Best of Osiris
Ask any R&B connoisseur about Washington, D.C. and they will tell you that some of the best music there is emerged from that city. A Jazz-Funk lover would immediately bring up the Blackbyrds (they came together whilst it's members were studying Jazz under trumpet player Donald Byrd at the Howard University in Washington, D.C.), the passionate Soul devotee would interpose that Leroy Hutson and the late Donny Hathaway were room-mates while they studied music at the very same school, while the hard-core Funk fan would argue that Washington, D.C.\'s most important contribution was giving birth to Go-Go. With all that talent to it's credit, it only seems natural that Chocolate City is the base of operations for Osiris Marsh, a versatile singer, songwriter and producer, to say the least. Capable of delivering both the sweetest Soul and the stankiest Funk, Osiris\' more than twenty year long career has built him a strong following in D.C. and it's surrounding areas, elevating him to a cult figure status. Consequently, Osiris\' old albums are in great demand, especially in Japan, but the rest of the world has yet to become aware of what they\'re missing out on. A presentation of this true Soul survivor and his music is long overdue. Born and raised in Washington, D.C. sometime in the \'50\'s, Osiris Marsh began his singing career at the tender age of five, performing \'Jesus Loves Me\' in church. Friends and family, visiting the Marsh family\'s house were Osiris\' first fans and by the time he was fourteen, he was already harmonizing with a vocal group called The Romantics. The year after, Osiris recruited schoolmates Alonzo Hart, Charles Blagmon, Bernard Ford and Wardell \'Twin\' Scott and formed his own little Doo-Wop outfit. Together they were known as The Stridells and could out-sing just about any other group in school. To prove it, they battled against their rivals, The Love Tones, at a talent show. \'We blew \'em away\', Osiris laughed over the trans-Atlantic phone-line. \'They were good guys, though. I know \'em all. We all went to the same high-school, Eastern High-school, here in Washington. The Love Tones had been there, doing their thing, a year ahead of me. They could dance real good. It was a direct competition in terms of who was the baddest vocal group. You had to step like The Temptations and sing and look good and so forth. Do-Woppin\'.\' After the departure of Bernard Ford, who decided to go solo, Johnny Graham became the Stridells\' new lead vocalist. In 1968, the group was spotted by the D.C.-based singer, songwriter and aspiring record producer Maxx Kidd and his protégé Bob Morgan. \'Maxx and Bob saw us singing over at schools and they liked what we did. They signed us to Yvette Records, which was Maxx\' label, named after his daughter. We were Maxx\' first group\', Osiris Marsh said in his trademark deep voice. Soon thereafter, The Stridells\' debut single, \'Mix It Up\', was released on Yvette and became a big local hit. Maxx Kidd shopped it around and Curtis Mayfield\'s then one year old label, Curtom, picked it up. The track was written by Bob Morgan, Robert West and Maxx Kidd. Kidd, who also produced the record is incidentally the same man that some fifteen years later, would take Go-Go from an underground cult to a global trend.\'Maxx was a singer himself, then he got into producing and managing in the late \'60\'s and the \'70\'s. He had a group called the Four Miles High and they put out a few songs and while he was still writing and producing for them, he worked with my people and some other groups too. Years later, Maxx became \'the King of Go-Go.\' Maxx was the first person to be stroking Go-Go like that, putting it out on vinyl. Before that you just had the bands, doing the Go-Go around here in Washington, but Maxx was the first to record it. Maxx was hooked up with Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers as far back as in the early seventies\'. Maxx was up in there the whole time. He\'s been doing his thing for years.\' After the release of \'Mix It Up\', Maxx Kidd and Bob Morgan went their separate ways. The Stridells opted to go with Morgan. \'Maxx was still a singer and Bob was a little more serious about producing\', Osiris said. The Stridell\'s second 45 \'The Power To Dream\' was released on Bob Morgan\'s Morgan label in 1969. This track was closer to their Doo-Wop roots than the more straight forward Soul of The Stridells\' debut. Interesting to note is that \'The Power To Dream\' was arranged by a Trevor Lawrence, who like Maxx Kidd, would go on to bigger things in the future.\'He was playing in one of the rock bands back then. Trevor was unknown at this time, but he went on to do a lot of arranging. He did the horn arrangements (and played sax ) on \'Superstition\' for Stevie Wonder.\' When the Stridells broke up, around 1972, Osiris joined The Deacons, yet another Doo-Wop group. \'We definitely raised a lot of hell here in D.C., but we never got a record deal, the popularity got a little much for some of the guys, if you know what I mean, the ladies and so forth. They got a little lazy and didn\'t wanna work as much, that kinda thing. I sang bass and lead with the Stridells, but when I got to the Deacons, I became the lead singer. Then I ran into a discjockey friend of mine, his name was Top Jock and he was hooked up with a young man named George Parker. George was trying to get into producing and things so I hooked up with him and that\'s when I started looking for musicians and everything and I formed Destiny.\' Founded in \'73\' or \'74\', Destiny was a self-contained unit which, among other musicians, contained local D.C.-talents Tyrone Brunson on bass and Maceo Bond on keyboards. \'Destiny was myself, a vocalist named Calvin Graves and two young ladies named Willa Peters and Veronica \'Ronnie\' Martin\', Osiris recalled. \'We recruited the different musicians for the group. We were four singers, two male and two female and we did a lot of avant-garde type thangs. We were able to do the stuff that Take 6 is doing now, we could do what Manhattan Transfer does, plus we could rock it out. Destiny was a very versatile group, we did a lot of things with the vocals. It was very slick and we had a lot of fun.\' Destiny opened shows for bands like Rare Earth and New Birth and eventually got signed to RCA records, where they released their one and only single, a cover of Faith, Hope & Charity\'s hit \'So Much Love\'. The record was produced by George Parker and the late Van McCoy. The latter had discovered Faith Hope & Charity and was at the time a hot-shot producer, songwriter, arranger and musician. Moreover, Van McCoy was an old friend of Osiris\' from his earliest doo-woppin\' days. \'He was a truly wonderful man\', Osiris said. \'He helped me greatly in my career. Both of us were here in Washington, D.C. and when I found out where he lived at, I went out there. I was young and I had some material. I had told him: \'if you don\'t listen to my material, then I\'ll sleep on your porch and I\'ll stay here all night, until you listen to my stuff\'. He said: \'OK, this guy must be crazy, I\'ll listen to it\', and from that point we became real good friends. He has been instrumental, very inspiring.\' By 1976, the adventurous and innovative vocal group Destiny had disbanded. But Osiris Marsh and the musicians who had played behind them proved to be a tight-knit unit. \'Me and \'Mace,\' \'Ty,\' a guy named Reggie McNeir and another guy named Billy on drums, we formed a group called The Family. We vibed a certain kind of way together, that\'s why we called ourselves The Family.\' The Family\'s \'Music\' LP was produced by their manager Dee Stewart and released on his Little City Records in 1977. But Osiris Marsh\' involvement was not limited to being the groups\' lead vocalist only. In addition, he wrote and co-wrote every song on the entire record. The title track was released as a single, debuting on the R&B charts on July 30, 1977 peaking at #70. When problems with the management occurred, the seemingly unwearied Osiris left the Family and took the nucleus of the band with him. \'I called up the guys that I knew in other bands. I had Ron Holloway, who\'s a saxplayer, he\'s got a couple of Jazz albums out on himself out now, Maceo and \'Ty\' joined me and then I recruited some other guys, including the \'Jones Brothers,\' Tony and Kenny. They were all young guys from small, local bands, nothing major. We were the first coming out major during that time. That\'s how Osiris was started in 1977.\' For those who aren\'t familiar with ancient religions, Osiris was the Egyptian God of the dead and ruler of the underworld (and the God of vegetation). The name may sound negative, but Osiris Marsh says that was not how it was meant to be perceived. \'See, people be looking at the underworld as entirely a negative but it\'s positive. It\'s about being here forever, enjoying everything that this life has to offer, forever. It\'s not about dying, not about trying to figure out where you\'re going and so forth. God put us here on this earth to have a good time and I do my best to provide that and that\'s what Osiris stands for. It\'s about life. That\'s why you have the ankh, it stands for life, relishing this life. Just having a ball, in this life, right now, today. Nothing pretentious, just having a good time. The name came to me in a mystical-type-thing. Nothing trippy, but it was like I was being called and when it hit me, I answered. The name\'s been with me ever since the \'60\'s.\' Ancient Egypt is a re-occurring theme. A sphinx with Osiris Marsh\'s face adorns the band\'s first album \'Since Before Our Time\', but as Osiris Marsh explains, it was not a gimmick, designed to catch the record consumer\'s attention.\'I have depth into it. I understand the depth of it, but I don\'t wanna get too heavy here. I keep that part to myself. I don\'t wanna lay it on people unless they really wanna know. Egypt was the center of all training of medicines and all of that. It all goes back to Egypt. I\'m into Egyptology and I, of course, have a natural interest in what goes on over there, but I keep that personal. It\'s a powerful understanding when you get it. I know where I\'m coming from, I know where I\'m at and I\'m not ashamed of that at all. I just don\'t wanna seem like I\'m going out, beating people on the head with it.\' Osiris (the band), were Osiris Marsh on lead vocals, Tyrone \'Ty\' Brunson (bass), Maceo Bond (keyboards), Tony Jones (bass), Kenny Jones (drums), Jimmy \'Sha-Sha\' Stapleton (percussion), Ron Holloway (sax) and Brent Mingle (guitar). Together, they produced the most unalloyed, dirty and downright nasty Funk imaginable. Having two bass players certainly contributed to the rich sound the group displayed. \'Whatever I do, I like to do it intense\', Osiris Marsh said. \'I like to make sure it\'s powerful. I had Tony, who was in the pocket, but it didn\'t have enough color for me. So I let Tony be in the pocket: bam! Thump that thing in the pocket, stay right there, keep it on the one.. And then between time, add the colors. Colors are beautiful and it keeps the consistency, so I got \'Ty\' to do that on the effects, like play bass on the wah-wah, thump around and play stuff like that.\' \'Since Before Our Time\', was produced by Osiris Marsh, who co-wrote the majority of the songs with Tyrone Brunson and Maceo Bond. The album was released on Osiris Marsh\'s own, independent label Tomdog in 1978. The next year, Warner Brothers decided to pick it up, but before the LP was released, Warner re-mastered it and added new artwork to the sleeve. The original Tomdog vinyl is incredibly hard to find these days, a real collector\'s item. \'Consistency\', written by Osiris Marsh, was pulled from the LP and would be the only Osiris 45 to enter the Billboard Top 100 R&B singles chart. It debuted on March 3, 1979 and peaked at #77. At the peak of the Disco-era, Osiris and company had the nerve to present songs that didn\'t solely deal with having fun on the dancefloor, but with deep philosophical issues. Arguably one of the strongest cuts on \'Since Before Our Time\' is \'Almost Never Gets There\' where Osiris Marsh, in his raw, bass voice delivers: Almost never gets there/ nearly won\'t quite show/ life holds no compromise/ either you do or you don\'t. \'Yeah, with \'Almost Never Gets There\' I just tried to make the point\', Osiris explained. \'Just do my best, not to be shallow, because you can\'t be shallow, you gotta have some depth..but not too deep, not to the point where people just gotta be trying to figure you out. I tried to avoid that, because I wanted to be able to be plain. The song is about that. Getting straight to the point with no frills, just being honest. \'Almost never gets there, either you do or you don\'t, either you will or you won\'t...\' It\'s about being consistent. Consistency is important. I just wanted to be as honest as possible about my deliverance. I don\'t want my songs to sound contrived. I want them to sound spontaneous and real.\' Osiris Marsh has the capability of singing with such extreme amounts of sheer energy and emotion that it almost seems inhumane. One can\'t help but wonder where he gets it from. \'The whole thing is power and deliverance\', Osiris replied. \'If I\'m gonna sing a song, I\'m gonna s-i-n-g the song. If we\'re gonna Funk, we\'re gonna f-u-n-k it strong, you know? I\'ll always keep that edge on it, keep it a little dirty.\' He summarized his no-half-stepping approach to making music with \'It\'s about puttin\' the gritt on it.\' It\'s hard to describe Osiris\' sound in a few words, simply because they were a diverse band. Their repertoire included sugar-coated Soul, as well as relentless Funk, that had a very direct and almost aggressive tone. Their funkier material in particular, often carried meaningful, thought-provoking lyrics and Osiris Marsh\'s Larry Graham-esque voice crowned the work. \'It\'s coincidental. We just happen to have similar sounding bass voices\', Osiris said. \'When it came down to the Funk, we all raised our hands and I was one of them saying \'pass it to me too\', so it just came in like that. Of course I dug Larry and Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, them guys, all the good funky stuff. I was not influenced directly by Larry, but indirectly, because you are influenced by everything you\'d be hearing. Larry just happened to have a bass voice like mine. I don\'t mind being compared to him! (laughs). That\'s a good comparison \'cause Larry\'s tough.\' For the next album, \'O-Zone\', released in 1979, Osiris found themselves recording for yet another label. Marlin was one of the many subsidiaries in Henry Stones\' vast, Miami based empire, T.K. Records. T.K. had made a fortune on artists like George & Gwen McCrae, Betty Wright and K.C. & the Sunshine Band earlier in the \'70\'s and had been quick to invest in new artists, often with products aimed directly for the Disco market. Too quick, according to some and due to financial problems and the steadily declining market for Disco records (plus the mishandling of the artists who had brought in the cash to begin with), T.K. met it's demise in the early \'80\'s. \'I was down in Miami and talked to Henry Stone and he released \'O-Zone.\' Then he went belly-up a little while later\', Osiris shrugged. It\'s amazing how he, after all these adversities, is able to laugh about it. \'You were asking earlier about what happened, why we never got a break\', he said. \'Well, it was these kind of situations. Trouble with the management, with the labels..That kind of thing. But I don\'t look at it as being unlucky, I look at it as an experience. My aspirations weren\'t limited to being a star, I had a message and I wanted to deliver that. I tried to go along with the program, but you know? (laughs) This business is just a certain kind of way. And it\'s very hard to predict..With my existence in the business, there were certain things that I would do and certain things I would not do. Not that I\'m difficult. I\'m not a difficult man at all. It just comes down to things like improper management, things that are not in order. Things just didn\'t work out they way they could have. I just had to bide my time, that\'s all. It was just the road I had to take in this business.\' The 45 lifted from \'O-Zone\' was entitled \'Fantality\'. Upon being asked what the word actually means, Osiris let out one of his infectious laughs. \'One of my creations, yeah. Fantality is the cross between fantasy and reality. (Quotes the lyrics) \'You\'re caught right there on the line..\' This living is like that. A lot of us live in fantality, we want things to be a certain kind way but we have to deal with it the way it is, so..\' \'Fantality\' signaled loud and clear for all to hear that Osiris and his band had not changed their musical direction. The dirty Funk, the tender moments and the well-crafted lyrics are just as impressing on \'O-Zone\' as on their debut. One again, Osiris Marsh co-wrote and produced the album. In keeping with his love for \'colors\', vocalist Jill Wells was added on background vocals. Sax player Ron Holloway had left the band, but temporary re-enforcements had arrived in the shape of Fred Wesley (trombone), Maceo Parker (sax), Rick Gardner (trumpet) and Richard \'Kush\' Griffith (trumpet), better known as The Horny Horns. Parliament-Funkadelic (and Mutiny) drummer Jerome \'Bigfoot\' Brailey lent a hand too. \'We had the same management, Backstage Management, at that time. Those guys, Cholly Bassoline and Ron Strasner, who manages The Temptations now, they were the managers of the Parliament and I was connected with them that way. So I got all the guys to come on and do the thing with me too. Jerome Brailey\'s a real good friend of mine. He\'s real busy with Mutiny and doing quite a few things out there so I haven\'t seen him in a while.\' The Horny Horns and Jerome Brailey weren\'t the only Funk heavy-weights Osiris collaborated with. Among the other bands Osiris toured with during the early \'80\'s were The Bar-Kays, Zapp, War and Soul maestro Al Green. In 1980, Osiris\' bassist, Tyrone \'Tystick\' Brunson left the band to pursue a career of his own. Tyrone scored with the instrumental, electro-funky \'The Smurf\', (-83) \'Sticky Situation\', (-83) \'Hot Line\' and \'Fresh\' (-84), before hooking up with James Mtume for the \'Love Triangle\' LP in 1987. After the disappointing experiences in dealing with major labels, it\'s hardly surprising that Osiris Marsh chose to put out the following Osiris album on his own Tomdog label. \'Osiris The Band\' was unleashed in 1981 and even though the 45, \'Gritt On It\' (arguably one of the band\'s most hard-hitting songs) didn\'t show up on any charts, it immediately caught the attention of the DJ community and the track is reportedly still rotating on clubs in the States. The following year, Osiris Marsh and his team of Osiris veterans, Sha-Sha Stapleton (percussion), Maceo Bond (keyboards), Tony Jones (bass) and Kenny Jones (drums), together with a couple of other D.C. based musicians, returned with \'War On The Bullshit\', a veritable Funk feast on GemRose Records. That merciless single was followed by two others, \'Slippin\' In The Backdoor\' and \'Total Devastation\' (the latter on Osiris\' own U.F.O. label) in 1984. To the delight of Osiris\' European fans, British indie BAAD! Records released an album called \'War On The Bullshit\' in 1986, which contained all the songs from the \'Osiris The Band\' LP from 1981, plus \'War On The Bullshit\' and \'Total Devastation\'. In addition, BAAD! Put out an almost twelve (!) minutes long 12\' version of the title track. \'War On The Bullshit\' was the last sign of life from Osiris the band\'s camp, but it certainly didn\'t mark the end. Osiris Marsh, now a solo performer, is alive and kickin\' and has kept himself busy for the last ten years by going back to college, building his own studio and writing some one hundred songs (!). In May of 1997, eleven years after \'War On The Bullshit\', Osiris bounced back on Spi Records with an excellent maxi CD-single entitled \'Forever\'. The single contains \'Dreamin\', \'Wynds Of Tyme\' and \'Touch Me\'; three timeless mid-tempo Soul offerings, which clearly illustrates Osiris\' unique song writing and extraordinary voice. Among the musicians are of course Sha-Sha Stapleton on percussion and Maceo Bond on keyboards. \'O\' is currently putting the finishing touches to his next single, which will be a return to the Funk, and promises his next effort will be just as hard-hitting, positive and soulful as all of the other good stuff we have come to associate with the man in the past. \'I\'m ready to keep hitting, keep putting that gritt on it. I don\'t wanna water it down. Vitality-wise I have just as much energy as I did when I was younger. I haven\'t lost anything, I think I\'ve gained. I\'m definitely from the old school, but I keep it fresh and I keep it powerful. Like I said, I just had to bide my time and I\'m still at it. I\'m going solo now, but it\'s still the same stuff, except that I write everything and collaborate with other people, but the substance is still there. The music is just as fresh, hard and coldblooded as ever.\'
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