If you listened to FM-radio the USA in late ’95, or the first half of ’96 there is a good chance you heard the last CD of original music released by CTI[1]i.e. not a compilation or a reissue. Otherwise there is every chance you’ve never heard this CD and probably don’t have it. In this post I’ll look at that CD, how it came to be, how it became a hit on radio, and where you can hear it now.

I contacted Steve Laury in 2020 to find out about “Vineland Dreams“, interestingly, the story takes us back to the earliest releases on the independent CTI. Like the Frishberg “Oklahoma Toad” album[2]Oklahoma Toad – Dave Frishberg – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), and quite a few of the singles in Taylor’s Dozen[3]A Taylor’s Dozen – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com). Like those, it was a master bought in for distribution. It wasn’t recorded by CTI, or produced by Creed, it was a master that CTI released. Steve was also good enough to explain who Ron Smith, the Executive Producer was. Ron, was a businessman and an arts sponsor.

“I produced Vineland Dreams, not Creed Taylor. The executive producer of Vineland Dreams was Ron Smith. He provided the money to record the CD.  We then did a licencing deal with CTI for 3 years. I now own the master recordings to Vineland Dreams.  I co-produced 5 records with Fattburger and produced all of my solo work with Denon, A&M and CTI. It was a finished product by the time it was licensed to CTI.”

Steve Laury, Personal email – November 10th, 2021

Steve Laury Backstory

Steve had come to attention in Jazz circles through his work with Fattburger[4]Fattburger | Discography | Discogs, formed in the 1980’s. Next came a number of albums for the Japanese label Denon. “Vineland Dreams” was Steve’s fourth solo album[5]Steve Laury | Discography | Discogs, and named after his hometown, Vineland, NJ[6]Location of Vineland via Google Maps. By the time the album came out, Steve hadn’t lived in Vineland for 20-years, and was living in San Diego.

“Twenty years ago I was in New Jersey listening to Wes Montgomery and George Benson on the CTI label (one of the most recognized labels in contemporary jazz music). It is the same label I am on now,”

The Daily Journal (Vineland NJ) – December 7th, 1995 – Living Section

In 1995, Laury toured both as a solo act, and as an opener for David Benoit. Steve toured all the way through the summer of ’96. He appeared at the March 1996 Playboy Jazz Festival in Pasadena, CA. The last concert for that period that I could find was Steve appearing on New Years Eve ’96/’97, at the Shark Club, in Vineland, NJ. Coincidence? I doubt it.(Steve?)

Philadelphia Daily News (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – 06 Dec 1996 – Page 68

Album Details

Recorded: Studio West, San Diego, March, April May 1995
Mixed: Studio West, San Diego
Mastered: Absolute Audio

There are two known versions, the US CD from BMG Direct Marketing using the John Taylor photograph for the cover. The second version, which was for Europe was produced by” Hommage GmbH Musikproduktion Und Verlag” which is now the D&H Hommage GmbH, based in Hamburg.

The musical content of the CD’s are identical, the European issue has a few notable differences. The cover picture is different, a nod to prior CTI covers and Pete Turner, with a heavily colorized image of a grapevine, an intentional play on the title? Additionally, in the European issue, the actual CD contains “Produced by” and the Creed Taylor signature. It’s my opinion this would have been oversight rather than deceptive marketing. The back cover clearly states “Produced By Steve Laury”.

It would seem as if “Vineland Dreams” CD was available only in limited physical distribution, it did though appear to be widely available through Tower Records. This is confirmed by an interview that Steve did with the Daily Journal(Vineland, NJ) on December 7th, 1991. “Although it is not available locally, it is on the shelves at Tower Records in Philadelphia (9173 Roosevelt Blvd. or 610 South St.)”.

From the Atlanta Constitution November 24th, 1995 – Similar ads appeared in most major markets inc. Philadelphia, Dallas, NYC

Tower Records, at it’s peak had 150 stores nationally and internationally, that didn’t mean it was accessible outside of the major metro areas in the US. It’s quite probably that distribution was suffering from both CTI’s then financial status and one of it’s regular distribution changes.

JAZZTIMES reviewed the album in April ’96. By this time the album was falling out of the radio play charts having been a success.

Old habits are hard to break, shows guitarist Steve Laury, whose work on Vineland Dreams (CTI 67239-2; 54;07) illustrates the same easygoing pleasantness he created as a member of the band Fattburger. Songs like album opener “Gloria Ann” and “Cara Mia” are generally pretty, upbeat and undemanding.

Others are somewhat sappy and over-synthesized, though Laury’s stately guitar chords on a cover of the Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There” render it hands down preferable to the Mariah Cary version. The real surprises in this good natured record are its outright jazziest pieces. An inventive and full read of Wes Montgomery’s “Angel” and the soulful, “Route 66” -recalling gait of “The Man Beneath the Clouds” show that Laury’s style may not be as unshakable alter all.

JazzTimes – April 1996 P61[7]JazzTimes – Google Books

Tracklist:

1. Gloria Ann
2. Vineland Dreams
3. Let’s Stay Together (Arrangement of Al Green’s 1972 hit)
4. When Dreams Come True
5. The Moon Beneath The Clouds
6. I’ll Be There (Arrangement of Jackson 5 1970 hit)
7. Cara Mia
8. Lullaby For Laura
9. 59th Street
10. Angel (Arrangement of Wes Montgomery’s 1967 A&M/CTI Album “A Day In The Life”)

Tracks 1,2,3 – Vocals by Ed Graves, other tracks are instrumental.

Airplay vs Sales

A look at the jazz charts for ’95/’96 does not really represent the popularity of “Vineland Dreams“. Tracks from the album got a lot of airplay. I took a look through many of the magazines, and newspaper of the time. A number of tracks from the album were in heavy rotation from the release in November ’95, all the way through May ’96. They album then dropped out of the Gavin Report Smooth Jazz chart, as well as the Radio & Record (R&R) NAC Chart. Although the track “Gloria Ann” was regularly played.

Good by any measure. Steve’s touring and radio promotion obviously helped his air-play numbers.

Radio & Record Magazine – April 26th, 1996 – Page 63

Maxine Todd, seen here with Steve, was the program director for the highly successful WJCD/Norfolk Clear Channel Radio Station. She later became operations manager for a suite of Clear Channel Stations. WJCD/Norfolk became one of the leading contemporary jazz stations and a Smooth Jazz marquee station. Maxine would go on to launch “KHJZ – Smooth Jazz 95.7 – The Wave”” in 2003 in Houston, Texas[8]Jazz Monthly.com Interview with maxine todd. Today Maxine is a member of the board of directors for Jazz Education, Inc.[9]Staff / Board of Directors – Jazz Education Inc in Houston, TX.

Tracking Radio Plays

Today’s charts are made from downloads, streaming, radio plays, and oh yeah, physical sales. Back in the 1990’s, music charts were split between purchases of physical media, and radio play. Both then were typically spilt by genre, sometimes broad categories, at other times fairly narrow. For much of the 20th century, black music had been segregated into R&B, occasionally tracks would break through to the Pop’ charts. Jazz had always pretty much had it’s own chart, and like the music itself wasn’t outwardly segregated by skin color, although musicians were used to working together, society was less forgiving.

Around the time Vineland was picking up airplay, probably through CTI distributors and CTI marketing and Steve’s touring, the Gavin Report and Record and Radio Magazine(R&R) were changing up their charts. R&R had moved their alternative adult contemporary (AC) chart and redefined it as their New Adult Contemporary (NAC) chart in 1988. They moved reporting radio stations into their NAC categorization, and by default, what those stations play, becomes NAC[10]R&R January 8th, 1988 P54. R&R retained Contemporary Jazz and Mainstream Jazz charts. R&R merged with the Billboard Airplay Monitor in 2006. The Airplay Monitor had been started in 1994 focusing primarily on It covered four formats  (rock, Top 40, Country and R&B) and the derivatives of each.

Anyone who knows radio, knows the Gavin Report. The Gavin Report was a San Francisco-based radio industry trade publication. The publication was founded by radio performer Bill Gavin in 1958. Its Top 40 listings were used for many years by programmers to decide content of programs. The publication was also responsible for running the Gavin Seminar, a convention for radio industry members[11]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_Report. The Gavin Report was closed down in 2009.

Gavin reporting late ’95 was typically used their A2 chart to track jazz plays, which it rated both by plays and published the play counts.

Charting Success

The November 10th 1995 R&R Stations across the country listed one or more tracks as “newly added”. The tracks included “Gloria Ann”, Lullaby For Laura”, “I’ll Be There”, “When Dreams Come True”, “59th Street”, and the title track “Vineland Dreams”.

Stations reporting included WJZF /Atlanta, GA, WNWV /Cleveland, OH, WEZV /Lafayette, IN, KXDC/Monterey, CA, WOTB/Providence, RI.

DateChartPosition
11/10/95Gavin A2 Most Added #3
11/24/95Gavin A2 Spin Trends #44 (new entry) Vineland Dreams[12]TOP TIP Steve Laury debuts highest while also winning this week’s Spin Trend award with a +66 out of a 136 total.
12/8/95Gavin A2 Spin Trends #2 +34
12/8/95Gavin A2#34 Vineland Dreams enters chart.
2/02/96Gavin A2#13 Vineland Dreams
2/02/96 R&R#14 Vineland Dreams; #14 Gloria Ann
3/1/96Gavin A2#6 Vineland Dreams
3/15/96R&R NAC #9 Top 30 Albums Vineland Dreams, National Airplay overview.
3/22/96R&R NAC #19 for the album in the Top-30, plays -50, coming to the end of it’s run. #11 Gloria Ann; 44 Stations;

By March ’96, Vineland Dreams had climbed to it’s highest point, #6 in the (Remodeling) Gavin A2 chart, and #9 in the R&R NAC National Airplay Overview. It’s interesting to note this was in the same chart as George Michel’s “Jesus to A Child” album was #6, Randy Crawford “Give Me The Night” was #5 and many other albums inc. Najee(2x), Toni Braxton, Bobby Caldwell, were lower than Vineland Dreams in the airplay charts.[13]R&R March, 15th, 1996 P123.

In April ’96, the Vineland Dreams album continued in the Top-30, but new entry’s from Lionel Ritchie, Herbie Hancock, and the John Tesh Project were starting to push the album out. In their end of year “96 Of 1996” listings, R&R put Vineland Dreams at #59 in NAC Albums chart. This was ahead of albums by Fourplay, Harvey Mason, Luther Vandross. In the NAC Tracks year end chart, Gloria Ann was at #64.

CTI advert in R&R Magazine, 1996

CTI Marketing in 1996 I hear you say? Why yes, they ran a number of ads in the rating magazines. This one serves three proposes, promoting “Vineland Dreams” the last CD on CTI, also promoting the track “Gloria Ann“, finally promoting “Thus Spoke Z – Evolution” which would turn out to be the last ever release of new material on KUDU.

Did Downloads Kill the Vineland Star?

It’s hard to tell why Steve didn’t get recognizable sales success. If you look at Billboard over the same period, Vineland doesn’t get a mention. This was more than likely as much to do with the whole smooth-jazz backlash among the jazz-police than anything else.

Yes, MP3 files were around then. Working out of London at that time, I can recall downloading my first (illegal) MP3 album “Dead Cities – The Future Sound Of London” – sometime then. However, the main file sharing tools NAPSTER and Soulseek didn’t happen until 1999. Yes, IRC, Hotline, and Usenet, provided illegal downloads, but outside of college networks were pretty unusable for speed reasons. In business networks, they were frowned on and often not available, either blocked, or corporate computers didn’t have the tools to access them.

It’s more likely that illegal CD copying could have had an impact. Perhaps it was just that smooth jazz was blanketing the airwaves and consumers didn’t feel it was necessary to buy CD’s?

Ultimately, that’s a shame, Steve plays some great guitar on the album and deserves more recognition for it.

Steve Today

Steve Laury told author Lee T. Silber, and is quoted in Sibler’s 1999 book “Career management for the creative person[14]ISBN-10 0609803654, The Crown Publishing Group

Just having a great idea is not enough. It takes so much mental energy to keep yourself alive in the music business. It’s not enough to just be a great player or composer, unfortunately. Many great musicians and composers died poor.”

Career Management For The Creative Person – Lee T. Sibler

I’m happy to report Steve is alive and well, his early recordings, including tracks from “Vineland Dreams” are available as a 3-volume set via amazon (Vol.1Vol.2Vol.3) and apple music, as well as some newer material.

If you are a physical media person, you can still get Steve’s effortless guitar playing on Vineland via discogs, which has 22-copies available worldwide for sale from $3.99[15]Steve Laury – Vineland Dreams (All Versions) For Sale at Discogs Marketplace also on ebay[16]https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2334524.m570.l1313&_nkw=%22steve+laury%22+%2B%22vineland+dreams%22, where an unopened copy of the US CD is currently listed for $799, be careful where you click.

Here is a video from Steve’s youtube channel.

Updates:

Nov. 4th, 2021 8:13a.m. – Minor corrections.
Nov. 8th, 2021 4:55p.m. – More typo’s, spellings plus added Maxine Todd Jazz Education, Inc. detail.
Nov. 23rd, 2021 1pm – Added pullqoute with Steve’s wording about production.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.