,000 copies of this release on the distribution shelves being prohibited by legal matters from being distributed!... Even this blow could not affect this ensemble… They were good and they knew it… in an humble kind of way.

The second and third blows however, did a little damage… Original member Larry Montgomery, a longtime personal friend of John, departed for personal reasons. Not satisfied with the soprano sax players he was getting at the auditions, John revamped the horn section and added a valve trombone by bringing in Ronald Robertson. D'Andria Spencer was next to leave the group… "D", as they affectionately called him, later passed away due to illness, which was a tremendous tug on their hearts. His character, musicianship, and smile could never be replaced… and John did not even try! In addition to being a tremendous musician, he was an educated commercial artist, and finalized all of the group's artwork… If you could conceive it, he could retrieve it… on paper! Prior to leaving the band, D'Andria had confided in John that "he would always be with him and the other band members in heart, and he wanted them to keep going no matter the circumstances"… They did not forget that.

Astrology was blessed to have artists in the metropolitan area that they trusted and respected to give them "advice about the business". These "tutors" included groups and/or singers such as "The Controllers, Lady Love, David Sea, Poo-Nanny and the late Avery Richardson". The people of Birmingham have long known that their metro community is an absolute entertainment incubator… names the likes of Eddie Kendricks, Eddie Levert, Erskine Hawkins, Dennis Edwards, Rosetta Johnson, Sam Dees, Cleve Eaton, Roscoe Robinson, and Frederick Knight… if you include the whole state, you would have to continue with names like Nat King Cole, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, The Commodores, and the list goes on and on. This "BAM" (Birmingham Area Music) tradition continues even to this day… Can you say Ruben Studdard… Bo Bice… or Taylor Hicks?… This was the cultivated ground from which Astrology sprouted… and it was good ground indeed!

Warrick Jones eventually became the bass player of the group, and the band continued to tour and perform. They had the opportunity to do so with The Ohio Players and many other top billing acts of the time. John shut down the performances during the mid eighties when JP left to pursue a solo career… He stated in an interview, "When it ceases to be excellent, it is no longer your season"… Yet seasons return year after year.

A new season may very well be approaching as John and guitarist, Andre Williams, have been collaborating on a reunion project for the original "family members". The band, formerly known as "Astrology", shall come to be known as "Resurrection". John chose this name to exemplify their lives, their families, their faith… Faith that they all have always had, and never lost… Faith that allows them to bury the Astrology persona, yet arise again in Resurrection, devoted to a God that they all have come to know very personally, that has been with them always. The new project is being recorded at their own "Hit Salon Studios", to be published under their own "Idol Factory Music"! Look for a release of songs with spiritual messages, superimposed over both jazz, and rhythm and blues melodies… Sound familiar?... If so:

"People… I present to you… Resurrection!"

Edited by Dave Thorley

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Great call Dave. :yes:

You can hear the Earth, Wind & Fire influences can'tcha? I can totally envision you listening to this after a hard days digging in Alabama LOL.

I actually think this would work with some of the Funk guys too. Lovely track mate!

Ian D :thumbsup:

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Hi Guys

Thanks, you know how it is, you find stuff you know and say 'that's nice', but then come across something you've not seen or heard before and the heart starts racing until you drop the needle. But more than that, once I had heard it, I just felt it was worth sharing with others. Also just thought it would be nice if people went to their site a dropped anote to them. The wonderful world of crate digging!!!!!!!

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