Throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, Atlantic Starr was one of the most successful outfits in R&B. Little is known, however, of the group’s heady jazz and groove roots. Imagine the brassy ensemble funk of early Kool & The Gang or Earth, Wind & Fire on spirit-centric labels like Black Jazz or Strata-East, with vocals reflecting the freedom of mind and spirit in both lyric and timbre. This is the land from which platinum-selling Atlantic Starr came. This is Newban.
Founders Albert “Duke” Jones Jr. and Porter Carroll Jr. were students in Greenburgh, New York, when they recruited a horde of classmates in forming Newban-named such because they were, after all, a “new band.” John Shearer, a friend of Jones and photographer for Life magazine, was a neighbor of legendary audio engineer Malcolm Addey and arranged for Newban to record with Addey at the famed Bell Sound Recording Studios.
Newban and Newban 2 were released on Guinness Records in 1977. Guinness, however, was one of many labels during the late ’70s that juked numbers and intentionally undersold and under-promoted albums for tax write-offs to keep parent imprints in the black. Co-founder and drummer Carroll and the majority of the members landed a deal with A&M Records and became Atlantic Starr. The Newban masters, however, remained safe and secure in the closet of Addey’s home on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. “I just called him up and said, ‘Listen, we got some things we can do after all these years,'” Jones says. Addey was with it, and returned the tapes for a nominal charge – in pristine, digitally re-mastered condition.
Neither Jones nor Addey stopped believing in Newban, which is why he feels this BBE release could be the re-emergence of something lost some 35 years ago. “It might really make some noise with someone behind it,” Jones says about the “new” Newban compilation. “We could get together tomorrow.”