STAGE SPECIAL FX - Robots
for 'Star Wars'!
HISTORY page 5
Aside from the obvious sequel, “Radiation Level,” and the horn section showcase “Pure Fire” the next Lp, Destination: Sun (1979), contained some of the band’s finest artistic moments in Cheatham’s semi-acoustic, Earth, Wind & Fire-esque inspirer “Light Of The Universe,” as well as the smoky, jazzy beg ballad, “Baby I Confess.” The album also found the band taking its concept to loftier levels. Byron explains, “I did some research and found that all the colors in the rainbow represent different frequencies. By finding out your star sign and it’s related color, you can find our your “star tone” and what note it is on the keyboard. So everyone picked a star name (a ‘solar nomen’) which had something to do with their star sign and their personality . Mine was ‘Pax Amantis,’ which means ‘lover of peace.’’’ The intricate album was done by Shusei Nagaoka, who also illustrated the Sun Power Lp as well as Earth, Wind & Fire’s All ‘N All, I Am and Raise. For the stage, Byron came up with the idea of robots. And to design them, they had the Oscar-winning designers (led by Jemy Shourts) that created “R2-D2” and “C3-PO” for Star Wars!
Staying ahead of the pack, Sun had people from NASA do the cover animation for their fifth album, Sun Over The Universe (1980). “We had some of the first pictures if Jupiter incorporated into that moon landing picture,” Byron says. “We put everything we could into our show and art.” This album also marks the entrance of keyboardist Dean Francis and guitarist Sheldon Reynolds, the latter of whom who would go on to join two other supergroups: The Commodores and Earth, Wind & Fire. Prior to Sun, Sheldon was backing jazz guitarist Wilbert Longmire. You can check his chops on Byron’s instrumental, “Quest.” And just after Sheldon joined Sun, Keith Cheatham left, giving Sheldon an opportunity to sing as well.
“The talent in Sun was Incredible,” Sheldon states. But citing behind-the–scenes, he adds, “Unfortunately, we never got a chance to fully express it. But it was great. I was 19 then, traveling the country and a bit of the world. We went out on a package with Heatwave and others which gave me a lot of great experience.” Though Sun had fan bases in countries as diverse as Nigeria, Holland and South Africa, among the most loyal was Brazil. Sun once headlined a show for the provinces of Brazil and South America. On the sixth album, Sun: Force of Nature (1981), they showed their appreciation with the salute “Jammin In Brazil.” featuring the explosive bass playing of new member, Don Taylor. “The rhythms in Brazil are very, very heavy,” Byrd shares. “For the people there to respect us was an honor.”
Brazil was the spot of another memorable anecdote. As Sheldon recalls, “When we got to the airport in Rio, the equipment was coming through for Earth, Wind & Fire and people thought we were them. Hundreds of people were flipping out! I don’t know if that was an omen for me or what, but that was the first time I’d gotten close to anything like that.” Reflecting on the good fortune of having been in the three of the 70’s best soul bands, Sheldon humbly replies, “God has blessed me with a lot and I appreciate it.” Sun treats fans to two more party cuts from this album with the concert staple “Reaction Satisfaction (Jam Ya’ll: Funk It Up)” and the mid tempo groover “This Is What You Wanted,” featuring rhythm guitarist Anthony Thompson and Sheldon.
Sun’s final album for Capitol was Let There Be Sun (1982). The single “Slamm Dunk The Ffunk” charted at #81. A ray of hope was held out for “Super Duper Super Star”.” Byron’s old friend Benjamin Ashburn was on the Olympic committee that year. “We had that song in a position to be used during the games,” Byron laments, ”but America boycotted the Seoul Olympics.” Byron released another single on the Air City label two years later titled “Leggs Bring Out The Wolf In Me.”
- A. Scott Galloway
The force is on its way, we shall see sun shine again, burning bright and hot with a revolving collective of former band members and high profile guests. When the inevitable natural phenomenon comes to pass, just be sure to pull your giant sunglasses out of the closet. The forecast: its gonna be a scorcher.