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  1. #1

    Prodigal Records

    I hadn't really looked into this Motown label before until recently and still don't know much about it. I believe it was started by Barney Ales in 1974 and shortly after Motown bought and absorbed it!

    I had always been under the impression that Prodigal was purely a white rock-based subsidiary label. Turns out Ronnie McNeir had his first album released there! Even Gary US Bonds and Joe Frazier (the boxer) had singles on the label.

    So, was Prodigal more of a continuation of VIP records or was it supposed to be another Rare Earth-type outlet? Did/do you have any Prodigal singles or albums? Anyone know any more about the label itself?

    Thanks all!

  2. #2
    During the mid to late 1970's I had almost all of the Prodigal releases. Michael Quatro had 2 albums released on the label, Kathe Green, Friendly Enemies (formerly Dunn and Rubini, Michel Rubini produced tracks by Thelma Houston), Charlene's debut was on Prodigal before being released on Motown, and even Rare Earth ended up on Prodigal. I think the label was more pop/rock oriented like the Rare Earth label. The group Stylist from Australia may have been the last release on the label. The album is able on CD. I liked the music and some had potential for the charts if they had been marketed well.

  3. #3
    Thanks very much for your response, blkfrost. The existence of yet another Motown subsidiary just fascinates me!

    I think you're right that the label was more pop/rock based. I found a bsnpubs discography page for Prodigal and checked out some of the label's releases. Most of it is definitely pop or rock orientated!

    Here's the link to the album discography: http://www.bsnpubs.com/motown/prodigal/prodigal.html

    And here's one for all the Prodigal singles: http://www.globaldogproductions.info/p/prodigal.html

    Interestingly Prodigal seems to have started and ended with notably more Soul-oriented releases; it's first album was Ronnie McNeir's eponymous 1975 LP and its last was by the Australian group you mention (I believe they were called 'Stylus') with their self-titled 1978 album. I was really surprised at how much I liked Stylus' stuff, it's quite soulful and even funky. I believe they were the first (and only!) Australian act to sign with Motown.
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 05-09-2017 at 07:38 PM.

  4. #4
    Tom: Here is the description that David Bianco gave in his excellent book Heat Wave.

    PRODIGAL. Active 1974-1978. Essentially a pop-rock label that picked up where the Rare Earth label left off. In addition to records by the group Rare Earth, this label included such artists as Gary U. S. Bonds, Charlene, and such novelty acts as Joe Frazier and Gaylor and Holiday. His discography includes starting with 45's 611 through 646 with #'s 613 and 634 unissued. Albums ran from 10007 through 10030 with #'s 10021 and 10023 unissued.

  5. #5
    Quite a few good soul acts had releases on Prodigal: Ronnie Mc, Eddie Parker, Softouch, Shirley Alston, Rita Graham, Joe Frazier, etc.
    Joe was even transferred over from the Motown label, though as to why, I have no idea.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    Tom: Here is the description that David Bianco gave in his excellent book Heat Wave.

    PRODIGAL. Active 1974-1978. Essentially a pop-rock label that picked up where the Rare Earth label left off. In addition to records by the group Rare Earth, this label included such artists as Gary U. S. Bonds, Charlene, and such novelty acts as Joe Frazier and Gaylor and Holiday. His discography includes starting with 45's 611 through 646 with #'s 613 and 634 unissued. Albums ran from 10007 through 10030 with #'s 10021 and 10023 unissued.
    Thanks for the info, Bill!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by jsmith View Post
    Quite a few good soul acts had releases on Prodigal: Ronnie Mc, Eddie Parker, Softouch, Shirley Alston, Rita Graham, Joe Frazier, etc.
    Yea, jsmith, they did. So Prodigal definitely wasn't an entirely rock-based outlet. Interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by jsmith View Post
    Joe was even transferred over from the Motown label, though as to why, I have no idea.
    I would guess that Motown didn't really want Joe on their main Motown label (?) so transferred him over to Prodigal. A bit like VIP really, where Motown just put people they didn't know what to do with!!!

    I know this probably sounds blasphemous (especially coming from a huge David Ruffin fan) but I actually prefer Joe's version of "First Round Knockout" to David's 1976 cover!!

    I bet Joe loved singing that song though. Also, I believe the B-Side of Joe's "First Round Knockout" was a cover of The O'Jays "Looky, Looky (Look At Me, Girl)". Does anyone have or remember this? I would love to hear it.

  8. #8
    I have Shirley Alston's Prodigal album WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS. On it, she remakes hits like IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT and I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU with the people who made the hits, the Flamingos, LaLa Brooks, The 5 Satins,etc.

    I only bought it because I am a big fan of Shirley and the Shirelles, but I don't think I played it more than once.

  9. #9
    Don't forget that Prodigal had a subsidiary called Blaze, the only release of which was "Do the Choo Choo (Parts 1 & 2) by Jack Ashford and the Sound of New Detroit (Blaze 1107).

    Bearing in mind the biblical story of the Return of the Prodigal Son which seems relevant when looking at the original label design, I wonder whether the name was chosen to mark Barney Ales return to Detroit.

  10. #10
    The Life and Times of The Motown Stars by Alex MacKenzie (2009) states:

    Purchased by Motown in 1974, Motown used Prodigal Records as a second rock music subsidiary; a sister label to Rare Earth Records. The Rare Earth band moved over to the label following the Rare Earth's demise. Prodigal was dissolved in 1978.

    The thread that claims Prodigal had a subsidiary called Blaze is doubtful. Blaze had one release in September 1969 by Jack Ashford. Prodigal was only active 1974-1978.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Thanks very much for your response, blkfrost. The existence of yet another Motown subsidiary just fascinates me!

    I think you're right that the label was more pop/rock based. I found a bsnpubs discography page for Prodigal and checked out some of the label's releases. Most of it is definitely pop or rock orientated!

    Here's the link to the album discography: http://www.bsnpubs.com/motown/prodigal/prodigal.html

    And here's one for all the Prodigal singles: http://www.globaldogproductions.info/p/prodigal.html

    Interestingly Prodigal seems to have started and ended with notably more Soul-oriented releases; it's first album was Ronnie McNeir's eponymous 1975 LP and its last was by the Australian group you mention (I believe they were called 'Stylus') with their self-titled 1978 album. I was really surprised at how much I liked Stylus' stuff, it's quite soulful and even funky. I believe they were the first (and only!) Australian act to sign with Motown.
    You are correct, it is "Stylus". Great album by them. You should give it a listen. More funky pop then pop rock.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    Don't forget that Prodigal had a subsidiary called Blaze, the only release of which was "Do the Choo Choo (Parts 1 & 2) by Jack Ashford and the Sound of New Detroit (Blaze 1107).
    Oh! I never even knew about that. Interesting! Thanks 144man.

    I just checked out the single and, despite being mostly instrumental, it's a great, thumping and very danceable song! It's also interesting to see that another Funk Brother had their own single released, and in the mid-'70s too.

    Here's it is: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=O-FCmHgKOEc

    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    Bearing in mind the biblical story of the Return of the Prodigal Son which seems relevant when looking at the original label design, I wonder whether the name was chosen to mark Barney Ales return to Detroit.
    And, yea, that might have something to do with the choice of name for the label!

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    I was really surprised at how much I liked Stylus' stuff, it's quite soulful and even funky. I believe they were the first (and only!) Australian act to sign with Motown.
    Quote Originally Posted by blkfrost View Post
    You are correct, it is "Stylus". Great album by them. You should give it a listen. More funky pop then pop rock.
    Yea, it's really great stuff, isn't it? Surprisingly funky, with soulful undertones!! It especially surprised me given the album cover which kinda makes it look like a rock album for some reason...?

    FUNKY MUSIC!
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sTOeNZxgmAI

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    The Life and Times of The Motown Stars by Alex MacKenzie (2009) states:

    Purchased by Motown in 1974, Motown used Prodigal Records as a second rock music subsidiary; a sister label to Rare Earth Records. The Rare Earth band moved over to the label following the Rare Earth's demise. Prodigal was dissolved in 1978.

    The thread that claims Prodigal had a subsidiary called Blaze is doubtful. Blaze had one release in September 1969 by Jack Ashford. Prodigal was only active 1974-1978.
    Hey Bill, thanks for the quote. Another rock subsidiary, eh? Interesting. Of course Motown would create another rock label in the early '80s with Morocco Records.

    I do believe, however, that the 'Blaze' label was indeed a subsidiary of Prodigal. Jack Ashford's single was released in 1975 I believe, which would fit in Prodigal's four-year existence.

    Here's the Discogs page for Blaze: https://www.discogs.com/label/107314-Blaze-2

    And here's the 45cat page for Jack Ashford's "Do The Choo Choo" single: http://www.45cat.com/record/b1107

    (The UK release on the 'London' label has a review from Blues & Soul magazine as well: http://www.45cat.com/record/hla10507)

  15. #15
    I do have a mint copy of Do The Choo Choo, but I did not document when it was released or when I bought it; however, I was checking in The Motown Story by Don Waller and he includes a discography of Blaze Records which only includes Do the Choo Choo and Don indicates the date of release as 9/24/1969. He further states on Prodigal that ". . . Motown took a final fling at the pop market with its Prodigal Records subsidiary (1975-1979) . . . The surprise came in 1982, when a tune that was originally issued on Prodigal five years earlier, the dewy ballad "I've Never Been To Me" sold a million copies for Motown Records . . ." More food for thought.

    The Motown Encyclopedia indicates Do the Choo Choo was released in 1975. Who knows?
    Last edited by woodward; 05-10-2017 at 07:18 PM. Reason: add statement re ME

  16. #16
    Mmm, interesting! I checked the Don't Forget The Motorcity website and there is no listing for Jack Ashford's "Do The Choo Choo" which there might be had it been recorded and released in 1969. This is because DFTMC only goes up to 1972-74 I believe.

    Also, the recording sounds more like a '70s production than a '60s one, with the horns and proto-disco feel. The song (in a vocal version!) is available on the ACE CD Jack Ashford: Just Productions which I do not have but the track listing runs from 1969 to 1976 and "Choo Choo" is one of the last tracks.

  17. #17
    We can now put this to rest.

    I just went into www.seabear.se and where there is a picture of the actual record which CLEARLY states 1975. I don't know why I failed to actually pull my record and physically examine it, but it was buried. That is the only excuse I can give. Sorry.

  18. #18
    No worries, Bill! There's so little info out there about Prodigal Records (and Blaze!!!) apart from a few discographies and entries on Discogs and 45cat. Still, I wonder what the story is behind the creation and dissolution of Blaze. Just one lone record.... so fascinasting!!!

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Yea, jsmith, they did. So Prodigal definitely wasn't an entirely rock-based outlet. Interesting.



    I would guess that Motown didn't really want Joe on their main Motown label (?) so transferred him over to Prodigal. A bit like VIP really, where Motown just put people they didn't know what to do with!!!

    I know this probably sounds blasphemous (especially coming from a huge David Ruffin fan) but I actually prefer Joe's version of "First Round Knockout" to David's 1976 cover!!

    I bet Joe loved singing that song though. Also, I believe the B-Side of Joe's "First Round Knockout" was a cover of The O'Jays "Looky, Looky (Look At Me, Girl)". Does anyone have or remember this? I would love to hear it.
    Sorry I don't know much about prodigal until reading this thread. However after reading that blasphemous quote from Tom that he prefers Joe's first round knock out to Davids, I'm in shock LOL.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Sorry I don't know much about prodigal until reading this thread. However after reading that blasphemous quote from Tom that he prefers Joe's first round knock out to Davids, I'm in shock LOL.
    Haaaaaa... yea, sorry, McMotown... I ought to be burned at the stake for saying such a thing... especially since I love both David Ruffin AND Van McCoy AND the album in which "First Round Knockout" features, Everything's Coming Up Love, is my favourite of the collaboration between the two... such heresy!!!!!

  21. #21
    Tom it changes day to day of those three albums of David Ruffin's
    Again sorry to quote Mrs M again her favourite is 'nightmare' she says it's easy to remember because that's what I am apparently. Hmmm
    Still looking into this label, but I'm not sure about yet.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Tom it changes day to day of those three albums of David Ruffin's
    Again sorry to quote Mrs M again her favourite is 'nightmare' she says it's easy to remember because that's what I am apparently. Hmmm
    Still looking into this label, but I'm not sure about yet.
    Yea, all David's albums are excellent!! (But I would say that wouldn't I? Lol)

    Haha... I'm sure you're not that bad, McMotown...! I actually recently discovered "Nightmare" and it is really catchy and a great disco tune.

    And I think Prodigal is a bit of a weird label; mostly pop/rock based, lots of one-off singles, unknown artists, a place to put acts Motown didn't know what to do with. There are still some gems to be found, however, mainly in the form of Ronnie McNeir's 1975 album and Stylus' 1978 LP. Also, I just discovered the B-Side of Joe Frazier's Prodigal single "Little Dog Heaven" entitled "What You Gonna Do When The Rain Starts Falling?" and it is fantastic!

    Here it is: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gMXWx0YnXdM

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Yea, all David's albums are excellent!! (But I would say that wouldn't I? Lol)

    Haha... I'm sure you're not that bad, McMotown...! I actually recently discovered "Nightmare" and it is really catchy and a great disco tune.

    And I think Prodigal is a bit of a weird label; mostly pop/rock based, lots of one-off singles, unknown artists, a place to put acts Motown didn't know what to do with. There are still some gems to be found, however, mainly in the form of Ronnie McNeir's 1975 album and Stylus' 1978 LP. Also, I just discovered the B-Side of Joe Frazier's Prodigal single "Little Dog Heaven" entitled "What You Gonna Do When The Rain Starts Falling?" and it is fantastic!

    Here it is: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gMXWx0YnXdM
    Well that was totally unexpected and it's growing on me now I've played it a few times.

  24. #24
    I've just dug out my UK copy of "Do the Choo-Choo" on London HLA 10507.
    The name "Prodigal" appears under the "London" logo between two facing silver-on-black bulls. The year published is given as "1975". There is no mention of "Blaze" anywhere on the label.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    I've just dug out my UK copy of "Do the Choo-Choo" on London HLA 10507.
    The name "Prodigal" appears under the "London" logo between two facing silver-on-black bulls. The year published is given as "1975". There is no mention of "Blaze" anywhere on the label.
    Hey 144man, I guess as Blaze was just a subsidiary of Prodigal Records (and a very short-lived one at that) "Choo Choo" was just released in the UK on the same label as all other Prodigal singles: London. Here's the single on the 45cat website, complete with a review of the song from the B&S magazine: http://www.45cat.com/record/hla10507

    (Have I already posted that link before? I think so. Oh well! )

    BTW, what do you think of the song?

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Well that was totally unexpected and it's growing on me now I've played it a few times.
    Yea, McMotown, it's really nice, isn't it? Very soulful and quite mellow. A nice build-up too. I might guess that it's A-Side (about dogs and heaven, simultaneously!!), which no one has posted to YouTube I should add, isn't quite as good, but you never know!!!

  27. #27
    That must be the promo copy pictured. The background colour on my copy of "Do the Choo Choo" is black. I quite like the track but haven't played it in a long time.

    What other Prodigal releases were there on London in the UK?

  28. #28
    I think all the Prodigal singles that feature the two bulls logo were, if released in the UK at all, were released on the London label. These British Prodigal singles, the ones on London, also feature the two bulls and the word 'Prodigal' under the 'London' logo. I don't think there were many Progidal 45s released in the UK: some of Ronnie McNeir's singles, one or two from Shirley Alston, the Jack Ashfield one, and the Gary US Bonds single too.

    After mid/late 1976 Prodigal changed its logo to black at the bottom and multi-coloured at the top. I think this was when Motown bought and absorbed the label. Prodigal releases in the UK after this point were not on London. They instead feature the new (and much better IMO) logo!

  29. #29
    Wow... I love this...



    Kinda reminds me of Jamiroquai... whaddya think?

  30. #30
    SHIRLEY ALSTON's "Can't Stop Singing" -- A big Prodigal 45 cut in the UK (released here on London) ... it was the B side track of the US release which seems just to have escaped in the US as a double A side promo ... so the 45 is very rare ... it was a big UK soul club spin a couple of years ago ....
    I had a UK issue copy of the 45 and a lot of UK soul fans wanted me to sell it to them (those that DJ'ed on a regular basis & couldn't get a copy).
    I kept it & even though it's now slipped in price from it's peak,
    I'm glad I did.
    Last edited by jsmith; 06-07-2017 at 08:31 AM.

  31. #31
    The A side of Shirley's 45 ...

  32. #32
    [QUOTE=jsmith;391046]SHIRLEY ALSTON's "Can't Stop Singing" -- A big Prodigal 45 cut in the UK (released here on London) ... it was the B side track of the US release which seems just to have escaped in the US as a double A side promo ... so the 45 is very rare ... it was a big UK soul club spin a couple of years ago ....
    I had a UK issue copy of the 45 and a lot of UK soul fans wanted me to sell it to them (those that DJ'ed on a regular basis & couldn't get a copy).
    I kept it & even though it's now slipped in price from it's peak,
    I'm glad I did.

    Very nice tune. Never heard it. Thank you for posting

  33. #33
    Another Prodigal 45 from Shirley Alston was also released here on London ... "I Do Love You" ... in 74 .. it's a decent ballad but nowhere near as collectable as her later 45 outing/

  34. #34
    This is the original version of Van McCoy's First Round Knockout.



  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    This is the original version of Van McCoy's First Round Knockout.


    Never knew about this version, Bill! Thank you for posting, it's great!!!

    Never heard of The New Censation either. Interesting... it looks like they only had one LP (New Censation, 1974), produced entirely by Van McCoy.

  36. #36
    OK, now this is absolutely fascinating... in fact I don't what to make of it...



    Van McCoy does Norman Whitfield???!!

  37. #37
    Van McCoy outdone himself with David Ruffin's version of First round Knockout. The 'Come Down To Earth' won't play for me.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Van McCoy outdone himself with David Ruffin's version of First round Knockout. The 'Come Down To Earth' won't play for me.
    Hey Paul, I know we've discussed this already (and confirmed it is sheer blasphemy!!) but I have to say I'm not a massive fan of David's version of the song...!!

    Try this version of "Come Down To Earth"...


  39. #39
    [QUOTE=TomatoTom123;392083]Hey Paul, I know we've discussed this already (and confirmed it is sheer blasphemy!!) but I have to say I'm not a massive fan of David's version of the song...!!

    Try this version of "Come Down To Earth"...

    Tom now that track is far better than there version of first round IMO. Yes we've discussed David's version one day you'll come round to my way of thinking

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Tom now that track is far better than there version of first round IMO. Yes we've discussed David's version one day you'll come round to my way of thinking
    Yea, it is a great track. Kinda surprised me.

    Haaaa... yea, maybe one day... I'll have to give it a listen and reevaluate my thoughts on it...!

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Yea, it is a great track. Kinda surprised me.

    Haaaa... yea, maybe one day... I'll have to give it a listen and reevaluate my thoughts on it...!
    OK, I will freely and publicly admit: I don't know why I didn't like David's version when I first heard it. Please forgive me of my heresy!!!

    I just listened to it and it is, of course, great! Quite funky. Maybe it's the weird countdown '6-7-8-9-10' bit I didn't like. Not sure. Still great though.

  42. #42
    I've got 23 scans of Prodigal LP covers ( Prod 10007-10030..Prod 10021 missing ) and probably MP 3s of them too. I don't remember New Censation though. I can email the covers. I've got nearly all Motown LP cover scans.

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