In 1986, five years after the release of his first album, Lawrence Ross returned with a new Twilight record calledPains of Love. Taking the experience and proceeds from his debut, Still Loving You, Ross spent a few years building himself a studio, and added engineering to his list of skills as a multi-instrumentalist. He was also mentored by Grover Washington Jr. having met him backstage at the Circle Star Theater. Mouthpiece in-hand Ross played one of Washington Jr.s songs using the stars' saxophone. When you're young you have no fear, says Ross. That's because you are insane! he jokes. He loved it and gave me his phone number to call and play for him on the phone and he would tell me what I needed to improve upon. Most importantly, the real reason for the 5 year gap between albums was that Ross had become a father, twice.
While his first LP was recorded in a unique way, with Ross single-handedly creating the appearance of a band, he hoped to make his next recordings with the help of musicians. Lightening the burden of putting an entire album together would make the process more enjoyable and rewarding. However, that's not what happened.
Pains of Love began as a demo for Smith and Wesan (not, Smith and Wessun, the rap group that followed a decade or so later.) Their manager was Paul Mack Jr., promotions man for Atlantic, also manager for the Perfect Circle. He had heard Scorppittiarus, from Still In Love when it was released, and had helped facilitate some serious airplay on San Francisco station KBLX. He contacted Ross to create tunes that Smith and Wessun could use as demo tracks for Atlantic. Ross recorded You Look So Good, Give All My Love, Pains of Love and the beginnings of You're In Love at Likewise Studio in Oakland as 1983 became 1984. There he was aided by musicians from Bill Summers group Summers Heat. They were under major label exclusive contracts at the time, and their work was strictly off the record. Mack took the three finished tracks to Atlantic who liked them and wanted to sign Smith and Wesan to a contract. However, on the day of the signing, a soap opera-style scenario unfolded and an unfortunate love triangle killed the Atlantic deal idea.
Liking the way the first three tracks came out he was determined not to let them go to waste. Ross took them back to his own studio in Vallejo and remixed them. He set about finishing the half-done You're In Love, while fleshing out the rest of an album. At the time he admired how Quincy Jones produced (especially on The Dude), and wanted to use some of his techniques.
A quick glance at the album credits, and a flick through the synth-heavy tracks, shows that this record was made with even less musicians and instruments than the first. Switching organic live instrumentation for electronics, Ross created a monster soulful boogie album that sounds like an underground counterpart to bands popular bands from the time like Loose Ends, Mtume, or Cameo. Now that he had his own studio, and more time to make a better quality record, it seems like an odd choice to replace the layers of instrumentation heard on his debut, with a handful of synths. But a new model of the Prophet 5 keyboard (a staple of all synthesized music from the 1980s) had just been released and Ross loved the way it sounded. The purchase of the Prophet 5 alone pushed the cost of this album beyond that of his debut, but it allowed Ross to experiment with futuristic sounds.
Outside of teaching himself to program the Prophet 5, Ross wanted to polish-up his song writing abilities onPains of Love. All the songs are about love because I wanted to get into telling a story. So I focused on writing and singing about relationships, etc, as opposed to concentrating so heavily on the music.
Ross wishes he would have taken more time to bring the other tracks to what he considers the same level as the first three. But he burned out on the learning curve of the keyboards, and producing, songwriting, and engineering the entire album. Instead of working with a group he had once again taken on the process of making an entire album. He was mentally spent and had to take some time off from music for a while. He pressed less copies of Pains of Love (than of Still Loving You,)and the album did not reach as wide an audience as his debut, through lack of promotion and distribution, he explains. With a young son and daughter, born in 81 and 82 respectively, Ross would like to have put more into the album but didn't want to take time from his family.
Nowadays Ross still plays, and his studio is packed with the vintage keyboards heard on his first two records. I still have them all and I think I know my way around the studio better now, he says. I think I'm at my peak now on sax and synths. I never stopped, I practice every day and never considered giving up. He is currently working on new tracks. There will be a third Twilight album with the energy and wholeness of the first together with the quality and sophistication of the second. I have a large list of originals I have made throughout the years.
Look out for the companion Twilight album, Still Loving You, released in 1981 and also available on Luv N'Haight.