My great friend Leo Sacks – one of the most most conscientious and prolific reissue and compilation producers in the business – had the sun shine most specially for him on his labor of love, his original production of the glorious leader-and-chorus gospel and soul of New Orleans icon Raymond Myles – a former public school music teacher and regular at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – who was murdered in New Orleans in October of ‘98 in an apparent robbery. Sacks not only produced A Taste of Heaven in ’95, but put it out on his own Honey Darling label.
Now the sun is shining again as Sony’s Legacy label has picked up A Taste of Heaven and reissued it with notes and tributes from David Ritz, Virginia Prescott, Nikki Giovanni, and Leo himself. My name even ended up in the the thank you’s – thank YOU Leo. Myles was the righteous, bigger-than-life, flamboyant “Little Richard of gospel” – you must hear his only record.
- If one day the Sun decided not to set but to fall, wouldn’t it break? Wouldn’t it splinter into billions and millions of pieces? And all that glitter would wash into the earth. Some pieces would go way into the ground. And it probably would be billions and millions of years before anyone found them. Being human and unable to know what had been discovered we would probably just call it “Gold” and trade it for lesser things. But it would be the only piece of the Sun that we could hold in our hands to comfort and intrigue us.
But what would happen if, for example, someone had planted a carrot or a lovely sweet yellow squash or a wonderfully golden yam and when that fruit of the earth blossomed some youngster from New Orleans being made by his mother to “eat his vegetables” also swallowed a piece of the Sun and when he opened his mouth notes sparkled from him. You can imagine the delight. This little five-year-old boy singing like an angel from the Sun.
This young man was so comfortable in his voice; so at home with the Delight, the Love, the Faith and Commitment; so mischievously playful with this voice. As if it was a friend and not his own. Other cities might have missed Raymond but New Orleans has a history with extraordinary musicians. New Orleans knew this son of the Sun being well acquainted with genius beginning with the drummers in Congo Square to the trumpet of Louis Armstrong to the Neville Brothers and the Marsalis family. New Orleans knows her sons. What a shame that the Sun took back that which it gave. Raymond had to go to his Heavenly home before the rest of us got to know him.
Raymond released his energy to the New Orleans sky at the street corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Chartres Street. Holy Ground. There should be a plaque there so that other children of the sun can come to know an angel left us at this spot… There should be something to memorialize the dreams Raymond Myles had for his people…some sort of honor guard to tell us to keep pushing… keep searching… keep looking… for A Taste of Heaven.
One of America’s best-loved poets, Nikki Giovani’s latest collection is called Quilting The Black-Eyed Pea (William Morrow, 2002)
For his amazing reissues, Leo has Specializing in ’70s soul through Sony’s Rhythm and Soul, and EMI’s Heart of Soul series, Sacks has lovingly researched and crafted packages for the O’Jays, Isley Brothers, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Labelle, Bobby Womack, Ike and Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, Freddie Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tavares, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, MFSB, Marvin Gaye, and dozens more. He has helped draw attention to lesser-known figures such as Bunny Sigler, Z.Z. Hill, D.J. Rogers, Marlena Shaw, Walter Jackson, and Enchantment; and has assembled numerous multiple-artist collections based upon such themes as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, love and lust, Chicago soul (centered around Curtis Mayfield), and Philadelphia soul centered around Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records).
Sprouting wings of creativity, Leo has also written two tracks on the smoking new Tower of Power Oakland Zone, the firey Bay Area horn-soul institution’s best recording in years. Go Leo!