Milton Davis – Let Me In

Whenever I come off of an international tour of longer than 3 weeks, it’s always a thrilling but exhausting adventure that brings me back to discover any records or promo that has arrived and need my immediate attention to let the world about. This last particular Asia tour had other ideas for me and on my arrival home, I was instantly knocked out with some sort of flu or virus that kept me from just about everything. With nothing but sleep on the agenda and much needed rest and relaxation, the only thing that kept me going to get healthy was wanting to hear what new music has arrived. After all, it’s music that keeps me going and gives me energy unlike any prescribed medication. It’s the perfect home remedy that when all else fails you put the headphones on and become immerse within the groove until woken and ready.

One of the records that I was excited to drop the needle on was the latest flying in via Portland Oregan’s Albina Trust by Milton Davis and the beautifully carved Disco-Funk from 1977 in all it’s officialness. In 1977, the Portland Trailblazers were at the peak of their game. Anticipating the team’s meteoric rise toward an NBA championship, songwriter Ron Stassens assembled his own dream team. Featuring members of Pleasure, Transport, and Slickaphonic, Stassens penned a theme song to amplify the team’s ascent and wound up with an album’s worth of soulful, disco-funk material.

Centering on Slickaphonic frontman, Milton Davis, the band was hopeful. But like the vast majority of Portland’s musical output, the reels received a dose of regional airplay before being shelved. Davis left town. Stassens and the backing band moved on. Years later, we now this artifact, featuring a who’s who in the Portland’s musician community – banded together on this sole release.

But the album stretches beyond the confines of “Blazermania” with a deep connection to this era in Albina. “Let Me In” signifies Davis’ yearning to be seen by his peers at a time when local musicians’ aspirations for fame and fortune were all too unlikely in Portland’s gatekept club scene – a quaint industry both culturally and geographically isolated from national access. Few musicians made it out. And Black musicians redlined in the city’s Albina district were disproportionately affected. Buried within a love song, Davis’ crooning on “All I Wanna Do” spells it out: ‘Some people want to drive a cadillac car / Some people want to be a Hollywood star / Oh no, not me / My poor heart just can’t break free / All I wanna do is think about you.’

Mystery surrounds Davis’ background and why this tremendous suite of recordings has remained unreleased. In its time, the “Blazermania” single was successful enough that the band performed it on repeat during the team’s championship celebration (images of this can be seen on ESPN’s recent “30 For 30” featuring Bill Walton, as well as on the album’s back side jacket). What we do know is that Davis came of age in the Houston area where in high school he joined The Four Tempos – a soul group that would make their way to Los Angeles, cutting a few 45s for Rampart Records. When the group disbanded, he steadily worked his way up the West Coast Chitlin Circuit before landing in Portland. There he would fall in step with Albina’s finest, fronting Slickaphonic for a short time. It is believed he would later front Doc Severinsen’s big band on European tours throughout the 1980s and produce R&B singles for major label artists throughout the 1990s. Davis passed in late 2020, having remained largely disconnected from Albina’s musician community since the time of this recording.