Chisa

(“The world music one”)

**This is a discography for Chisa Records – other Motown labels are listed here. If you’re looking for a full list of every Motown single, try the Master Index instead!**

Like Inferno, Chisa didn’t begin life as a Motown label. Founded by Stewart Levine and South African trumpet legend Hugh Masekela in LA in 1966, Chisa’s remit was to promote South African-tinged jazz and R&B music.

Motown took over distribution of Chisa in September 1969. Most of the Chisa records distributed by Motown fall into a world music/soul crossover bracket, and though none of them was ever a hit, the use of different musicians and different studios to the regular Motown catalogue give these Chisa sides a subtly different feel to the rest of the singles featured on this site.

The first Chisa single released under the Motown arrangement was Home On The Range (Everybody Needs A Home) by Stu Gardner, and over the course of the next two years, a number of jazz, R&B and world music sides were put out under the Chisa name. The Motown deal came to an end in early 1971, and the last Motown-distributed Chisa 7″ was Masekela’s own Dyambo (Weary Days Are Over) that June.

Here’s a list of the Chisa Records singles that have been covered on Motown Junkies so far.

THE CHISA RECORDS SINGLES (THE MOTOWN YEARS)

(this is just a placeholder, we’re not at 1969 yet!)


(Click a song title to read a full review of that side. NB: The coloured numbers after each title indicate the highly subjective mark out of ten I gave that song on the day I happened to write about it. They weren’t intended to be taken too seriously.)

9 thoughts on “Chisa”

  1. Chisa later ended up an imprint of Blue Thumb Records, even after that label (which itself had become part of Famous Music in 1972) was absorbed in 1974 by ABC Records.

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  2. I don’t understand why Universal chose to include the Chisa singles released during Motown’s distributorship of that label in their Motown Singles Year-By-Year CD series, as Motown staff (as far as I am aware) had no effect on Chisa’s productions during that period. This is especially ironic, considering that the same exact staff that had worked on Tamla 101 worked on RayBer 1001, at the same address (1719 Gladstone St,, Detroit), recorded in the same Detroit studio, published by the same music company (Berry Gordy’s Jobete Music) and was performed by Motown artists (The RayBer Voices) and a singer contracted to Motown owner, Berry Gordy, and was NOT included, just as The Velvelettes’ Motown production leased to I.P.G. Records was left out, and as Cornell Blakely’s Rich Records Motown subsidiary release, which was produced and made using a staff consisting of 100% Motown personnel, with music published by Motown, and the artist’s contract half-owned by Berry Gordy.

    The productions of Marv Johnson, Eddie Holland and Wyatt “Big Boy” Shepherd, recorded either at United Sound Studios or in Motown’s Snakepit and leased to United Artist Records, were much more Motown products, than were the L.A. Chisa staff productions during Motown’s period of distributorship, produced by the same staff that had produced them during their previous Universal City Records (UNI) distributorship, and having no effect, whatsoever, result from Motown staff in Detroit OR L.A.

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    • As I understand it, the remit was to ask for everything to be included, and see what permissions came back. I know a couple of the things you mentioned, without going into further detail, were requested but flat out refused. If the Chisa, inferno, melody etc. sides had been excluded, I’m sure that nerds like us would have been the first to complain the series wasn’t “complete” as advertised… 🙂

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      • Robb Klein said:

        Of course, I know why they were chosen. I agree that Inferno should have been included, as Motown staff worked on the productions, which were recorded in Motown’s own studios, and the label was half-owned by Motown. But Chisa was operated in L.A. by the same non-Motown people both before and after Motown’s distribution period.

        ABC Records distributed Big Top Records for a while. So did Amy-Mala-Bell Records. Should all Big Top Records’ 45 rpm releases during ABC’s distribution period be included together with all ABC’s 45s in a CD series (along with all the 45s from hundreds of their other distributed labels?). That makes no sense. Then, of course, those of the Amy-Mala-Bell distribution period should be on a Bell CD series, and the few 45s released when Big Top had only self-distribution should be released on their own, single CD, containing only 6 songs. I know that the people who want to collect ANYTHING that had anything to do with Motown (even the slightest connection) would have complained if Chisa had not been included. But I think it is overkill in an already voluminous unwieldy series.

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        • Oh, I’m happy to have as much as I can get (not least because the Chisa run includes Hugh Masekela’s amazing version of You Keep Me Hangin’ On, which I adore) – but we’ll get to the individual Chisa sides, God willing, in a few years’ time 🙂

          And yes, I think the ABC example is a good one, and if a series was calling itself “the complete ABC Masters” or something, I’d expect that stuff to be included – the equivalent Atlantic R&B set includes loads of Stax sides, for instance. And Motown is even more of a special case, just because the lines are already so blurred regarding whether a record is Motown or Not Motown (I’ve had good, articulate people tell me that Tamla, Gordy, VIP, Soul etc. “aren’t really Motown” because they appeared on “sub-labels”, which is clearly ludicrous but illustrates the depth of misunderstanding out there.)

          It’s interesting for me, because I started this site absolutely determined to be exclusionist, strictly following the Complete Motown Singles box sets, and now (and much of it thanks to you!) I’ve almost gone through a 180 degree turn in that now I want to include everything Motown-related, no matter how tenuous the connection. I made a comment on the Marv Johnson review that’s coming up in a few days’ time that, if I was starting the site today, I’d likely have included the United Artists cuts as well. I might still do a special appendix or something…

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          • It should be noted that Chisa albums were considered Motown-enough to be advertised in the inner sleeves of other Motown label albums. Motown didn’t have to take that step.

            If you do decide to do a special appendix, Steve, I hope you include the other Cornell Blakely sides for which I’ve sent you label scans.

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            • Absolutely! Though I won’t be doing that for a long, long time yet…

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              • Robb Klein said:

                If you inlude Cornell Blakely’s other Rich Records, in a special appendix, then you MUST include Marv Johnson’s, Eddie Holland’s and Wyatt “Big Boy” Shepherd’s United Artists 45s (leased from Motown), as well as The Miracles’ Chess 45 (follow-up to “Bad Girl”), which never appeared on a Motown label, RayBer Music Productions released on Zeman (Mike Power) and Ridge Records (Biscaynes, Don McKenzie), Herman Griffin & Rayber Voices on House of Beauty Records, and Ken Masters on Decca (produced and written by Smokey, recorded in The Snakepit).

                And, you might also consider listing (and reviewing) all the Motown vinyl-unreleased cuts (after you’ve reviwed all their album cuts. Of course you won’t likely live long enough to do all of that.

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                • I don’t know what you mean by the last paragraph (all the stuff that’s come out on vault CDs?), but otherwise, yes, all of those things you mentioned are on my radar for a “Not Quite Motown Junkies” appendix.

                  The idea wouldn’t be to give each one a full page review, but rather just a few lines on each; when we get there (optimism, Robb, optimism – I’m only 34!), the Wade Jones 45 will probably end up being moved into it as well.

                  But this is all a conversation for another day…

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