Ronnie Dyson - vocals; Background musicians and vocals - unknown
The second of two shows recorded at New York's Bottom Line by Ronnie Dyson in January, 1978, this performance is nearly identical to the earlier show captured on the same day. Dyson, who had been an established Broadway star and R&B singer, had essentially become a lounge act with this schmaltzy set list that included a cover of "Sara Smile" and a questionable medley of Carpenters hits.
This set is worth checking out to hear the quality of Dyson's voice, who, just eight years earlier, was one of the most dynamic black artists working in Broadway, and later, cutting traditional R&B records. Dyson was still recording for Columbia when he embarked on this tour, but the heyday of his sessions at the Gamble Huff studios in Philadelphia, working with famed R&B producer Thom Bell, were long behind him.
There are a few high points, including his version of "Aquarius," which he made famous on Broadway while in the cast of Hair, and his first R&B hit, "If You Let Me Make Love To You, Why Can't I Touch You?"
Ronnie Dyson was only 20 years old when he landed a lead role in the Broadway production of the musical, Hair. Born in Washington in 1950 but raised in Brooklyn, he spent his youth singing in Gospel choirs. He would spend the next few years in various (and less successful) musicals, but one of those gave him a song entitled, "If You Let Me Make Love To You, Why Can't I Touch You?" He used it to secure a record contract with Columbia Records, who released it in 1970. It would become a Top 10 hit.
The success of that single and its subsequent LP gave Dyson the ability to record and tour through most of the '70s. He teamed up with celebrated Philly-based producer, Thom Bell, and his 1973 release, One Man Band, is generally regarded as his best LP. Dyson toured between 1974 and 1976 with the Supremes (post Diana Ross) and the Trammps, yet, despite working with some of the best R&B writers and producers of that time, he was unable to crack the Top 20.
He settled into a semi-regular performance schedule from his base in Philadelphia throughout the 1980s, but was never able to achieve much more status than that of a regional cabaret act. An unknown heart condition caught up with him in 1990, when he sadly died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 40.