Right at the heart of this issue is the fascinating label Fresh Air which seems to have been active in 1974 and 1975, and put out around 30 singles and at least four LPs. The man behind the label was legendary industry insider Tony Hall, one of the most significant figures in British popular music. His story needs telling in-depth, and it goes from running the Tempo label for Decca in the late '50s, recording the best modern jazz players active in Britain at the time (Tubby Hayes, Dizzy Reece, etc.) to being a DJ on Radio Luxembourg, writing for Record Mirror, doing publicity and promotions for Decca and its stable in the '60s (and being a real advocate for American soul sounds) to discovering and nurturing the Real Thing, Loose Ends, and so on.
Fresh Air doesn't seem to have had any hits in the UK but in its short existence it does seem to have been a great example of the era's 'pop without frontiers' outlook. The first release seems to have been by the reggae singer Shark Wilson, and it was produced by Lieber & Stoller (fresh from success with Stealer's Wheel?). One side of this single, Too Much Pain, is posted on YouTube. And remember this was before the 'crossover' success of Ken Boothe and John Holt later in 1974.
A glance at the Fresh Air discography reveals all sorts of gems, from lost LPs by Ram John Holder to names perhaps known only to curious collectors, such as Black Faith, Trax, and Richard Henry Dee. Others may be better known for their later activities. The Abraham Ali who released the lovely If You Need Me and is I believe now better known as the Mersey playwright Dhanil Ali. And there's Nola Fontaine who has had a colourful career. A post-Fresh Air single of hers, produced by Trevor Horn, has become a favourite of cosmic disco lovers.
It does seem quite incredible that Fresh Air didn't have a hit with either of the single they put out by Ellie (Ellie Hope and her sisters). The first of these irresistible 45s, Tip Of My Tongue, was written by the fantastic team of Lynsey De Paul and Barry Blue. The second one, the smooth disco of My Love Is Your Love, was written for the sisters by Mud's Rob Davis and Ray Stiles. Mud also recorded the song as a b-side in 1975 - a hint of what was to come with Shake It Down in 1976. The flip of the second Ellie was composed by Christine Hope and produced by Gerry Shury who gives it a really lovely funky feel along the lines of his work with Biddu's organisation at the time.
Ellie Hope did later have success with Liquid Gold of Dance Yourself Dizzy fame. Oh and for anyone who cannot resist mentioning Groovejet when the words Rob Davis and disco are mentioned let's throw Lucky, a solo Ellie Hope single from 1983, into the pot for some fun.