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Wednesday, May 05 2010 | 15:50 Buy this now at GoodToGo (B2B)

“Still Loving You”, by Twilight, was originally released in 1981. Housed in a low-fi generic album cover, this very polished, professionally produced record sounds like it was made by a super talented band. Strains of Earth Wind and Fire, George Duke and Roy Ayers, flow through a collection of tunes that effortlessly blend soul, disco, funk, Latin and Brazilian vibes. But looks, as evident with the LP cover, can be deceptive. Twilight was not a band. In fact, with the exception of a guest horn section and one guest vocal, Twilight was, and still is, Lawrence Ross; one man with a clear vision of what his music should sound like, and how he would make it on his own.

He began playing clarinet at age nine. His father loved music and would play an eclectic selection of records loudly all day long; Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles. “I was the first in my family to be bit by his musical bug, the scope of his taste was incredible,” says Ross. “He was creating a monster!” The paternal musical-schooling led Ross to soak-up all the tunes TV and Radio had to offer at the time. “Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Motown; I would memorize songs after playing them once, and then I would improvise on them at school band rehearsals and drive the teachers nuts,” he recalls. In the early 1970s, while still in High School, Ross played in a Vallejo-based band called The Establishment. They were friendly rivals with another local band called Project Soul (whose only 7″ single was re-issued on the Luv N’Haight “Bay Area Funk Vol. II” compilation). The acts often played on the same bill or play tandem nights to the same crowds at the same clubs. A decade later Project Soul had morphed into Confunkshun, and Ross had started writing and conceptualizing the Twilight album.

Working the nightshift at General Mills, Ross was a Head shift packer at a flour mill where, in the twilight hours, there was enough quiet time to create songs. He estimates it took him about a year to write the album, but recording only took a week. Able to get by with only 3 hours sleep he recorded Still Loving You in a seven-day stretch between 10am and 11am every morning, just a few hours after finishing work. Ross showed-up to the studio with a master plan to make a record as he heard it in his head, by playing everything himself. “I laid out a tick track from begin to end on the first day,” he explains. “Then I went in and laid down the bass on the next day, and then drums, and then keyboards etc, with each process taking one hour of studio time each day.”

This very methodical process was also economical and the entire album only cost $1200 to make. But making the music sound natural, like a band had played it, was a challenge. “It’s difficult to keep the meter/timing exactly right when you are duplicating yourself 7 or 8 times. But I did it that way because I could, and it was the only way to record the album the way I wanted to hear it,” says Ross.

As a well-rounded musician Ross was able to play many instruments but often found his role restricted to saxophone and woodwinds when performing in bands. “I would try to get musicians to play instruments or parts a certain way, but often times I’d just get frustrated. So I’d go buy the instrument and learn how to play it myself!” he explains. “Recording the way was the only way to get what I intended, and there was no stepping on peoples toes because it was all me.”

In addition to making the album by himself, Ross also knew he wanted a record that didn’t sound like any others. Bored with what he perceived as a mass music market full of formulaic releases Ross wanted Twilight to shake up the norm. He liked all styles of music, admiring everyone from the Bee Gees to Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, and Michael McDonald, all whom he considers tune-smiths. He didn’t want to be held back by the restraints major labels seemed to be placing on their prized artists. “If you have a great musician on your label why not let/push them do everything they can do?” says Ross. “Donna Summer did great disco, but why not let her include an opera song on an album?” Rather than produce a tidy record that fit well with a certain crowd, Still Loving You packs many different styles.

The track that ended up as close to the sound Ross had hoped for was “Scorpittiarus”. Coincidentally it was the track that gathered most attention. Thanks to the promotional efforts of Paul Mack Jr., a friend of Ross and a PR man for Atlantic (also manager for the Bay Area funk band Perfect Circle), the song aired all over the San Francisco Bay Area on KBLX radio. At the height of its popularity “Scorpittiarus” was in rotation for 9 plays a day. Such support caused Leopolds, the Oakland-based exclusive distributor of Still Loving You, to sell out of the album in one week. Ross received calls and enquiries about the song from around the world. “Many people thought Twilight was some sort of Latin band when they heard that track,” laughs Ross. He was even contacted by CBS who wanted to use the song for The Love Boat, yes The Love Boat. Ross was into the idea but wanted CBS to list his name in the credits because he wanted to get established as a composer. He even turned down a six-figure buy-out in lieu of getting the credit. But CBS refused and ties were cut. “I would take the money now, but at the time I just wanted to get my name out there,” jokes Ross.

The album ends with “Love’s High”, a short track with unusual arrangement that lands somewhere between Shuggie Otis and Yesterdays New Quintet. Starting out with a scattershot bossa beat the song quickly changes into a ballad-like piece with synthesizer strings and a catchy vocal hook that is unexpectedly backed with a jazz-heavy soprano sax solo. “I only had enough time for a tiny track at the end – this was a last minute thing, created during the course of the week. It was the most spontaneous of the batch,” he explains.

Ross was happy with the album; it sounded like it was made by the group he’d wanted to create. Despite being pleased with conquering the process and the end-product, he says that he would not do it again. “No! Not with what I’ve learned now. And I’m not sure if people would like it if I remade the record anyway.” But he’s thrilled to know that the Twilight albums have become collectible items (reaching prices in excess of $500) and that there is a resurgence of interest. “I am surprised and not sure what to think of it. It was the furthest thing from my mind especially when you think about everything else that is popular. I guess I’m lucky I’m still around to witness it!”

While Ross played almost every instrument on the album, there were a handful of guest musicians that Ross handpicked. On trumpet was Marvin McFadden, who Ross met by way of life-long friend and bass player William McCleod. McFadden lived a few blocks from McCleod and said he could always hear him screaming in the high register on his horn. McFadden was being taught, at the time, by Mic Gillette of Tower of Power and now performs with Huey Lewis and the News. Years before Twilight, Ross used to check out Jonathan Pryor in his Soul Institution group and knew he wanted him to be part of the horn section. Ross heard Ken Morasci playing at work. “He was on a swing shift one night when I came in early. I heard a trumpet screaming from the seventh floor. He never recorded before or played in a group, but just loved to play is horn every now and then,” says Ross. Trombone players Edward Rillera and Carl Lovio were both referrals from friends. Soprano and tenor saxes were played by James Ingram (not the “Yah Mo B There” James Ingram) who was trained by John Handy and another life-long friend from Jr. High School. Singing on one track was Tyrone Edger Gooch, “He loved to sing and had an out of this world personality,” says Ross. “He was a Legend around Vallejo.” The liner notes also credit John Duarte on percussion, but in truth he simply assisted with the use of all his equipment if Ross included him on the album credits.

Look out for the companion Twilight album, Pains Of Love, released in 1986, and also available on Luv N’Haight.


01. Play My Game
02. Just A Kiss Away
03. Give Love A Try
04. Come With Me
05. Scorpittiarus
06. We’ll Be Special
07. Still Loving You
08. Love’s The Way
09. Straight To The Heart
10. You Know It’s Me
11. Love’s High

The album TwilightStill Loving You” (Luv N’ Haight) is going to be released May 21, 2010.

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