In 1966 Chicago native Marshall Chess set out to form a band different from the R&B, soul and gospel groups his father and uncle had on their Chess Record label. as musical director/arranger, Sidney Barnes and Minnie Riperton as co-lead vocalist, and three musicians from the rock group Proper Strangers. They formed the psychedelic funk soul/jazz fusion band Rotary Connection. Along the way several different hand selected Chess studio session musicians played on their albums, but for the most part the core of Rotary Connection remained these five original members.
In 1971 under the name The New Rotary Connection the group recorded their last album Hey Love. It featured the song “Love Has Fallen on Me” crediting Charles Stepney and musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber as writers. Being a band geek I thought the Webber credit was odd. The song is definitely theatrical in nature, but a lot of songs from this era were. As much as I looked into this I only found one source that hinted to it being “Originally written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Co-Written & Orchestrated by Charles Stepney” and I must admit this does have a very Jesus Christ Superstar feel. I don’t know Webber’s entire catalog or if this was music he’d written for the musical he discarded in the 70’s but considering Webber has said he’s never written lyrics, he most likely wrote the music and Stepney arranged and added lyrics.
“Love Has Fallen on Me” is a carefully arranged mid-tempo composition about the realization of falling in love. It has so many layers and segments its hard to dissect with words. It has essentially 4 sections (maybe 3) with two of the sections being repeatedA; -B-C(D)-A-C(D). Section A explaining what love is and how it makes you feel is just busy piano and vocals, highlighting all four voices in harmony and unison. Section B starts at the :36s mark and brings in bass and drums for the groove, and strings for fullness. It focuses heavily on lead vocals and backing vocals help to slowly shape this part. This section melts into C which begins at 1:16 with a very simple piano motif and falsetto voices. This gradually builds 2 bars at a time, layering bit by bit to a big full voice, strings, horns, bass and piano right to the 2m:07s mark peak. The full sounds ends abruptly and goes back to the first section and is followed again with section C-D again. The song is rather simple without paying attention to details, until you hear the cover.
Love Has Fallen on Me – (The New) Rotary Connection
Chaka Khan’s take on the song seven years later sheds light on how intricate and dynamic the original was. Don’t get me wrong, standing alone her rendition is fine, but in comparison it is a tad lack luster and even sloppy at times. Chaka’s lead vocals are great and perhaps even superior in the section B where the lead singer needs to be pronounced. Everything past that is second-rate. I wanted her backing vocals to blend better, or at least tighten up and move together. The contrast from one section to another are barely noticeable. To me section C is practically the same volume and intensity at from start to end. Not at all comparable to the crescendos and layers in the 1971 recording. I do love her lead vocals because she makes it sound so effortless and intense. And despite feeling the recording could have taken better advantage of their instrumentation, the strings at the very tail end of this version are amazing.
Love Has Fallen on Me – Chaka Khan
On Common’s single “Drivin’ Me Wild” featuring Lily Allen, producer Kanye West sampled “Love Has Fallen on Me” by looping various parts of the first few bars from section C. Lyrically the song speaks about on how obsession can lead you to crazy extremes. When it comes to Kanye West as an artist, I am admittedly a huge admirer of his work. To me this is just another example of a great sample from him. This song appears on Common’s 2007 album Finding Forever.
Drivin’ Me Wild – Common
Up and coming artist Mishal Moore used the same section of “Love Has Fallen on Me” in 2011 as the foundation for her song “Right Here”. Her treatment is very mellow and discuss the idea of just being in the moment. It falls in line with the original song as far as feeling and mode. It could be about living in the moment, but it very much has the feeling of someone who is recently fallen in love. “Everything I need is right here, you’re right here,” she repeats in a blissful tone. This appeared on her 2011 album Bleed Out.
Right Here – Mishal Moore