Soul stars The Three Degrees set for Bognor Regis and Haywards Heath gigs

The Three Degrees. Picture by Ian Fraser
The Three Degrees. Picture by Ian Fraser

The Three Degrees head for two West Sussex dates as they unveil their first new studio album in a quarter of a century.

They play Butlins in Bognor Regis on Saturday, March 5, and Clair Hall in Haywards Heath on Sunday, March 6, to coincide with the new album, recorded with full band and orchestra at Down in Deep Studios in Atlanta, USA.

Strategy (Our Tribute To Philadelphia) is released on March 4 on SoulMusic Records and features the trio’s own tribute to timeless Philadelphia classic such as The O’Jays’ ‘Love Train’, The Trammps’ ‘Disco Inferno’, Billy Paul’s classic ‘Me & Mr Jones’ and the title track, popularised by Archie Bell & The Drells, along with a new recording of the group’s own hit ‘TSOP’.

Original member Philadelphia-based Helen Scott said: “I just didn’t realise it had been so long!

“We have certainly been working, as you can see from our schedule, but most of our work is done abroad, and travel is so time-consuming. You just don’t always have the time, and you don’t always find the right kind of music to sing.

“There were certain things that we felt weren’t suitable for us.

“It’s the character of the group. We wanted to stay true to that.

“But really what started (the thinking about a new album) was about ten or 12 years ago, we did a tribute medley to Philadelphia in our shows. It went down extremely well to the point where we didn’t take it out of the shows for a long time. We tried other medleys, but they didn’t seem to work as well as that one.”

Eventually the suggestion was that they should do a tribute album to Philly: “I was a little bit reluctant at first. People would see it as cover tunes and not something new, but I thought it was a great concept.

“I must point out that all the songs are not from the Philadelphia International label. I was surprised that some of the songs were not actually part of that, but some of them weren’t on the Philly label as such.

“But we took a couple of songs that we did in that medley that were favourites, and we tried to do justice to them. We were always told that if you can’t do something better, you should leave it alone. I am not saying we have done them better, but we loved doing them.

“It was fun, and we had a good time. It was not gruelling in any way. There were never any arguments about who sung what. Whoever sounds best singing it has always been our motto.

“This album holds a special place for me. I was raised in Philly and my exposure to the music of many Philadelphia artists was vast. ‘TSOP’ came from two talented musical moguls, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who challenged the industry and put Philly on the map. Thanks guys! There is love and a message in the music.”

The Three Degrees are now original members Helen Scott and Valerie Holiday plus new arrival Freddie Pool who joined in 2011: “Cynthia Garrison had some health issues with her back and had to have two surgeries. One of the hardest things Valerie and I ever did was to tell Cynthia she was going to have to sort it out. We told her that we would keep her spot open and that if she could return, she would return. But she was not able to do that, and so we had to find someone else.

“You just have to continue. I don’t know how many singers we have had over the years. I never stopped to count.

“To me, it was never important the amount of people. The important thing was the fact that we continued to do what we do best.

“It was not an easy slot to fill. You have to find people that can sing and dance at the same time, people who can do what we do. We have an established name and an established style.

“We had quite a lot of people in between Sheila Ferguson and Cynthia Garrison, but you have got to get it right…”

Tickets for the Clair Hall concert are £25. Call the box office on 01444 455440.

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