Mates’ Crates: Michael Wycoff – Diamond Real

Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. For its hundredth edition, Michael Wycoff’s “Diamond Real”. 

Label: RCA Victor | Year: 1982 | Discogs: Michael Wycoff – Love Conquers All

This is the hundredth edition of the column that I’ve written myself (not counting the handful of fantastic guest contributors we’ve had along the way). It felt right to mark the occasion with something of a grail record for me.

For a guy who tends not to buy expensive records, I never stretched to the Discogs price of Michael Wycoff’s stellar album “Love Conquers All”. Then a few weeks ago, when playing at We Out Here festival (surreal!) I decided to wander into the on-site record store and there it was. Right at the front of the first crate I saw, for a price I was willing to pay. Shoutout Rook Records.

The album is perhaps best known for “Looking Up To You“, which has since been sampled countless times by the likes of Faith Evans, Blue Boy (best known for “Remember Me“) and most famously Zhané. “Looking Up To You” was written by  Leon Ware, who began his writing career at Motown (for the Isley brothers and Jackson 5 amongst others) and later produced for Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Minnie Riperton, Marvin Gaye and more. As a teen, Ware also sang alongside the iconic Lamont Dozier (who I’ve written about before), and he later collaborated with Marcos Valle (who I wrote about last time).

But my favourite track – shouts to Felix – is definitely “Diamond Real”, written by former Earth, Wind and Fire guitarist Al McKay. And that’s just a taste of the talent on this album. Producer Webster Lewis toured with Herbie Hancock and Barry White. “Love Come Down” star Evelyn “Champagne” King features on a duet. Bassist Nathaniel Watts has toured with Stevie Wonder for almost fifty years, trombonist  Fred Wesley famously worked with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, trumpeter Nolan Smith was Marvin Gaye’s Musical Director, guitarist David T Walker played on “Let’s Get It On“. The list goes on.

And that’s without talking about Wycoff himself. Born in Los Angeles, he began playing keyboards and singing in school talent shows then performed backup vocals on Stevie Wonder’s seminal “Songs in The Key of Life” before releasing three solo albums. Wycoff sadly later struggled with drug and alcohol addictions, but found faith and ultimately became Minister of Music at many Los Angeles churches.