Grooves & Samples #41: Brenda Russell – If Only For One Night (1979)

Grooves & Samples offers a dive into old crates of jazz, funk, soul and beyond, in order to find more music through hip hop.

Brenda Russell was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1949 to musical parents. Having moved to Ontario, Canada when she was young, she started singing in local bands as well as a Toronto-based girl group called the Tiaras alongside the wonderful Jackie Richardson. Though their first and only single “Where Does All The Time Go” was unsuccessful, she continued to make music in the early 1970s, and by marrying musician Brian Russell, as Bryan & Brenda they released two studio albums under Elton John’s Rocket Label – Word Called Love (1976) and Supersonic Lover (1977). 

Words: Martin Boev (In Search Of Media)

Brenda & Brian divorced in the late 1970s, which sparked Brenda to embark on a solo career. Signing to A&M Records, she released her self-titled debut album in 1979 on Horizon Records, a subsidiary of A&M. The album is soulful and musically diverse, showcasing Brenda’s talents as a songwriter and musician. Singles “So Good, So Right” (released as a double A-sided single in the UK with “In The Thick Of It”) and “Way Back When” were hits, and Brenda’s career took off from there.

“If Only For One Night” however, was the record that stood out from her debut album. Luther Vandross covered the song for his 1985 album The Night I Fell In Love and was performed live on numerous occasions as well. It was sampled by the likes of Janet Jackson, but it was Madlib who introduced me to this record. Madlib, MED and Blu’s 2015 collaborative album Bad Neighbour fell under the radar for a lot of people, and I’m not too sure why. From a production standpoint, the album is stellar in every way, with Madlib excelling with the use of rare soul samples from the 1970s and looping them in a way that would keep the charm of the original whilst also making it sound contemporary.

This is exactly what he did on the song “Drive In” with Aloe Blacc. Sampling Brenda Russell’s quirky yet soulful voice and the colourfully produced track, Madlib is able to produce an incredible beat for MED and Blu to rap on. Aloe Blacc adds so much character to the track as well, blending in with the sample effortlessly.

THE FIND SELECTED

Music recommendations delivered to your inbox, to make life easier. Don't worry, we don't like spam either. Only music that matters: