William McKinley Hutchison, 1944-2004, better known as Willie Hutch was an artist who enjoyed a forty year career, yet only achieved moderate commercial success despite enjoying prosperity as a songwriter (“I’ll Be There”) by The Jackson 5), releasing seven albums for the Motown label where he also served as a staff writer, and scoring a number of films including Foxy Brown.
Real Gone Music has just reissued his two albums recorded for the Whitfield label 1978-1979. Midnight Dancer was the second and stronger of the two releases as it found him settling in to a sustained groove. While the album received little notice at the time of its release, it contained some of the better music of his career.
The disco era was on the wane and his music caught the tail end of that era but also looked ahead to the slick and funky soul of the 1980’s.
The album is bookended by two laid back disco tracks. “Disco Thang” and “Down Here On Disco Street” both make use of strings and brass. They are smooth, extended cuts that flow along, propelled by his relaxed and unhurried vocal style.
The title track clocks in at over eight minutes and looks ahead to the 1980’s. There is a two minute instrumental introduction with a synthesizer, strings, and guitar all vying for attention. It all adds up to a dance track that would have been in vogue in the post-disco era.
Tracks such as “Kelly Green,” “Never Let You Be Without Love,” and “Deep In Your Love” have a slower tempo. “Kelly Green” is a nostalgic ballad, while the mid-tempo “Deep In Your Love” is a gentle love song.
Midnight Dancer is a solid album, which is emblematic of Willie Hutch’s career. He could produce good albums that were listenable but were not cutting edge. One plus to his music is it is not stuck in its era but has a very modern feel to it. His music remains interesting if limited.