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Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.
Featured in TIR Episode 78 (Part 1 of 3): One of the most finely crafted and orchestrated funk-soul-disco bands of the late 1970s and 1980s — Kleeer, that’s K-l-e-e-e-r. On hand to discuss their legacy are founding guitarist-singer Richard Lee and keyboardist-saxophonist Eric Rohrbaugh. Founded in New York in 1972 as The Jam Band, Lee and the rest of the group would serve as the backing band for several artists and undergo several name changes that included Pipeline and The Universal Robot Band before releasing the first Kleeer album for Atlantic Records in 1979. That disco-heavy debut was called I Love to Dance and included the fierce dance club track, “Keep Your Body Workin’.” Settling more firmly into a funk-R&B blend, Kleeer would go on to cut six more albums for Atlantic between 1979 and 1985.
Their popularity peaked with Winners, which reached No. 24 on the U.S. R&B albums chart, and License to Dream, which climbed all the way to No. 13. They also notched three top 40 R&B hits, consisting of “Tonight’s the Night,” “Winners” and “Get Tough.” Other key Kleeer tracks included “Nothin’ Said,” “Open Your Mind,” “De Kleeer Ting,” “Where Would I Be (Without Your Love,” “Taste the Music,” “De Ting Continues,” “Swann,” “Get Ready,” “Stonseee,” “Intimate Connection” and “Seeekret.”
Here, in likely Kleeer’s most in-depth interview ever, Lee and Rohrbaugh recount the glory and the gory of the band’s founding, rise, pinnacle, fade and demise. One thing to make clear before proceeding are a few technical matters. A third group member, founding keyboardist-composer Paul Crutchfield, was supposed to participate but was not able to connect to the video session. An unfortunate technical glitch was then discovered after the interview in which Rohrbaugh’s visual did not register, only his audio. His visual later inexplicably pops on with about a half hour left in the session. To compensate, stills of Rohrbaugh have been added over some of his audio. Lastly, Lee’s feed was at times compromised by less-than-ideal connectivity, resulting in lower frame rates and some audio dropouts. A lot of painstaking postproduction work has been put in to make this episode as good as possible despite those issues.
Highlights along the way include inside looks at Kleeer’s albums, songs and shows, including sharing the stage with Prince and Rick James, among many others; an explanation of the group’s unusual spelling and fascination with wordplay; and what Kleeer looks like today as well as plans to produce brand new music.
Recorded January 2019