Behold The Mighty Army
A select group of records, each with sticker prices higher than the LPs in the regular rack, sat at the wrap desk. I poked through them and while I could wrinkle my nose at most of them, this one stuck out both for its comic cover design (as in 'looks like a comic' -- tho, I admit it is comic in other ways) and for its hefty (for me) price tag. $8.99? I've paid much less for a box full of records. In fact, I don't think I've paid this much for a record since they were the only other way to buy them other than cassette tape... And I didn't even know what this one was or who made it.
New Birth? Featuring Leslie Wilson? Behold The Mighty Army? And why did the thrift shop think this was worthy of such a price? Was it the slit-open but largely intact cellophane? Well, curiosity and nice looking vinyl won over and I brought it home.
Turns out New Birth was a concept band. The brainchild of Vernon Bullock, New Birth was a touring company comprised of several groups who could each perform separately as well as part of the larger group. They were formed in 1963 with some help from Harvey Fuqua, and signed with RCA, but it wasn't until 1971 that Leslie Wilson (and his brother Melvin Wilson, Ann Bogan and a few others) joined.
New Birth recorded five albums for RCA. Then, in 1975, they split with RCA, Harvey Fuqua and their management and signed with Buddah Records where they made two records.
At Buddah, Melvin created a new stage presence for New Birth's rebirth. Bill Witten made stage costumes for the group, which had come to Marvin in his dreams. The group also incorporated the use of rear screen projection and had films commissioned to run as part of their performance, which was also a first for R & B artists. (soulwalking.co.uk)
It was during these "Buddah years" that the band "all lived together in a mansion in the famed Hollywood Hills that they dubbed 'the band house'."
Also during this time, in 1976, they released Love Potion. The album had award-winning cover art, designed by Melvin Wilson and photographer Norman Seeff, which featured all 12 band members posing together naked.
In 1977 they released Behold The Mighty Army, which was the last album. In-fighting & bickering over money, creative differences (and likely who used who's toothbrush) brought the New Birth to the same old death.
New Birth's songs have apparently been covered (or sampled) by K-Ci & Jo Jo, Notorious BIG, Something for the People, and De La Soul, to name a few. So some of it may sound a bit familiar.
As for the sound of the LP, it's classic soul mixed with old school funk and it doesn't disappoint.
New Birth still exists -- with Melvin & Leslie Wilson. But that's not the New Birth that Bullock had in mind, now is it.