Marcel King - Sad Sweet Dreamer (with Sweet Sensation) / Reach For Love

Marcel King
Sad Sweet Dreamer (with Sweet Sensation) / Reach For Love

Released 1974 on Pye/ Factory respectively
Reviewed by dave clarkson, 15/01/2008ce

Not exactly cosmic or prog but most definitely unsung, Marcel Neville King (1957 – 1995) was the genius vocalist behind two great British soul records. He was 16 years old when the Manchester based octet, Sweet Sensation, topped the charts with the sensational ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’ in 1974. After a few more minor hits and a period of silence, Marcel emerged in 1984 with the awesome ‘Reach for Love’.

Sweet Sensation formed in Manchester in 1973 and came to the attention of ITV’s New Faces talent show. After winning the contest, the band, under the guidance of Tony Hatch (the man who wrote the belter that was Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown’), signed to Pye Records. Their second single, ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’ went onto being a UK number one record in September 1974. An easy listening piece of classic soul which sounded like it came straight out of Philadelphia with its swirling string and saxophone arrangement and marble arch studio sound. Follow-up singles all failed to have similar impact on the charts over the next couple of years. The band attempted to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest but their fortunes were ended when the song ‘You're My Sweet Sensation’ ended in eighth place. Subsequently, Pye records dropped them and the group split up shortly afterwards.

Marcel re-emerged in 1984 on Factory Records with the one-off 12 inch single ‘Reach For Love’/ 'Keep On Dancin'. Rumour has it that New Order’s manager, Rob Gretton (a huge northern soul fan himself), found his hero Marcel sleeping homeless in the back of a car. Enthusiastically, Marcel was asked to make the record which was produced by the Bernard Sumner/ Donald Johnson, Be Music/ Dojo music axis, giving it an electronic based powerful rhythm and bass line riff possibly influenced by Giorgio Moroder with its repetitive and demanding sequencing. The song is certainly a precursor to the rock/dance crossover genre.

The vocal range and control on ‘Reach For Love’ was exceptionally high level, both from a technical and emotional stand. The record was perhaps too intense for daytime airplay but was certainly one of the great lost hits of the 1980s. It’s incredibly baffling how nobody has ever covered the song since.

On release, the record did not sell well despite filling club dancefloors. It’s influence on British dance music was understated and other bands who were later signed to the label (Happy Mondays especially) certainly took some of the rhythmic influence from the record. Shaun Ryder still regards it as the best record Factory ever released. ‘Reach For Love’ should have been a huge hit.

King more or less vanished again during the late 1980s/early 1990s but did turn up sporadically at music nights. I was fortunate enough to back him on drums one evening on a version of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ when he showed up at the local pub unannounced and sang with the resident band – his vocals were a sweet mix of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. He spoke that night of going back into the studio and recording more songs.

Sadly, the incredible talent that was Marcel King never produced any more records. Marcel King lives on in these wonderful records.

'Sad Sweet Dreamer' -

'Reach For Love' available on the ‘Cool As Ice: Be Music Productions’ compilation (LTM)

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