We’re excited to announce the newest title in our acclaimed Top Shelf Series, Pleasure’s long out-of-print classic, Joyous. Produced by Wayne Henderson (The Jazz Crusaders), the 1977 album delivers instant party vibes, thanks to a lively blend of soul, funk, disco, and jazz. As with every title in the album-centric Top Self Series – which reissues the highest-quality, hand-picked rarities (all culled from Craft Recordings’ vaults) – Joyous has been cut from the original analog tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on audiophile-quality 180-gram vinyl at RTI. The LP is housed in a tip-on jacket, featuring faithfully-reproduced original designs. Returning to vinyl for the first time since its original release, Joyous is available now exclusively at JazzDispensary.com.
Ahead of the holidays, Jazz Dispensary is also adding a groovy new colorway to its popular “Catnip” t-shirt. Perfect for all jazz cats, the design (now available in black or ivory) features an original illustration by Favorite Vegetable. The Jazz Dispensary store also includes a variety of exclusive gifts, including a logo t-shirt and crewneck, a corduroy logo hat, a zeotropic slipmat from record animator Drew Tetz, and a variety of bumper stickers, in addition to a curated selection of vinyl LPs.
Hailing from Portland, OR, Pleasure formed in 1972, blending the talents of two local acts: The Franchise (featuring drummer Bruce Carter, guitarist Marlon “The Magician” McClain, and bassist Nathaniel Phillips) and The Soul Masters (keyboardists/brothers Donald and Michael Hepburn, saxophonist Dennis Springer, trombonist/guitarist Dan Brewster, vocalist Sherman Davis, and percussionist Bruce Smith). Soon, the nonet’s electric fusion of soul, jazz, and funk caught the ears of Jazz Crusaders co-founder and trombonist, Wayne Henderson. Under Henderson’s wing, Pleasure signed to Fantasy Records (home to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Vince Guaraldi), where the soul jazz star would produce four of the band’s albums, including their 1975 debut, Dust Yourself Off, 1976’s Accept No Substitutes, and 1977’s Joyous.
After spending months on the road, opening for the era’s hottest R&B acts (including Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, War, Natalie Cole, Bill Withers, and B.B. King) the members of Pleasure were primed to deliver their most confident album yet. The result was Joyous, which offered a perfect, genre-bending example of their self-declared “360 degrees of music.” Marking the band’s final album with its original line-up, Joyous allowed each member of the group to shine – particularly when it came to songwriting. Among the highlights is the McClain-penned party anthem, “Dance to the Music,” Brewster’s pop-forward “Let Me Be the One,” and Michael Hepburn’s enduring hit, “Joyous.” The title track, which opens the album, offers a six-and-a-half-minute-long funk-fueled jam that feels right at home on a disco floor. The song became the group’s first Top 40 hit on the R&B charts, helping to propel Joyous to No.34 on Billboard’s Top Soul Albums chart and No.113 on the overall album chart (Pleasure’s highest position at that point in their career). The album also featured a handful of chilled-out delights, including Donald Hepburn’s sultry “Sassafras Girl” and Nathaniel Phillips’ smooth-as-silk ballad, “Tune In.” Dan Brewster’s “Only You,” meanwhile, delivers a soulful, socially conscious message.
Since its release, Joyous has only grown in its popularity and has become a sought-after favorite of DJs. Reflecting on the album, AllMusic called it “a classic that underscores Pleasure’s risk-taking nature.” The UK-based Soul and Jazz and Funk hailed it as “a must-own [LP] for jazz-funk enthusiasts,” while Soulstrut praised Joyous as “the apex of [Pleasure’s] sophisticated, matured sound.” Over the decades, several of the songs on Joyous have found new lives through samples – particularly the title track, which has appeared in releases by Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Sugarhill Gang, and Daft Punk, among many others. “Let Me Be the One,” meanwhile, was also sampled in tracks by the likes of Public Enemy and Ultramagnetic MCs.