Written By: Fletcher Bonin
Sylvester’s 1978 release Step II is seven tracks of pure groove. This album might as well have been the soundtrack of the 80’s with its steady, upbeat disco-type beats and Sylvester’s powerful, soaring falsetto range. Sylvester’s androgynous vocal prowess is front and center on this album, each track imbued with the sensuality and passion of the singer himself. The first two tracks off the album are perhaps the most notable. Both ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’ were hit singles in their own right, and these two archetypal dance tunes set the mood going forward in the album.
We can still get down to the dancefloor hit ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, and when Sylvester’s voice throbs “I feel good when you touch me, I feel good when you want me”, we are transported back to the 80’s, perms and all. But interestingly, this album comes with an epilogue to this iconic track. The epilogue, which I particularly enjoyed, is very similar to the original, and yet softer, slower and more heartfelt in tone. With this release, Sylvester has taken something good and somehow made it better, without ever compromising the dignity of the original.
The track ‘I Took My Strength from You’ follows suit with its slower, even jazzy feel, complete with guitar plucks and trumpet bleats. To me, this proves that Sylvester is more than just background noise in an 80’s club. He has an immense capacity of range and he shows it on tracks like this, creating music that not only makes you want to dance, but to feel and to understand.
My personal favorite song off this album has to be ‘Was it Something I Said’. It appears to me that Sylvester on this track is doing something a little different. He begins the song by speaking rather than singing, saying “girl I’m in the dark just like you, I really don’t know what happened” while discussing a breakup or end of some relationship with one of his background singers in call and response style. From here, he builds to the songs title with the lyrics “was it something I said?” Sylvester doesn’t utilize his powerful tenor falsetto on this track, instead going lower and performing in alto. This gives the track more of a funk style that I can appreciate. Sylvester’s talent is on show in Step II, in all of its groovy glory.