High fashion is a band that a broader audience of music listeners don't know much about despite their major hit "Feelin' lucky lately" back in 82. Among Petrus' and Malavasi's achievements they place them self in the middle when it comes to recognition. One reason was that they only released two albums and were more or less always somewhat in the shades of the better known acts of Change and B. B. & Q band that was the number one and two of the Little macho empire, at least from a commercial point of view. Musically though, High fashion did receive some good material from the main writers of Malavasi, Romani and a few Americans and could compete well with the two big ones.
The name of the band associated to the fashion business was not something Petrus was behind though. Instead it was Mic Murphy, the co-runner of Petrus' Little Macho publishing office in New York, that came up with the name High fashion. Mic was very familiar with the NYC music scene and certainly did know what kind of groovy name a brand new band should have. Murphy is of course best known for being the road manager of the funk band Kleeer before he met Petrus and the co-founder of synth funk band The System in 82.
At the start the band contained three members, Eric McClinton, Meli'sa Morgan and Alyson Williams, all vocalists that were picked and employed by Petrus in New York. All of the hand picked band members had an interesting musical background. Eric had earlier during the 70s been a member of Motown band "The Vikings" and worked as a vocalist with "The Mike Theodore orchestra" in 79 and Meli'sa as a vocalist on different "Kleeer" albums and on "A shade of love's" funky album in 82. Alyson, a daughter of the Jazz bandleader and trumpet player Bobby Booker, had done some background work as vocalist on several albums by the awesome band "Unlimited touch" before joining the group. The name clearly showed what Petrus was looking for. He wanted a classy and tasteful music presented in a luxurious package, but did he succeed with his intentions?
Once again, Petrus used a mix of Italian and American musicians, both insiders and outsiders, to write, produce and play the music, and then brought in the vocalists when it all was set. Although the band have to be considered as a mix of a studio concept and an ordinary band, after all, the singers never played any instruments or wrote any music (lyrics only), High fashion were more of a band than Change in 80 and 81 for example. The vocalists were also actually named on the cover as a band and depicted on the same as well. This way of putting a new band together was typical for Petrus and worked well, so why stop now.
Petrus had also an interesting way of dealing with the songs written for his bands. He told his staff of writers, musicians and producers to do their thing, brought in the vocalist to finish the job but didn't say a word to them on which album the songs were going to end up. That was something they later heard on the radio, only the core Italians did know. That's why the similarities between the albums of B. B. & Q. band, High fashion and Change in 81-83 for example were so indisputably obvious. Even though Petrus had some thoughts about giving each band a personal profile it was hard to detect anything else than vague difference between them. Generally High fashion and B. B. & Q band had a more funky style than Change, but once again, it was most often hard to tell. The tracks of all the albums a specific could easily have been switched between them and nobody would have never noticed.
A descent start
High fashion released their first album on Capitol in 82 titled "Feelin' lucky" and presented a smooth and classy style of R&B mixed with a distinct europop and rock flavor. The name of the group really matched well with their very European sound on most tracks. High fashion's debut stood out from the rest of the Petrus/Malavasis productions that year, non of them had that pop and rock sound in the same extent with the exception of the obscure but highly interesting album of Zinc. High fashion's album did indeed include two very typical and classic examples of Little macho productions, the joyful and slick disco influenced "Feelin' lucky lately" and the catchy and funky Kashif penned "Hold on". Both tracks were very similar to each other and with many tracks from Change and B. B. & Q. band's albums as well. As already mentioned, the common procedure was for Petrus to collect all the produced songs among his handful writers and then in the last minute decide which track to be placed on which album, that's why much of the his artist sounded the same, the "Petrus sound". This pattern was repeated over and over again with a splendid result!
"Feelin' lucky lately" immediately became a considerable hit and reached #32 on Billboards R&B chart. The rest of the album, with its soft europop sound mixed with some more groove oriented refrains, was pending from good to decent and didn't reach the same class as the two mentioned. Most noticeable was the mid-tempo track "I want to be your everything".
The uprising star of Kashif made a short guestplay and wrote or co-wrote three tracks and co-produced three others. As always, the excellent composer Romani made an extensive contribution with three co-written tracks and among them the main hit of "Feelin' lucky lately". The "old warrior" Fonzi Thornton, used on earlier Petrus productions as well as singer on several Chic albums, wrote the lyrics of three tracks. The producers were already known from Change, Petrus and Malavisi. Petrus, the more business oriented person didn't actually produce, that was the brilliant Malavasi's and Romani's big thing. A bad habit of Petrus sometimes was to take the credits of musicians, many times promised to be credited as producers of the albums, a behavior that naturally made people less eager to work with him to put it mildly. Both Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore and Kashif experienced that on the first album of High Fashion on which they were credited as assistant producers.
Their last release?
In 1983 it was time to release their second album, "Make up your mind". Once again Capitol records was the label. The set turned out to be a pure and solid record even though it wasn't very innovative. By now Meli'sa Morgan had left the group for a successful solo career and were replaced by Jazz vocalist Marcella Allen that had appeared on "Lonnie Liston Smith's" Jazz album "Love is the answer" in 80 among others. Petrus and Malavasi produced the record once again. Petrus actually co-wrote one track, a rare thing for sure, as it only happened at very few occasions. Otherwise it was Malavasi's time to show his talent once again as he wrote four tracks in favor of Romani that wrote none. Timmy Allen from Change also wrote two tracks and the sensual female singer Tawatha Agee from Mtume wrote the lyrics of one track. Notable is that Petrus decided to use a very limited amount of musicians including all the band members of B. B. & Q. band when the album was recorded. This could be explained by his grooving financial problems that kept bugging his mind.
The album was a very solid one with virtually no bad tracks at all and with a very high general standard. It also was a significantly harder, more funk inspired record compared to the debut without losing the easy-listning and smooth feeling. The album was maybe a little bit repetitive and did not show any spectacular moves when it comes to the musical part but with such a great vocalist achievements it did present a very good mix of dance music.
The most noticeable tracks were the powerful and speedy "Make up your mind", "Love" and "Pump on the pipe" with a lot of groove in addition to the marvellous midtempo track "A little bit more time" and the worthy ballad "Just a little bit more love. Williams, with her characteristic high pitch strong voice and MacClinton with his rough, hard working and inspiring voice all-together turned out to be an innovative combination that made the album complete. This is one of the better albums in 83, although it wasn't appreciated when it comes to the commercial side, as it didn't sell very well. The listeners who didn't buy it missed a good, solid and funky album including some memorable tracks well worth the money.
According to the former member of Change, Jeff Bova, High fashion started to work on a third album, but the idea was abounded before it turned to reality and High fashion split up. Rumor has it though; that High fashion did release a 12" in 84 or 85 but that has not yet been confirmed. In 86 however, a group called High fashion released a 12" titled "You make me feel so good" on the small label called High fashion records. Nothing proves however that this is the same group especially as none of the songwriters, producers or even the voices on the record can be recognized from earlier productions.
After the end of the group Meli'sa went on doing a quite good solo career with her biggest hit "Fools paradise" released in 85. On her album "Good love" in 87she did a classic duet with Kashif that also produced the album. Meli'sa still works with music today. Alyson Williams also went on doing a solo career producing a great ballad "Just call my name" from her debut LP in 89. She also sung as a background singer on Fat boys second album in 85. At the same year as High fashion released their final album Eric McClinton also participated as background singer on the albums of "Six million times" by B. B. & Q. band and "This is your time" by Change. He was also the lead singer of the two rare studio creations of Ze-brass (83) and Deep (85), but then he seems to have disappeard from the scene. Marcela Allen later did some work as vocalist on an experimental rock album in 83 and on a rap album in 92.
Besides the original albums on Capitol both albums have been released on CD. The first time that happened was on the 9th of February 1999 when both albums were released on the Japanese label Vivid sound. The work of digitally remaster the original tape is superbly done with an excellent sound but as it was an imported CD the price was rather high. The first album is not for sail anymore but the second one is still in print.
On the 23rd of August 2004 EMI Holland released the first album on CD as a part of their newly created "Masters Of Funk & Soul" series. You can't find that CD on Amazon US, but on Amazon UK, Amazon Germany (best price) and Amazon France
On the 15th of November 2005 the Italian label Fonte records released a box of five CD's including both albums by High fashion together with the first three albums by B. B. & Q band. More info about this box and the additional four exclusive boxes in the series can be found here.