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The '70s Philly disco vocal group First Choice's first big breakthrough was the infectious "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" (with its urgent "calling all cars!" intro), a Top 20 R&B/Top 30 pop hit in 1973. New attention was brought to the female trio when Mary J. Blige did a faithful cover of their dance classic "Let No Man Put Asunder" in 1999. Lead singer Rochelle Fleming, Joyce Jones, and Chester, PA, native Annette Guest were originally known as the Debonettes and performed around Philadelphia. Radio DJ Georgie Woods introduced them to Philly soul guitarist/songwriter/producer Norman Harris, who produced the debut single "This Is the House Where Loved Died," which received airplay in Philly and other markets but failed to chart nationally. Their next single, the Harris-produced "Armed and Extremely Dangerous," was their first big hit, going to number 11 R&B in early 1973 for Stan Watson's Philly Groove label, which was distributed by Bell Records. It was also a Top 20 U.K. hit.
The Armed and Extremely Dangerous album was released in fall 1973. For the bulk of their records, First Choice was backed by the tight rhythm section of guitarist Harris, bassist Ron Baker, and drummer Earl Young who were part of MFSB, the house band for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records. The next single, "The Player, Part 1," was their highest charting R&B single, hitting number seven R&B in summer 1974, though the group enjoyed many high-charting hits on Billboard's disco charts. The Player LP was issued in fall 1974. Switching to Warner Bros., they charted with "Gotta Get Away (From You Baby)" in spring 1976 and "Let Him Go" in fall 1976, and they released an LP, So Let Us Entertain You. Around 1977, Joyce Jones left the group and was replaced by Ursula Herring. The following year, Norman Harris formed Gold Mind Records, which was distributed by dance label pioneer Salsoul Records and co-founded Baker-Harris-Young Productions with his bandmates. First Choice signed with Gold Mind and their first release for the label, the ultra-catchy "Doctor Love," went to number 23 R&B in summer 1977. Delusions followed in fall 1997.
Generally regarded as the trio's best LP, it featured lyrically rich dance tunes as well as luscious ballads and gave Philadelphia native Fleming her best showcase, displaying one of the most distinctive lead vocalists in soul/dance/pop music. Fleming's vocals are also one of the most sampled, heard on countless dance records from around the world. Their next Gold Mind LP, Hold Your Houses, was released in March 1979, with the title track becoming a disco classic. That same year, Debbie Martin replaced Ursula Herring. Around 1983, Salsoul ceased operations to focus on the emerging home video market by starting their First Choice Video division, and the following year, the trio split. In 1987, Fleming reformed a version of First Choice with her cousin Laconya Fleming and Lawrence Cottel, who recorded a single for Prelude Records, "Love Itch." In the '90s, Rochelle Fleming continued to record in the U.S. and Europe. ~ Ed Hogan, All Music Guide
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