Listen: Aladdin / Rotary Connection
Often described as a highly experimental band, Rotary Connection were actually the idea of Marshall Chess, son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. Marshall was also the culprit behind a new Chess Records subsidiary, Cadet Concept Records, an outlet to focus on psychedelic jazz rock instead of the blues and r’n'r genres which had made the Chess label so popular. Basically, he was a chip off the old block but with his finger on the pulse, as they say.
Despite the left of center commercial attempts, The Rotary Connection were basically unsuccessful at the check out counter, yet their critical and influential imprint grew over time. Looking back on their albums proved a lot more was brewing than most folks gave them credit for. ‘Aladdin’ was in an early stack of promos I picked up at the WMCR one night. I played it every few days for a couple of years. I guess you could say it was in light rotation.
I had no idea Minnie Riperton was their vocalist. At the time, I never even owned the albums, just the 7′s. Years later, the completist in me searched out those long players. Lo and behold, it’s Minnie Riperton. I should have recognized that voice, any time you’re not sure if it’s a piccolo or a person, it’s usually Minnie.
In the mid 90′s, when coffee table trip hop became the must have, hipsters Nuyorican Soul covered Rotary Connection’s ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’, and almost took it mainstream. I think the problem was it was too white for urban radio, and too black for pop, therefore falling into that bottomless crevasse known as ‘almost crossed over’.