The musical group LaBelle, the avant-garde female trio that melded disco with funk and glam rock, smashed on the urban and pop scene early ‘60s and ‘70s, but the era of the group never actually ended.
So calling their first album since 1976 a comeback is a little out of sorts. The group, made up of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash, never said goodbye.
“We’re back together after all these years. It’s been 30-something years since we parted,” LaBelle said. “The album is called ‘Back to Now’. We’re doing some of the back and some of the now and some of the in between.”
“In a way, there was a sense of unfinished business with our fans,” Hendryx added of their parting.
“We left without saying goodbye,” LaBelle said.
“Back to Now” dropped on October 21 and “picks up right where their 1976 “Chameleon” left off,” according to Amazon.com, with the trio’s brand of unprecedented rock-soul-funk. The group’s style is one that could never be categorized, and now the three women have made their mark yet again.
“What sets us aside is that we have made a mark in the industry, coming back with original members of a group after 30 years,” Dash asserted. “I don’t think there has been any other female group in the industry that has done what we’re doing. We are being innovative in the sense that you can come back and do music together in spite of the time that has passed. That really sets us aside and we’re giving another message to the industry: There should be no age or time put on or limits put on what you can do. If you can do it, you can do it.”
Dash considered the new disc an opportunity to do what no other black groups have done. Comparing their return with the likes of The Police, the Rolling Stones, and Genesis, she explained that no other R&B group had come back together with all the original members.
“That again makes us a unique group of women,” she said. “It’s great that we have been able to continue doing what we are doing,” Dash said, “doing music as what we do as a living, but as what we enjoy doing and being able to be creative and have longevity which is not so evident today with a lot of artists.”
Although known for their mega-hits “Lady Marmalade” and “Groovy Kind of Love” the group’s repertoire has always spoken to the social issues of the times. Their acclaimed albums have held tracks that challenged racism and sexism. And the political tones on the new disc are actually nothing new. The group explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey that some of the songs are extremely appropriate in regard to the current political climate, though unintended.
“The music that we did then was political and now – it wasn’t intentional – but we have four songs that are very political,” LaBelle said. “We’re almost at the place we were years ago. When you hear some of the song, you’ll thing that we wrote them purposely to go along with what happenings now. So it’s back and it’s now. It’s very timely.”
For more on the return of LaBelle and the new album “Back to Now,” stay tuned to OTR for Part 2. In the meantime, take a listen at www.labelleisback.com. Also, if you’re looking forward to seeing the ladies performing live, the trio will celebrate the release of “Back To Now” on December 19 at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Tickets for the show go on sale October 21 at the venue box office and through Ticketron.