I had never heard the name of Greg Phillinganes before hearing Lazy Nina, but once I looked him up it called to mind how scientists describe their knowledge of dark matter: they couldn’t detect it directly, but evidence of it was everywhere. Scrolling through his Discogs page, it’s easier to find a legend of R&B/Soul that he hasn’t worked with. He appears on every one of Michael Jackson’s solo albums. He’s worked and/or toured with Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, Eric Clapton, just to name a few. That said, I’m guessing of all the legendary artists he’s recorded with though, he probably treasures his appearance on Billy Crystal’s 1985 Christmas Song most of all.
Lazy Nina comes from his second solo album entitled Pulse, released in 1985. In putting together this post, I found a recording of him performing the song on Soul Train where you can see Greg in action:
In 2015 he gave an interview as part of an oral history project with the National Association of Music Merchants where he discussed how he was able to work with so many different talented musicians:
How am I able to fit in with so many kinds of artists? Just understanding who they are musically and getting into their essence and the essence of their music. It says to the artist that I’m paying attention to them, I’m not just bringing me to their situation. I’m completely adapting to their situation.
All of Pulse is worth checking out if you like this song. It leads off with a cover of YMO’s Behind the Mask and if that’s not enough to hook you then stop reading this blog right now!!!
Mind & Matter coalesced around James Harris III, better known to fans of the Minneapolis Sound as Jimmy Jam, in the late 1970s. Though Jimmy Jam is perhaps best known as a producer, his work with Mind & Matter is a high point of the excellent Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound compilation from Numero Group. In addition to appearing a few times on that release, Numero also put out a separate collection of just Mind & Matter material called 1514 Oliver Avenue (Basement) that is just begging for heavy rotation this summer and any future summers. Sunshine Lady was the b-side to I’m Under Your Spell, the only single Mind & Matter put out while active, which was also reissued by Numero Group. That should be good news for collectors since the original single is currently listing for around $650 on Discogs. You can watch the group perform at Uncle Sam’s, the precursor to First Avenue in Minneapolis, in this awesome video that the heroes at Numero Group found during their research for their compilation. As the title of their comp suggests, this material foreshadows a lot of the Minneapolis Sound that would gain popularity later in the 1980s, particularly the use of synths and other electronics in otherwise more traditional R&B forms. That video confirms what I’ve always a suspected as a Minneapolis-born music fan: Minneapolis will never be cooler than it was in the late-70s and early 80s. If you dig this track I’d encourage you purchase the entire comp over at Numero Group site because it is a treasure trove. I purchased the LP set during a recent sale and not only is the music great but the supplemental book that comes with it is full of archival pictures and other goodies that are more than worth the price.