Bob James/Don’t Mess With Mister Bob.

To celebrate Bobs birthday on December 25th, I put together this 3-track mix of some great tracks he bought us, among many.

I have more than one hundred albums in my collection that Bob has worked on. I’ve seen him live three times, once in the early 1980’s and twice recently. Bob is still playing some of his best keyboards and piano, and doing some great collaborations.

Featured here are:

  1. Mister Magic – Bob James
  2. Sign Of The Times – Bob James
  3. Don’t Mess With Mister T – Stanley Turrentine


This version comes from Bobs 2018 album “Espresso”. Originally it was of course from Grover Washington, Jr.  1975 album, “Mister Magic,” which became a massive hit for Washington. The track was written by percussionist Ralph McDonald, the album was arranged and conducted by Bob James. The album was recorded at Rudy Van Gelders studio in November 1974, and released in February 1975, on Creed Taylors KUDU label as KU 20. The track went to be sampled dozens of times, including in Amy Winehouse, and covered later in 1975 by Esther Phillips as a full vocal version on her “What a Difference a Day Makes” album. Ralph MacDonald included it on his own 1976 “Sound of a Drum” album.


One of the many popular, Bob James, dance tracks. At least in the UK, many local bands had just started to emerge post punk and disco, London was especially finding many of its own such as Light of the World, Freeeze and Level 42. Also, dance styles were changing from the frenetic uptempo jazz funk, and Motown influenced Northern Soul to a more balanced mid-tempo style. This track fitted right in the clubs and on radio.

Recorded in New York City and White Plains, and released in 1981, The title track album from of the same name, “Sign of the times” was released on Bobs own Tappen Zee label and featured Bob on keyboards, but importantly, and unusually for Bobs own albums, the album was arranged by Rod Temperton, who was just emerging from Brit’ funk group Heatwave and who would go one to make outstanding contributions with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. The album featured many jazz musicians not least Hubert Law and Grover Washington, JR. Unusually for a James album it included Luther Vandross and Patti Austin.

Another one of the Bob James catalog that has been heavily sampled, it was used by De La Soul for the opening and hook on their 1991 track and single “Keepin the Faith” and also Warren G and Nate Doggs “Regulate“. Confusingly, Cee Lo Green did a track called “Sign Of The Times” for his 2015 album “Heart Blanche“, covered another Bob James classic, “Angela (Theme from Taxi)“.


The final track to celebrate Bobs birthday is Stanley Turrentines “Don’t Mess With Mister T“. Again the title track from the album of the same name. One of the Creed Taylor produced classics on CTI, catalogue number CTI 6030. “Don’t Mess With Mister T” is itself a cover of Marvin Gayes 1972 track, from his album “Trouble Man“, from the film of the same name.

Recorded in March 1973, at Rudy Van Gelders Studio, as far as I’m aware this was the last album of original work recorded by Turrentine for Creed Taylor(disgree? Leave a comment). The album was arranged and conducted by Bob. The album included a classic CTI lineup, featuring Bob James, Ron Carter, Idris Muhammed, Eric Gale, Joe Farrell, Randy Brecker, Billy Cobham, Richard Tee among many others. The cover was designed by Bob Ciano, and was photographed by Alen Macweeney and featured Turrentine rather than being an abstract Pete Turner picture.

The CD reissue in 2001, includes possible one of my favorite Turrentine tracks, also written by Bob James, “Hidden Dawn“.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB JAMES – Here is to seeing you somewhere in 2020!


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