With the recording of Chain, The Family Stand not only found its “voice”, but its name. The start of our stylistically eclectic, genre breaking albums (unmarketable) WHO SAID THAT?) begins here.
The album’s title arose from the unifying thematic idea of looking at the patterns in our lives, personal, as well as universal, or metaphorically speaking the chains that bind us. Each song offers the choice of a continued existence with the status quo or a breaking of the “chain”. The album as a whole was a huge break from the status quo of what a so-called R&B group album would do or even attempt to do at the time.
Ghetto Heaven (often confused with that brilliant record released at the exact same time, GET YOUR HAIR DONE) was, and this is hard to imagine today, controversial for its title and lyrics. Some people believed we were saying that the ghetto was a heaven. (Poetic metaphors my people! Do we really need everything spelled out for us like… Medea’s Family Reunion? Maybe. Not hating on the movie. I enjoyed it a lot more than some other “mainstream”, you know what I mean, movies. Failure To Launch for example. HORRIBLE! But I seriously digress) Nellie Hooper and Jazzy B‘s great “Soul to Soul remix” of Ghetto Heaven was a bridge and a peace offering to “Black Radio” in America and also internationally, most importantly in London. The story of three souls finding their personal means to heaven, within the context of an every day mundane urban hell, became a hit.
Sweet Liberation, The Last Temptation, and In Summer I Fall are other highlights on the album. Each in their own way deals with the presence of chains and patterns, political, spiritual, emotional and romantic.
The album cover was done by the late great artist Toyce Anderson. The look of the cover and us was very different for the time also. Sandra with her stunning hair and gown, Jeff with his fly suit and winged shades and I with… well… my… Stretch biker pants, tuxedo tails and my (OH DIANNE! A pioneer in hair weaving… The Jackie Robinson of nappy hair) dreads. (What was I thinking?…. Oh yes I was breaking the chains of taste!)
Speaking of Jackie Robinson, the great immortal baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, this album was recorded mostly on the twenty-first floor in Jeff’s living room, in the Ebbets Field Apartments that hover over the formally sacred ground of the old Ebbets Field home stadium for the Dodgers. We got a little carried away with the food budget on our first album (the self indulgent artists ordering at will) so it was back to the hood for this record. I personally hate the way this record sounds sonically, however, there was definitely a magic achieved in that room that translates onto the music and performances of Chain.