Red Express
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A Brief History
Out of dance band Contrasound in the mid 70's bassist Jeremy (jumbo) Barker and drumming brother Steve (ex Plastic Dreamboat) re-grouped as Red Express with Malcolm Tagg-Randall (saxophone) and Bill Sharpe (ex Saffron Jack). Soon to be joined by singer Larraine O'Dell, guitarist Mark Jackson (ex Saffron Jack) and ex Telephone Bill and the Smooth Operators' drummer Brian Wren (ex Baby Whale) when Steve moved to pastures new.

In 1976 Dennis Andrews (ex Soul Committee), an ex US air force radar technician from Cook County, Chicago with his Smokey Robinson-esque voice and soul influence replaced Larraine.

Bill Sharpe's distinctive keyboard and singer/songwriter Dennis' soulful voice and rhythmic congas created the idiosyncratic sound of Red Express. Influenced by the likes of Steely Dan, the Crusaders, classic soul and the up and coming jazz funk sound not often heard around Cambridge at this time, the well rehearsed set was often found to diversify into impromptu jam sessions.

Covering a wide range of tunes, with a smattering of Santana and Stevie Wonder Red Express soon made the Deodato version of 2001: A Space Odyssey their theme tune and this grew to be the highlight of any live performance, along with Donny Hathaway's The Ghetto. As writers Sharpe and Andrews became more prolific the characteristic original songs soon overwhelmed the set list, featuring Fairweather Girl, 59 th Street, the melodic Waiting for the Man and the unforgettable Wop It Down Song.

Rehearsing at Great Sampford and recording in Bill's front room in Bishops Stortford they played contemporary Cambridge venues such as the Alma Brewery, the Grad Pad, Raffles and the Great Northern Hotel, and were one of the acts at the original Strawberry Fair.

From playing on a trailer at the first Strawberry Fair and several University May Balls, supporting such diverse acts as Elvis Costello at Trinity College, Darts, Landscape and Humphrey Littleton's big band, this eclectic sound brought a huge following from the university students and made Red Express one of the premier live acts to go and see in the Cambridge area.

After Malcolm left the sixth member of the band changed rapidly through Raff Ravenscroft (saxophone) and Bubs White (guitar) until Keith Winter joined as the second guitarist with Roger O'Dell bringing in his inimitable drums in the absence of Brian.

Sadly the one and only release from this unique band was 'Happy' recorded at Spaceward studios, released on 12" single with Taxman on the flipside.

In 1980 Roger, Bill and Keith found themselves becoming more in demand with their jazz funk band Shakatak, and Red Express found it difficult to continue without the distinctive keyboard of Sharpe and like all good things slowly faded into the memories of their loyal fan base in the Cambridge area.

red express #4 '78
red express #4 '78
Dennis Andrews - Bill Sharpe - Mark Jackson - Brian Wren - Jumbo Barker - Keith Winter
 
Red Express
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