Charles Stepney :: That’s the Way of the World (Home Demo)

Wow, these first few selections from the forthcoming Charles Stepney home recordings collection Step on Step are something else. Before his untimely passing in 1976, Stepney was an in-demand producer, working on Minnie Riperton’s Les Fleurs, Terry Callier’s What Color Is Love, as well as multiple Earth, Wind & Fire, Rotary Connection, and Ramsey Lewis recordings. Lush and laden with strings and horns arrangements, these projects showcase Stepney’s refined sensibility. But the music featured on Step on Step is more rough-hewn. Recorded alone on a 4-track in his Southside Chicago basement, it retains the sophistication of his studio efforts but presents them in a raw, utterly funky manner. Take his embryonic version of “That’s the Way of the World.” Propelled by a drum machine and warm synths—and minus Maurice and Verdine White’s lyrical and vocal contributions that would take the eventual Earth, Wind & Fire version of the song to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts—Stepney’s home recording is a dazzling lo-fi gem, suggesting his future as one of hip-hop’s most sampled producers, not to mention sounding more than a little like the template for K.K. Slider’s Animal Crossing hits. It’s been on repeat as of late, as have the other advance listens from the record: the charming “Daddies Diddies” and the buoyant “Look B4U Leap.” Step on Step comes out via International Anthem September 9th, produced by Stepney’s daughters Eibur, Charlene, and Chanté Stepney. | j woodbury

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